Per­fect­ing the past

TELLING A STORY Muse­ol­ogy is not only about recre­at­ing his­tory, it is re­lat­ing the past to the present through ex­hibits and arte­facts in an in­ter­est­ing man­ner

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - HT Education - - Front Page - Rozelle Laha

For a stu­dent of his­tory mak­ing it to the Rash­tra­p­ati Bha­van, the sym­bol of In­dian his­tory and ar­chi­tec­ture, to set up a mu­seum, is a dream come true. Lit­tle did 29- year- old Pankaj Pro­tim Bor­doloi, a na­tive of As­sam’s Jorhat Dis­trict, who came to Delhi to pur­sue his grad­u­a­tion in his­tory and later com­pleted his masters in muse­ol­ogy from the Na­tional Mu­seum In­sti­tute of the His­tory of Art, Con­ser­va­tion and Muse­ol­ogy (NMI), know that his love for his­tory would one day give him an op­por­tu­nity to set up a mu­seum in the pres­i­den­tial house.

Bor­doloi, cur­rently an ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cer at Rash­tra­p­ati Bha­van, i s re­spon­si­ble f or al­most ev­ery as­pect of set­ting up a world-class mu­seum at the Pres­i­den­tial res­i­dence – from plan­ning a mu­seum to ac­qui­si­tion, cu­ra­tion, de­sign, doc­u­men­ta­tion, re­search, ex­hibit de­vel­op­ment etc. He works un­der the su­per­vi­sion of the mu­seum ad­vi­sor and is as­sisted by a team of re­searchers.

The first phase of the Rash­tra­p­ati Bha­van Mu­seum is com­plete. It cap­tures the mod­ern his­tory of In­dia through the lens of the Rash­tra­p­ati Bha­van. When work started, Bor­doloi had to fig­ure out in­ter­est­ing themes that were not on dis­play any­where else and that could at­tract more vis­i­tors.

Cit­ing an ex­am­ple, he says, “I found the draft of the oath taken by In­dia’s first prime min­is­ter Jawa­har­lal Nehru on Au­gust 15, 1947, in the Na­tional Archives. Since the In­dian con­sti­tu­tion did not ex­ist then, I found the draft of the oath in a let­ter writ­ten by the In­dian Na­tional Congress leader and later pres­i­dent of In­dia Ra­jen­dra Prasad to Lord Mount­bat­ten,” he says.

The new mu­seum houses all the presents and sou­venirs re­ceived by var­i­ous Pres­i­dents and other col­lectibles. An au­dio­vi­sual pre­sen­ta­tion will show­case the his­tory of Rash­tra­p­ati Bha­van from the time of the Viceroys. “El­e­ments of vir­tual re­al­ity will also be in­cluded to en­gage peo­ple who visit the mu­seum in such a way that the tour turns out to be a real learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,” he says

Bor­doloi was work­ing as the deputy cu­ra­tor of San­skriti Mu­seum, New Delhi, be­fore ap­ply­ing for the po­si­tion at Rash­tra­p­ati Bha­van . He was se­lected from among 70-odd can­di­dates after giv­ing a writ­ten exam and two in­ter­views.

“I had come to know that the Na­tional Mu­seum was look­ing for as­sis­tant cu­ra­tors and that Rash­tra­p­ati Bha­van too had some open­ings as it was plan­ning to set up a new mu­seum. I ap­peared for in­ter­views at both the places and cleared them. Fi­nally, I ac­cepted Rash­tra­p­ati Bha­van’s of­fer as it seemed like a greater op­por­tu­nity as there was a new mu­seum to be set up. It could give me a chance to im­ple­ment all that I had stud­ied in col­lege,” says Bor­doloi.

Thecon­cepts of muse­ol­ogy are chang­ing, he says. “It is fas­ci­nat­ing to see the kind of mu­se­ums that ex­ist to­day. Canada has a mu­seum ded­i­cated to hu­man rights, an ab­stract con­cept. In In­dia too, Bhopal has a mu­seum on the in­fa­mous Bhopal Gas Tragedy, which is again based on a con­tem­po­rary event. Not far from Delhi, in Gur­gaon, we have a mu­seum that is ded­i­cated to the idea of trans­porta­tion, yet an­other con­cept not re­lated to tra­di­tional mu­se­ums. Due to changes in the con­cept and pre­sen­ta­tion of mu­se­ums in In­dia and abroad, muse­ol­o­gists to­day have to deal with new ideas. That’s why cre­ativ­ity and un­der­stand­ing of the sub­ject is im­por­tant,” he says.

One of the big­gest chal­lenges that muse­ol­o­gists face to­day is to link his­tory to the present day con­text and make it in­ter­est­ing for peo­ple to re­late to it. “To be able to do well as a muse­ol­o­gist, you need to un­der­stand his­tory and also what is hap­pen­ing around you. Pick­ing up is­sues from the past and mak­ing them rel­e­vant in the present day con­text is the only way you can help com­mon peo­ple con­nect with his­tor­i­cal ar­ti­facts. This is an im­por­tant as­pect of a muse­ol­o­gist’s job,” he says.

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