Role of Museums in School Education

    Prof. Jyotsna Tiwari, Department of Education in Arts and Aesthetics, NCERT
    Komal Pande, Assistant Curator, National Museum, New Delhi

    The live discussion focuses on inculcating the practice of visiting museums among school children and appeals to the parent, guardians, school teachers and administrators to encourage children to do so. The video is based on interesting questions that were asked by the viewers who desired to know about different museums, contemporary museum practices, careers in the museum field etc. This stimulating yet lucid dialogue between a professor and museum professional will benefit the young viewers to understand the role of museums and will inspire them not only to visit the museums but also to choose museum as career choice.

    This write up is a sneak-peek into the video and aims to present some of the ideas that were brought up during the discussion. A few of the highlight questions and points of discussions are mentioned here.

    What is a museum and what is its role?
    What is a virtual museum?
    What are the careers options for young students who wish to become museum professionals?
    What happens when we visit a museum?
    Ways of exploring museums?
    Why should we go to the museum?

    The museums are repositories of knowledge and house a variety of material culture like paintings, sculptures, decorative art objects, coins, relics and other found and collected objects etc. The museums aim to preserve knowledge, age-old cultures, and traditions. Collection, preservation and display of the artefacts are the three pillars of any museum. In today’s time, the museums have become a space of learning and they have extended their role as knowledge institutions and have gone beyond the idea of being a mere collection house. There are different kinds of museums based on the collections they house, like National Museum, National Gallery of Modern Art, Philately Museum, Toilet Museum, Doll Museum, Crafts Museum, Science Museum, Gandhi Smriti Museum etc. are a few from Delhi.

    The museum may be understood as a bridge that connects our past to our present and helps us envision our future. A single visit to any museum can improve our understanding of history and new dimensions to the knowledge we gain from the books.

    Visiting museums can give us much more than we can imagine. When one sees and learns, one can understand the artefacts better, as noticing the details like material, form, size and technique of making of the art objects is not possible to learn by seeing the object in two dimensions. The pattern of school education has also changed. The schools are now trying to expand the idea of education in the form of experiential learning rather than bookish facts. By visiting museums that have historic objects one can experience the evolution from the past to the present in front of their eyes.

    The schools and the museums have to work hand in hand to impart better education by making it more creative, practical and exciting for the school children. It is often thought that visiting museums can only substantiate and compliment bookish learning, however; the fact is that viewing artefacts in a museum space can rather empower the school children to think beyond the textual details that their books offer. The exercise of visiting the museums can do wonders for the school children if they are encouraged to write their unique observations and learning experiences in the museum space. The idea of promoting the museum visits in school children is not to overload them with more information but to allow them a space to see what they have learnt from the books and how can enhance their knowledge. The purpose of igniting young minds in museum involves training them into the ways of seeing, interpreting and further understanding the rich traditions of the past and contemporary reflections. The school children can also device novel ways of making better tomorrow by learning worthwhile sensibilities from the past.

    Fortunately, India is a land of living traditions. This allows the children and other visitors to relate to the displays in the museum, as the objects on display are reflections of life to them and are not alien artefacts. The concept of open museums or community museums aims at providing a holistic experience to the children and other visitors as they can see how the idea of art and life is inseparable from each other. Likewise, folk and tribal museums help us understand the beauties of living cultures.

    Online museums and virtual galleries are available for the purpose of making museums and awareness of visual culture available to all from any part of the world. They offer to peek into the vast collections by uploading images of their collection so that they can be seen from anywhere. NROER NCERT website and National Museum website can be visited from anywhere and encourage museum visits as they keep updating new photographs of objects and events that take place in these institutions.

    Schools and museums together try to encourage the children to view the museum spaces as alternative spaces of learning and outings so that children visit the museums with their friends and families. The museums are free for school children or often the tickets are minimal so there is no economic burden on the children or their parents to pay heavy amounts. This is a part of the policy to encourage the children to visit the museums and must be utilized by the children more and more.

    There are a variety of ways of engaging with the museums world. For example, most of the museums including the National Museum, New Delhi, has its physical as well as virtual presence. Creative faculties of the school children also get boosted when they visit the museum.
    The school children visiting the National Museum explore it in many ways. Often the students can be seen making notes, doing sketches and taking photographs etc. The fans and the friends of the museum follow it virtually on the NM New Delhi Facebook page and NM New Delhi Instagram page and Website.

    Museums can be interesting career options too. Art historians, museologists, archaeologists, epigraphists, historians, anthropologists, curators, designers, conservators are some of the professions that relate to the museums field directly. However, nowadays not many students are interested in conventional carrier options and for them too the museum has things to offer.  Due to the diverse collections, the museums can trigger the required creativity for the photographers, artists, actors, performance artists, filmmakers etc. and now the museums are preparing themselves for such dynamic audiences.

    Although museums are repositories of knowledge and centres of learning, the school children need to be made aware of their duties towards these institutions as future leaders. A sense of responsibility needs to be instilled in school children so that they realize that they have to take the museums further from here on. The relationship between the schools children and the museum must be seen as a symbiotic relationship where both can benefit from each other. This can happen only if the school children are encouraged enough and the parents, teachers and guardians involve themselves with it.

    Small steps taken today will lead to a brighter tomorrow.