In this digital-savvy world, museums are rediscovering new ways and tools to engage with their audiences – and Instagram is a hot favourite! In India though, museums are yet to take advantage of this tool and use it to it’s full potential but with projects like #MuseumWeek, #AskACurator and #52Museums, the enthusiasm is definitely increasing. What’s common between all these three? The name, Mar Dixon!

What is 52Museums?

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Inspired by Chris Webb’s project 52Quilters, 52Museums features one or several museums each week, taking over the event account throughout the year. We must warn you, the waitlist is a bit long too – but then Mar aces the curation bit, sometimes pulling up museums that deserve to be highlighted at this very global platform.

Here’s why it’s important for Museums to showcase on this platform:

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# You get to connect with a global community of museums. Yes, we loved how museums (and professionals) across Europe were liking / commenting on our posts!
# There’s a whole new audience waiting out there for you! Given the range of museums that have used the account for over 2 years, a whopping 18.1 k followers have been literally the result of “everyone’s audience engagement” and it works for the community! All said and done, the account lets you take engagement to a different level altogether.
# Because it’s just awesome to do something together. 

Museums in India that participated:

The Heritage Lab was obviously excited to hear from Mar about Indian participation. We reached out to different museums on Instagram and otherwise, and immediately heard back from different museums willing to participate.

A journey across India was planned, sharing different stories that India is known for! We started in Chandigarh, moving between Amritsar, Jaipur, Mumbai, and Delhi during the week, 15-21 October 2018.

 

If you missed following the @52Museums account on Instagram, here are the highlights!

Government Museum and Art Gallery, Chandigarh

The museum used this opportunity to highlight some of it’s treasures, but given that we “took over” in the run up to Dussehra, here’s a beauty from the Museum:

Painting by Jamini Roy

In their other post, the Museum highlighted the history of art in the region, with Gandhara sculptures forming the focus!

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Our museum is known for it’s Gandhara collection that we received as part of the India-Pakistan Partition. These sculptures depicting Buddha, and the Jataka tales never fail to fascinate a visitor! But we’re also known for the different love-stories we tell. In this post we share a short history of art from our region! Image 2) the Gita-Govinda written by the poet Jayadeva has been brought to life beautifully by the hill-painter Manaku. Manaku of Guler is a miniature painting series we are very proud of! In this painting, Radha asks Krishna to paint her breasts! ♥️ Image 3) With colonial influence, Raja Ravi Varma, an artist of the 19th century, took to litho-printing to make art accessible to the masses. In this print, he shows Shakuntala (from the story by Kalidasa), lost in the thoughts of her lover, King Dushyant. Raja Ravi Varma often painted mythological characters or Indian stories! Image 4) artist Sobha Singh became a legend after he created a painting of the Sikh Guru, GuruNanak. Even today his paintings are found across homes in Punjab. In this special painting, he captures the moment of Mumtaz’s death and Shah Jahan’s promise of building her a grand tomb – the origin of the Taj Mahal! If you travel to the city, drop by!! That’s all from us as we hand over to the @partitionmuseum Amritsar – known for their compelling stories! . . . . . . . . . #storiesofindia #museumseveryday #discoverindia #chandigarh #museums #indianart #arthistory #gandhara #miniaturepainting #oleographs #rajaravivarma #sobhasingh #punjabhills #manaku

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Partition Museum, Amritsar

The Partition Museum always has some compelling stories to share! Are you following them yet on Instagram / Twitter? They began their takeover by introducing the Museum building:

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The Partition of India was one of the most defining events in the history of the Indian subcontinent. With no accurate accounts of how many died or lost their homes, estimates suggest that perhaps up to 20 million people were affected by the Partition and somewhere between 200,000 – 1 million lost their lives. Yet, several decades after the event, there was a severe lacuna that no museum or memorial existed anywhere in the world to remember all those millions. It is their untold stories which the Partition Museum records and narrates. The magnificent Town Hall at Amritsar was constructed in the year 1864 by John Gordon and finished in 1870, costing INR 1.5 lakhs. It housed the court of small causes, city police headquarters, municipal offices, a free library, and a meeting room. Historical records provide descriptions of a vibrant textile trading bazaar around the Town Hall from where goods were sent as far as Kashmir, Afghanistan and Central Asia. The building suffered severe damage during the Punjab uprising of 1919, and was subsequently rebuilt, witnessing violence again in 1947. Today this restored historic building houses the world's 1st Partition Museum. The Museum is located 5 minutes from the famous Golden Temple. #Textile #Architecture #Afghanistan #Asia #trade #historic #building #memorial #restoration #GoldenTemple #famous #storiesofindia #museumseveryday #PartitionMuseum #Museum #collection #Amritsar #Punjab #India #History #migration #refugees #borders #division #memories #heritage #history #indiapak #discoverindia @theheritagelab @sarmaya_india @csmvsmumbai @jnafmumbai @ngma.newdelh @museumchd @VADundee @PartitionMuseum

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Have you ever wondered what the National Animal of our neighbour Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) is? It’s the Royal Indian tiger, just like ours. Check out the post to know why:

 

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The museum also shared one of their most popular exhibits: a Phulkari coat, which tells of a very sweet love story!

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Pritam Kaur and Bhagwan Singh were engaged to be married. The families lost contact during Partition. Pritam Kaur, carried a bag with her favourite Phulkari coat and boarded a train to India. Bhagwan Singh too left West Punjab during the unrest carrying his important documents in a briefcase. Desolate, weary, and hungry she made her way to the closest refugee camp, only to wait in a long winding queue for food. It was here that she met her fiancé again and the couple got married soon after. #clothes #bag #story #memories #love #camp #objects #collection #migration #refugees #partition #museum #amritsar #punjab #india #pakistan #memorabilia #storiesofindia #museumseveryday #PartitionMuseum @partitionmuseum

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The Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum, City Palace Jaipur

One of the most picturesque museums in India, we were very excited to go on a tour with the Museum – and they didn’t disappoint!

At a Palace Museum though, engaging with living heritage is a must! Curator Aparna Andhare took us on a quick tour of the 18th-19th century temples in the City Palace complex.

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Let’s celebrate the festive weekend with a quick trip to some 18th and 19th century temples in the City Palace complex. Built on the lines of a haveli (a kind of mansion), there is a large central courtyard, the main temple hall, and rooms on three sides for priests, pilgrims and paraphernalia! The deity— in this case forms of Krishna and his consort— are treated as royal persons. They’re bathed, dressed according to season, and made scrumptious food offerings. They even take naps and are put to bed every day! These temples, built by rulers of Jaipur, are still in active worship, and spaces of living heritage. They’re decorated with carvings, murals (some later “touch-ups”), stucco, and intricate designs. Working in a Palace Museum requires you to engage beyond the galleries and temples around us are archives in stone! We love attending various rituals and occasional concerts in these gorgeous temples! When you’re in Jaipur, do visit the Shri Pratapeshwara, Brijnidhi, Anand Krishna Bihari and Ramchandra temples, all in walking distance of the City Palace! . . . #storiesofindia #everydaymuseums #jaipurdiaries #temple #templewalk #culture #livingheritage #discoverindia

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In the end, we even met the chief deity of Jaipur, Govind Dev ji, before we headed on to another place in Rajasthan – Bhilwara, with Sarmaya – India’s first digital museum!

Sarmaya India

Luckily for us, Sarmaya was celebrating narrative traditions of India all of October, and so we were privy to some great content!

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The complex and intricate living tradition of #phad paintings is over seven centuries old and hails from Rajasthan’s #Bhilwara district. These massive textile canvases are portable temples to two deities of the nomadic Rebari tribe, Devnarayan and Pabuji. Considered lesser gods by higher-caste priests, they aren’t consecrated in brick-and-mortar shrines like others of their divine ilk. Instead these folk heroes like their believers are constantly on the move, tales of their greatness sung by wandering minstrels.
Hello world, we are Sarmaya @sarmaya_india! We’re a digital museum and our collection includes tribal and contemporary art, 19th-century photography, rare books, antique maps and coins from the larger subcontinent. Our theme for the month of October is ‘Storytelling Traditions of India’, through which we will examine three art forms deeply embedded in the oral history traditions of India: Bengal patua scrolls, Rajasthani phad paintings and the shadow puppets of Andhra. Read all about it by following the link in the bio . . . #storiesofindia #museumseveryday #discoverindia #phadpainting #storytelling #folkart #livingtraditions #indigenousart #rebari #rajasthan

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We have been in love with Bengal’s Patua scroll-storytelling since forever now, and while Youtube might have some videos on the same, we’ve never ever seen such innovative digital-storytelling with Patua art! The artist sings the story out in Bengali in this one:

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Bengal patua celebrates the divine feminine in a truly syncretic way—Muslim artists often paint these scenes from Hindu mythology. In recent times, this 13th-century art form has been used by enterprising artists to start conversations about birth control, climate change and women’s rights too. Patuas are painted scrolls made by chitrakars, who narrate the story panel by panel—much like a graphic novel. Here we hear the tale of the serpent goddess Manasa, who kills the son of her arch-nemesis in a fit of rage. But the goddess doesn’t reckon with the faith of the slain man’s bride, Behula, who floats with her dead husband from shore to shore seeking justice. Sarmaya founder Paul Abraham (@paulusmarabrahamus) works with chitrakars from Medinipur in Bengal to commission patuas made the traditional way, exploring or elaborating on new themes.
Hello, we are Sarmaya @sarmaya_india! We’re a digital museum from India and you can find us at Sarmaya.in . . . #storiesofindia #museumseveryday #discoverindia #patua #bengalpatua #divinefeminine #shakti #indiangoddess #livingtraditions #syncretism

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On the eve of Dussehra, Sarmaya gave us a very cool shadow puppet performance by Lankini – the demon guard of Ravana’s empire. Well, if one must lose the battle, at least it should be graceful and something to remember!

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Happy Dussehra to everyone from Lankini, the demon-guard of Ravana’s empire! She put up quite a fight but was no match for Hanuman. This is one of the popular stories performed in tholubommalaata, a shadow puppet theatre art that originated 2,000 years ago in a region that spans present-day Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka. The artisans who craft these gorgeous leather puppets are also deft performers, bringing them to life by the flickering glow of lamps in villages and small towns. They narrate episodes from Hindu epics, accompanied with live music, social commentary and ribald jokes. It’s a night of entertainment for the whole family. Hello, we are Sarmaya @sarmaya_india! We are a digital museum from India, visit us at Sarmaya.in . . . #storiesofindia #museumseveryday #discoverindia #tholubommalata #dussehra #ramayana #hanuman #lankini #ravana #lanka #shadowpuppets #theatre #leatherpuppets

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CSMVS Mumbai

What happens when the country’s best take you on a tour? Check it out for yourself, as CSMVS Mumbai shared fascinating details about not just their building, but Curator favourites, glimpses of the immensely popular Natural History section and finally, it’s amazing Conservation initiatives.

Opened in 1922 to the public, the museum has 60,000 objects from Asia and Europe! Now that’s what we call multicultural!

And then there are highlights of the museum you just cannot miss!

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This is our #curatorialpick of #mustsee exhibits of @csmvsmumbai collection 1) Seated Buddha, Mirpurkhas, Sindh, Terracotta, 5th century CE 2) Balwant Singh seated in a tent, Pahari, Jammu, Painted by Nainsukh, 18th century CE 3) Gardner and the bear, Folio from Anwar-i-Suhayli, Mughal, C. 1575 CE 4) Itardan (perfume bottle), Jade, Mughal, 17th century CE 5) Maitreya, Gilt Bronze, Nepal, 13th Century CE 6) Shield, Part of the personal armour of Mughal Emperor Akbar, Steel with damascened gold, 1581 CE 7) Hon of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Maratha dynasty, 1627 – 1680 CE 8) Unfinished, Jehangir Sabavala, Oil on Canvas, 2011 #csmvs #52museums #storiesofindia #museumseveryday #museumsofmumbai #indianart #indianminiaturepaintings #numismatic #mughal #himalayanart #jainism #buddhism

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CSMVS also shared glimpses of their upcoming Children’s Museum – curated by children. Have a look here!

JNAF (Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation) Mumbai

Jehangir Nicholson was an avid gallery visitor and collector. His vision was to share his collection with the public.

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#Meetthecollector Every time he saw a work, #JehangirNicholson would ask if it was worthy of 'entering the portals of a museum'. He had a vision of sharing his collection with the public, and this was fulfilled in 2009 when the Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation came to be at @csmvsmumbai. This image of Mr Nicholson standing against a monumental work, "Zamin" by S.H. Raza emphasises his interest in the Progressive Art movement. Along with being an avid gallery visitor, he also interacted and formed close associations with artists, seen here with Bhupen Khakhar and Ram Kumar in Ahmedabad in 1997. He was considered an important collector, who gave immense support to the art fraternity in Bombay. @jnafmumbai #OnCollecting #CollectorsEye #Museum #Art #BombayProgressives #MuseumsEveryday #StoriesOfIndia #52Museums #DiscoverIndia #MuseumsOfIndia #MustSee #History #ArtCollection #Collector #Raza #Culture #Heritage #Painting

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If you’re wondering about the scope of investing in art, then take a look at this:

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We are all well aware of the prices a work by V. S. Gaitonde commands these days, but back in 1970 Mr Nicholson purchased a work by him for what would have been thought to be a princely sum as well! His passion and seriousness when it came to art, fascinated many – he even built a wooden contraption to showcase his art collection as it grew, and space in his Bombay home fell short. The collection, now in the safekeeping of the foundation and @csmvsmumbai is kept in a state of the art storage facility. #OnCollecting #CollectorsEye #Museum #Art #BombayProgressives #MuseumsEveryday #StoriesOfIndia #52Museums #DiscoverIndia #MuseumsOfIndia #MustSee #History #ArtCollection #Collector #Gaitonde #Paintings #Culture #Heritage #ArtMarket

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The JNAF collection of 800 artworks has a special focus on the Bombay Progressives.

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The Jehangir Nicholson Collection comprises around 800 works of modern and contemporary Indian art, acquired between 1968 and 2001, and dating back to 1930. The main focus of the collection is on the Bombay Progressive Artists including K.H.Ara, Tyeb Mehta, M.F.Husain, Akbar Padamsee, Ram Kumar, and F.N.Souza. He also built on his collection by including contemporary artists such as Jitish Kallat, Anju & Atul Dodiya amongst others. Here are some bright green and yellow hues by Souza for you to muse over this Sunday! Coming up next is a must visit when you’re in the capital- @ngma.newdelhi —– Images: 1) F.N. Souza, "Green Landscape", 1964, Oil on Canvas 2) Pilloo Pochkhanwala, Untitled, Stone with Aluminium 3) Laxman Shreshtha, Untitled, (detail) Oil on Canvas, 1994 #OnCollecting #CollectorsEye #Museum #Art #BombayProgressives #MuseumsEveryday #StoriesOfIndia #52Museums #DiscoverIndia #MuseumsOfIndia #MustVisit #History #ArtCollection #Collector #Paintings #Sculpture #Exhibition #Culture #Heritage

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Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai

How can one leave Mumbai without a visit to one of it’s most successful museums!  This museum is definitely a photographer’s delight, and irresistible to those who want to “know” Bombay.

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Hello from Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum (@bdlmuseum), Mumbai! We are taking over from #NGMADelhi. Did you know that the #BDLMuseum was formerly the Victoria and Albert Museum, Bombay? Constructed from 1862 to 1872, largely on subscriptions raised by the merchants & traders of the erstwhile Bombay Presidency, this is the oldest Museum in Mumbai and third oldest in India! One of the biggest attractions of the Museum is its 19th century building! It was designed as a 'Hall of Wonder' with palladian exteriors, celadon green interiors, corinthian capitals, cast iron pillars and railings, Minton tiles, all imported from England. The ceiling design includes the six pointed star of David, the Jewish religious symbol, in honour of the contribution of the Jewish community to the city of Mumbai! The Museum building underwent an intensive restoration & revitalisation between 2003-2008 with the support of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, the Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation and the Museum Trust, in a public-private partnership. This restoration project won the 2005 UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Award of Excellence. Check out the Instagram stories to see the before & after images of the Museum! #mumbai #52museums #museumsinIndia #storiesofIndia #discoverindia #museumseveryday

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The museum opened in 1857 as Victoria and Albert Museum Bombay. Check out it’s oldest artefact, and how it got to the museum apart from the other treasures.

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The @bdlmuseum tells the story of Mumbai, earlier known as Bombay, from seven separate islands separated by swamps and the sea to its growth as the Urbs Prima in Indis. This is depicted in the collection of rare maps in the Museum. One of the oldest artefacts from the collection is right outside before you enter the Museum building – a 6th century CE stone elephant from the islands of 'Elephanta', which was moved to the Museum in pieces after a failed attempt to move it to England! Sir George Birdwood, one of the first Curators, then put the stone elephant back together. The Museum also has a large collection of clay models, made for the Museum in the early 20th century, depicting the lifestyle and occupations of Mumbai in the 19th & 20th centuries! You will see models of Kolis or fishermen (the earliest communities that lived in Mumbai), to occupations such as a Gas Lamp Lighter, palanquin carriers and kulfi (ice cream) makers! On display are also models of dredgers that enabled large scale land reclamations to happen in the city over the last 100 years. The Museum also has an old gas lamp with fountains, dated to 1867. This was moved to the Museum in the mid 20th century from its original location in the city centre. We also have a collection of rare glass negatives showcasing old views and landmarks of Mumbai! #bdlmuseum #52museums #storiesofIndia #discoverindia #indianmuseums #museumseveryday #mumbaihistory #mumbaiheritage #urbanhistories #mumbai #bombay

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We also found it fascinating to see how the museum engaged with the community, especially the JJ School of Art back in the 19th century:

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The @bdlmuseum's collection highlights include decorative arts from the erstwhile Bombay Presidency. The Museum and the Sir JJ School of Art, formerly the Bombay School of Art, shared a symbiotic relationship in the late 19th to early 20th centuries. The position of the Curator of the Museum was often held by the Principal of the Art School. Students and artisans were instructed in Indian techniques as well as western art forms, resulting in unique 'fusion' decorative arts being made in India that were in great demand in Europe such as the blue peacock vase created by a student of the Bombay School of Art. You can see the influence of Western Realism in the ivory figure of Radha Krishna who are striking a ballet pose and in the floral details of the lamp stand made of bison horn, from Ratnagiri in Maharashtra. The collection also includes watercolours and paintings by famous 19th century artists from the Sir JJ School of Art. Shown here is a detail of a painting by the School's first Indian Principal, Rao Bahadur M. V. Dhurandhar. Throughout the Museum's history, its Curators have sent objects from the Bombay Presidency to various international and national expositions winning medals such as the Hors Concurs medal awarded to the Govt. of Bombay for sending excellent samples of raw cotton. #bdlmuseum #52museums #museumsinIndia #storiesofIndia #discoverindia #museumseveryday #mvdhurandhar #jjschoolofart #decorativearts #mumbai

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NGMA Delhi

Situated in the heart of Delhi, NGMA is an art lover’s paradise. But for #52Museums, NGMA revealed some never-seen-before treasures that are part of their current exhibition “Chehre”, i.e Faces. This bronze-bust of Mahatma Gandhi by the late SG Shrikhande is the “artwork of the month” as India celebrates Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary!

 

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Here’s a glimpse into the exhibition which is an ode to India’s sculptural genius!

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Ramkinker Baij was one of the pioneers of modern Indian sculpture. This “portrait” of Baij by Abanindranath Tagore forms a special focus in the ongoing exhibition “Chehre” (faces)! Enveloped in green patina, the portrait represents Baij in a thoughtful expression. His eyes look 👀 straight towards the spectator – as if in conversation with his audience! Image 2: This is Ramkinker Baij’s sculpture of Rabindranath Tagore – cast in cement, this intense portrayal reflects Baij’s deep understanding of the art of portraiture! Image 3: More sculptures as part of the exhibition by Bengal school artists including: Sarbari Roy Chowdhury, Tarak Garai, Amitava Bhowmick, and Paritosh Sen ! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . #sculptures #ramkinkarbaij #modernart #indianartists #indianart #ngma #ongoing #exhibition #museumexhibition #bronze #cement #patina #portraiture #tagore #rabindranathtagore #bengal #peopleofindia #discoverindia #museumseveryday #museums #52museums #storiesofindia

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India has so many stories that we possibly can’t tell all in 8 days. For that, there’s got to be a few more seasons of  52 Museums. In the meanwhile, for a daily scoop on Indian art and museums, head over to our Instagram page!

Would you like to join the India / Asia Museums’ digital media community? Reach us at theheritagelab@gmail.com!

The Heritage Lab is a digital platform connecting museums & citizens through campaigns, public-engagement programs & free access content for youth, families and kids.

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