Museum study, conservation - new-age career options

New Delhi: Growing awareness about art and culture is opening up new education avenues like museology, conservation and art history for Indian youngsters with a flair for aesthetics and love for the land`s millennia-old heritage.

Museums are moving out of the confines of centralised institutions to connect to people, entrepreneurs are investing in art galleries and the government is stepping up initiative to preserve heritage.

In the last decade, heritage studies have become increasingly popular with rising awareness about museology, the study of museums, said C.V. Ananda Bose, vice-chancellor of the National Museum Institute (NMI), a premier heritage education centre here.

"Two factors have been responsible for the popularity of heritage studies-the arrival of new information technology tools and museums re-inventing themselves in ways so that youngsters can understand them," Bose told IANS.

The concept of new museology has contributed to the growth of heritage studies, he said.

"The new museums are no longer places of cloistered knowledge. Archives are emerging as centres of cultural activities, rekindling the interest of viewers. New kinds of museums like people`s museum, panchayati raj museum, campus museums, community museums and private museums are coming up in India. Museums need more workforce," Bose said.

The art auctions and art galleries around the world also need museology, art conservation and art history experts. Many students also set up their own "conservation and heritage documentation studios" after completing their education, he said.

NMI, attached to the National Museum, offers post-graduate and doctoral modules in museology, history of art and conservation.

The courses are taught in four semesters, capped by a six-month internship programme.

"Museology was introduced in India as a university module in 1952 at the Maharaja Sayajirao University in Vadodara (Baroda)," said Manvi Seth, head of the department of museology at NMI.

"Currently, the subject is taught at the Maharaja Sayajirao University, the Bharat Kala Bhavan in Varanasi, Kolkata University and at NMI," she added.

The museologist said: "In India, students of museum studies are broadly instructed in the basics of museology, growth and history of museums, curating and exhibition fundamentals and museum management - which includes cataloguing and documentation."

Students of heritage studies need to study one foreign language or one classical Indian language like Sanskrit or Persian.

One of the reasons why conservation and heritage study are emerging as sought-after modules in India is the possession of international level expertise and easy access to foreign aids, said ace conservationist M.V. Nair, the secretary-general of the India chapter of the International Council of Museums (ICOM), the apex body of museums.

"Digitisation has changed the entire face of subjects like documentation, which is vital to the study of heritage and conservation. They are no longer manual," Nair said.

Conservation studies in India can be divided into categories - preventive and curative.

"Preventive conservation looks at the environment of heritage and the possible threats like extremes in climate (Kashmir and Kerala), heat, humidity and insects. Curative conservation treats heritage like a hospital treats a patient," the conservationist said.

Most of Nair`s doctoral students are studying abroad on foreign fellowships.

"Such is the demand for heritage study that we are planning to introduce archaeology and archival sciences in our curriculum in the coming academic session," Bose said.

Said Professor Gabriela Krist, who heads the conservation department at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna: "India still needs a lot more conservationists."

"It has a great variety of heritage like architecture, textiles, collections, stones and graphic arts, besides the intangible cultural heritage. But the community of academic conservationists in India is not quite established yet," she added.

Her department is working with India on a conservation education exchange project.


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