More Museum Voices from India: Responsiveness to Community

L to R: Ram, Raj, Navaram,Reema, Kumar, Sourav

L to R: Ram, Raj, Navaram,Reema, Kumar, Sourav

Today, museums must become agents of change and development. Kumar

Science Museums have a responsibility to foster an environment that encourages and accepts religious, cultural, physical, and experiential differences. Seetha

In my last post we met students who spoke about their motivations for becoming science museum professionals.  In this post we’ll hear from the students who chose to address the following question:

Today there is much talk about the responsibilities of museums to their communities.  What responsibilities do science museums in India have to the communities they serve?

Reema Jaiswal, Fellow, National Council of Science Museums, Kolkata

A museum is a non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment.

India, because of its diverse and ancient culture, is rich in tangible and intangible heritage. So the various communities live with their cultural knowledge, traditions, rituals, oral expressions, traditional beliefs, historical heritage and still preserve it in their own way but due to some blind beliefs they did not want to go with the flow. So,Science Museums have to come forward and create in between them the sense of awareness and to make them understand the importance of their heritage as well as to become the part of the science revolution in society. Science centres play a major role in Public Education as they offer learning opportunities that are difficult to replicate in formal school settings. Science museums can become the communication bridge to fill the gaps between myth and facts. They  also spread knowledge on a larger platform which can reach wider audiences.  They provide interesting and diverse modes of presentation in a non-formal way, giving opportunities for  free choice learning.

Museums need to preserve the artifacts from the past to pass on the knowledge to the coming next generation. They showcase past technology in a preserved form. Science museums not only focus on education but they provide a unique learning experience with by popularizing science, inculcating a scientific temperament among all. Science Museums provide open communication of ideas, concepts and information involving exploration and self-discovery based learning.

 

Kumar Khimnani, Technical Officer-Mechanical, National Science Centre, New Delhi

We have seen that museums are actively doing their basic job of collection, documentation, conservation, storage and research. In our modern society, it has become necessary and indeed urgent for museums to redefine their missions, their goals, their functions and their strategies to reflect the expectations of a changing world. Today, museums must become agents of change and development. They must be seen as promoting the ideals of democracy and transparency in governance in their communities, and reach out to every group in the society. Museum has the capacity and the ability to impart information effectively as it possess materials and information that can and should be used in enriching and improving the knowledge of common people.

Without being political, they can give voice to the citizens in matters pertaining to how they are governed by creating avenues for free discussions and dialogue: they can create a junction where the events of today can be exhibited and discussed for the collective good of all. Through their programmes and activities, the museums can sensitize target groups like teachers, adults, the youth, and other organizations through popular forum discussions on the goals of the nation for the promotion and better understanding of its heritage and its agenda for national growth, development and general liberation. Issues which can be raised through museums are:

  • Victimization of females by rapes and acid attacks
  • Energy demand and resources available
  • Issues related to water problems
  • Population growth
  • Terrorism
  • Poor health care system
  • Corruption
  • Religious violence
  • Education system

Navaram Kumar, Curator, Electronics, District Science Centre, Tirunelveli

India is a developing country with more than 120 crore (million) population with diverse cultures. In India there are fewer than 50  science museums for this population. This is not enough to serve this big country, even though science museums are addressing many issues. From the beginning science museums are working to create scientific temper in students and general public. Apart from propagating science in masses, science museums have responsibilities to address issues like water, energy, environment, deforestations, health and women’s education. Water is the most essential thing for life– “no water no life”– and it is least understood and least cared for in India society. It is very important to make people understand how to conserve water and how to save water from being polluted. For development of any society energy is most important for industrial and agriculture development. Still in India may villages have no power connection. Most of the power requirements are filled by fossil fuels; much less power is generated by renewable energy sources.  Science museums in India can play a big role in educating public about the problems in energy sector.

In India awareness on global warming and river water pollution not very developed. In the name of religious faith people are directly involved in polluting rivers. Science museum educating people about this kind of issues can make the difference. Deforestation is increasing day by day due to big economic boom in India. Many concrete jungles are coming up in the cities.   Indians are forgetting their culture of planting trees. They are cutting trees and emerging into the forest for real estate business. This a danger for survival of future generations.

 

Raj Kishor Kumar, Fellow, Science City, Kolkata

Science museums in India are comparatively new as compared to western countries. Still in the last 60-65 years they are the most trusted and dynamic social organization or institutions. Science museums or science centers in India have changed according to the need and requirement of the society. There are various examples where science centers of India have proved their existence. Basically science museums have two major activities in India. The first one is exhibits and other is the activity of the museum or the center. Exhibits demonstrate various science concepts as well as various social aspects like nuclear power and water gallery. This has increased the thinking of the common people about the myths and truth about the topics being discussed. Various exhibits also increase the scientific temperament among people. The increased number of visitors shows the interest of public in the field. The other main part of the museum is the arrangement of various activities like science shows, popular science lectures, summer camps, innovation centers where a huge participation has been observed. Nature and environmental awareness programs are also organized by various science centers which increase the awareness about global warming and water crisis and so many things for the society. In conclusion, it is very necessary to mention that India is a large country and has a large population. Diversity of the country makes it beautiful but hard to discover and address the problems. In context of science museum we are unable to attract most of our population towards science centers but we are going in a right direction and we will get it surely.

Seetha Ram, Curator of Physics, NCSM, Kolkata

The responsibility Science Museums is to serve the society by advancing the scientific understanding and appreciation of the scientific and cultural heritage of the country through exhibitions, publications, research, and educational activities. The exhibition subjects should include and reflect the cultural heritage of the communities as well as should impart the knowledge in the advancements of Science & Technology. The exhibitions on controversial subjects should be dealt with care so that facts will be represented to the communities. The educational programmes will help the Museums to achieve their mission and are responsive to the concerns, interests, and needs of diverse communities in the society. These should be accessible to all sects of the society and will encourage participation of the widest possible audiences. Today, the Science Museums in India are considering more community input in the planning and development of exhibitions, programs, and events and strive to be responsive to and represent the interests of the communities in the society. Science Museums have a responsibility to foster an environment that encourages and accepts religious, cultural, physical, and experiential differences. The Museum also has a responsibility to ensure that its workforce reflects the diversity of the communities in the country.  Youth are a vital part of the Museum community in the country and will be respected as peers who have valuable input to bring to the Museum. Museum personnel will encourage youth to become active participants in their learning experience by allowing them the freedom to explore and expand the opportunities available to them. Science Museums also hold the responsibility of collecting, managing, and conserving scientific artifacts according to the best practices and standards. These collections should support their mission and reveal the scientific heritage of the country. Collections also need to be documented according to the best practices in the world and preserved.

 

Sourav Sarkar, Fellow, NSCM, Kolkata

A science museum is established for a novel mission. It has its own goal, objective, and mission. In a country like India a museum is nonprofit making permanent institution in service of society and its development. It is open to the public. Museums may acquire, conserve, research, communicate for purpose of study, education and enjoyment, material evidence of people and their environment. A museum is a center for non-formal learning. Museums create a serious and exciting learning environment with the help of exhibits, models, dioramas, etc. In a museum relationships are created between exhibits and the visitors. Science museums play a vital role in public education and awareness. Science center exhibits present scientific phenomena and give ideas about objects, machines and instruments to the visitor. The exhibits in these museums present natural phenomena, technological innovations and scientific ideas in ways that prompt visitors, interacting with them, to ask themselves questions and reinforce their own learning. Museums also can provide a vivid experience of the scientific discovery process by presenting or recreating actual events. Experiences in museums motivate children and adults to become more inquisitive. Science centers encourage the development of curiosity.

In museums visitor begin notice things which they missed before. Science centers provide the base for a school education curriculum by informal ways of learning. In the science centers learning often occurs within a social context. An exhibit may serve as a prop for a discussion between two students or between a parent and a child. Exhibits provide an opportunity for joint experimentation. In 21st century country like Indian there is more effort for digitization. So it’s very important for museums and science centers to give more effort for public concern about digital world and its benefit. Science centers could set up a new milestone in our society on this matter. Science centers collect the evidence from our history and pass the knowledge to our next generation; this creates a sustainable development of our society. Museums preserve our heritage culture and present it in chronological order so that our next generation could understand the values.

Today the environment is a great issue for all over the world. Science centers could make people aware about their environmental. Several museums have already prepared exhibitions on environment for public concern.  They are also encouraging people for using green energy for betterment & sustainable development of our society.

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