“Civilisations aren’t remembered by their business people, Bankers or lawyers. They’re remembered by their art.” – Eli Broad.
And where’s the best place to obverse these arts than at a museum! Museums, a place where the dead comes to life, are repositories of artistic, cultural, tangible and intangible heritage of a country. India being a country of much celebrated history and past, has innumerable artefacts of beauty and importance and hence has a lot of museums too.
Along with the amazing objects of art, it is an excellent place to experience and observe humans too. Two years back while working in one of India’s oldest museum, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sanghrahalaya (CSMVS) formerly known as the Prince of Wales museum, I had opportunities to obverse the many tourists that flocked this amazing museum (I also worked in Dr. Bhau Daji Lad City Museum briefly).
Being initially posted as a Summer Intern, I would go around the museum interacting with people, giving guided tours around the exhibits and most importantly patiently answering the endless questions of tourists. There are just so many different types of people that come to visit.
- There is one set of people who come with a lot of interest and curiosity and they take their time in looking around. You can find them around almost for an entire day, reading every plaque of information, some do actually carry a note pad. These are mostly the local enthusiasts or history Buffs. These were my favourite kind of people. I had a lot of intellectually interesting conversations with so many.
- Then there are people who want to look around but don’t have much time. They will go around very hurriedly but will have a very keen eye. These are the tourists who have just over half an hour to see the entire museum (generally coming by the Mumbai Darshan tour). They will stop enthusiastically to listen to the information or wait briefly to join in any such activity/ workshop going around.
- Then there are some who are interested only in “thanda pani” (cold water) and toilets. They will satisfy their needs first and then most of them will sit in front of fans and ask “kya he dekhne layak?” (What’s there to see?) Some will go around looking at the exhibits but hardly seeing any of them. Some are just too bored to even look around and end up asking “aisehi murtiya he kya upar bhi? Ki aur kuch alag bhi he?” (if the exhibits are same in all the galaries).
- But amongst all, children are the most interesting (sometimes also very irritating) to observe. They will run around the gallery banging on the glass cases, some are dragged around by their parents and siblings, some talking to themselves, some singing mindlessly, some even dance around.
- Then there are the history critics who just exist to criticise and question every single thing put up on display. And they ask questions with an air of mocking and ridicule and not curiosity. I had a hard time keeping my cool with these kind of people.
- And then there are people like me, who go around the museum doing their work. Chatting with their colleagues, conducting workshops in various galleries, typing away at the computer, carrying files and shifting tables.
This is the category of people who have to answer the random questions asked by random people, give directions, control the unruly children, ask people to behave, work and most importantly not be the “living dead” of the museum!Because this is the place where history and the past is brought to life by these people.
I absolutely loved working in the museum, especially in early hours when the place would be closed for the visitors. The museum looked so marvelous then in the dim lights.
I hope you guys too love visiting museums as much as I do! And next time you visit Mumbai do visit CSMVS in Fort and Dr. Bhau Daji lad City Museum in Byculla. Both of these museums have some of the most intricately designed artefacts of India.
PS: Image which shows the three floors of the Museum is taken from the Key gallery of the museum.
© Ashwini Nawathe, Kaleidoscope of My Life
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