Inaugurating the bicentenary celebrations of the Indian Museum, the oldest of its kind in the country, the prime minister said the role and purpose of museums all over the world have undergone transformation.
“Museums in the 19th century were seen as collections – great storehouses of objects, artefacts and pieces of art… In the late 17th century, the word museum simply meant a building used for storing and exhibiting objects illustrative of antiquities, natural history, art and the like.
“With time, however, this meaning of the word museum came to be overlaid in another connotation: A building dedicated to the pursuit of learning or the art…
“It is a collection and also institution of learning and the dissemination of learning.”
While asserting that on the whole Indian museums have been successful in disseminating India’s rich past, the prime minister said: “It is also necessary to ask whether they should not attune their approaches and strategies so that they are more in keeping with the enhanced connotation of the word museum.”
The prime minister, who released a postage stamp on the occasion and went round some of the renovated galleries, saluted the Indian Museum for housing one of the finest collections of art and antiquity.
“This is truly an institution of which every Indian can be justifiably proud.”
Calling upon the management of the Indian Museum to see itself as an agent of change and development, he said it should think about its role as a purveyor of knowledge and collaborate with similar institutions.
He said it was not enough in today’s world to merely house a collection.
“A museum needs to document, study and analyse its own collections, make comparisons with similar collections held elsewhere and build up collaborations with other great museums.”
Stressing the need for development of trained personnel, he said: “Unfortunately, museology is a woefully neglected field in our country.”
He urged the Indian Museum to take a leadership role in making good the deficiency.
The prime minister noted that museums across the world have become important tourist destinations, and asked the Indian Museum to build up a strong infrastructure.
It should be the objective of the Museum to become an essential port of call for any visitor to Kolkata, especially those from abroad.
The prime minister said the challenge was to make the museum space more alluring,
“It is only a magic-like fascination with the wonders that lie within the portals here that will enable the Museum to remain relevant for the next two hundred years.