‘A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots’ – Marcus Gravey.
Often people neglect the importance of knowing and understanding history. Deemed as sometimes boring and unnecessary it is flipped aside as an appendage, as all eyes are set for the future. Yet, the wise understand that knowing the past is the fundamental bedrock on which the future is built. And though there are many ways of recognizing and learning about the past, museums play a crucial role in preserving history and heritage.
Museums – The Preservers of History
What is a museum? It is defined as ‘a building or institution that cares for and displays a collection of artifacts and other objects of artistic, cultural, historical or scientific importance.
The definition itself presents a wide scope of credit that museums must be given for preserving history. And Indian history undoubtedly, is one of the richest and varied histories of the world. But history comes in different forms. It could be through art, culture, science or natural objects. History can be understood through esteemed facets, such as paintings, carvings, documents, and weaponry. At the same time it can also be seen through the prism of daily objects, such as clothing, pots and pans, toys, cutlery and more. Either way history or heritage is preserved through tangible articles and it is a museum that houses these.
While a museum always finds itself marked as an attractive tourist destination for any place, it is perhaps not visited with as much enthusiasm. However, the world over, museums have garnered momentum by designing and aligning themselves to provide a holistic experience to its visitors. The Museum of Art and Photography, situated in Bengaluru includes not only art galleries, but also an art and research library, an education center, a conversation lab and much more.
Similarly, museums in India are waking up to their true worth and value. Also, considering the physical and cultural landscape of the country, it is imperative that each region has its own unique local histories and heritages that merge into the larger national perspective. And hence, as repositories of Indian history and heritage, why do we think museums are beneficial?
Benefits of Museums
There are a number of benefits of museums. They are the providers of authentic and trusted knowledge. While igniting curiosity, museums are a perfect reflection of what one learns in history books. Reading about the Harappan civilization is essential, but imagine complementing that knowledge with being able to see relics from the same age. From teaching critical thinking, social tolerance and cultural significance, museums are one of the best ways to educate children and adults.
However, the role of museums in the preservation of history and heritage is paramount. The Museum of Art & Photography, for example, has a collection of over 18,000 works of art dating from the 10th century to the present, and the Museum also undertakes the preservation and conservation of its artifacts. Art from across South Asia showcases the historical significance and expression across and over time and over different geographic regions.
Preservation of History and Heritage
There are many ways to preserve the past. And museums, such as the Museum of Art & Photography, as well as many others across the world are able to do so in myriad ways.
Documenting the daily
One of the easiest ways to preserve history and heritage is to document the daily happenings. Cultures are disappearing at an alarming rate with the growth of urbanization and modernization. And hence keeping a record of the lifestyle, beliefs and traditions of these cultures is a sure shot way of preserving them for posterity. Rituals, food, art, music, architecture etc. find place in museums. And such artifacts are a clear reflection of the daily life and culture of people in specific regions or cultures or time.
An alternative perspective
Museums have collections that are not specific to a single perspective. History can get biased when viewed from a single lens. It could be through art or books or music written by a set of groups or sub-groups. However, there are always differing opinions and sides. And it is in museums that all perspectives find a place.
Just as documenting the daily or routine traditions, the recording of major events in history is also important. Wars, famines, calamities or landmarks of prosperity and wealth etc. are highlights that are also influenced by spatial and temporal heritages. The establishment of new eras or the fall of kingdoms also affects the local cultural nuances. For example, Persian techniques in art were introduced when the Mughals arrived. Similarly, the overlap and influences of cultures is also captured through historical references, such as art, music, food etc.
Education on culture
Museums are a perfect platform for education. The displays and artifacts educate and spread awareness of different histories and cultures. For the present generation of the same culture, museums give an insight of their cultural heritage. For different cultures, museums act as a source of information of other heritages and lands.
The Museum of Art and Photograpahy is where one can learn of the different cultures of South Asia through centuries. Similarly, all private and national museums are preservers of history, traditions and heritages. Their presence and contribution in the making of history is often understated, but cannot be denied or ignored.
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