As part of the Museum Week celebrations, the Government Museum and Art Gallery, Chandigarh had a special treat for children. In partnership with The Heritage Lab, students of Vivek High School (Chandigarh) took over the museum for two days.
What is Museum Week
#MuseumWeek is a much anticipated event on any culture-vulture’s calendar. Everyone is welcome to this online celebration of museums worldwide. For seven days, cultural organisations take to social media platforms & engage audiences through awesome content! Each day witnesses a different theme. For MuseumWeek2018, as #KidsMW and #ProfessionsMW coincided, we decided to take the enthusiasm offline too!
Shadowing Museum Professionals
On the first day (#ProfessionsMW) we familiarized students with the museum. They were introduced to the team – from curators, guides, librarians to artists, photographers and the marketing people, the Museum has a lot of people! Students were assigned different teams and a museum-mentor, who gave them an in-depth look into their job at the museum. This helped them prepare for the next day when they would actually get a chance to step into their shoes and play their role.
When Children Took Over the Museum
On the second day, students were made aware of their tasks in their new found roles at the museum. The Student-Curators helped in researching content and images for upcoming digital exhibitions on ‘Women in the museum’ and ‘Architecture in Gandharan art’ . This was to go up on Google Arts + Culture! The Student-Guides created their own trails and walks! They continuously assisted museum visitors that day : from Class 2 students to international tourists; and forgot to take a lunch break!
The artists created replicas of Gandharan sculptures using the Museum moulds. They also studied other artwork, that could be replicated.
The marketing team brainstormed on creating engaging student-activities at the Museum and presented a plan for it. The student-librarians catalogued books while their conservator counterparts identified paintings / objects on display that needed some love and care. They also worked on completing a condition-analysis form for some objects. The Museum Photographer was responsible for documenting the entire two-day activity!
Takeaway and Experience
The same batch of students had been visiting museums with us for the past 3 years as part of our creative learning programme. In addition to the Chandigarh Museum, they had visited Virasat-e-Khalsa and the Partition Museum as part of their projects earlier. But this time round, rather than working with the museum’s collections directly they learned what goes on behind the scenes at a museum.
The students admitted they had little to no idea about what happened in a museum on a day to day basis. It was for the first time that many of them saw museum work as a realistic career option. Altogether, they thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
This is what some of them had to say-
I feel that in this day and age everyone wants to go for typical jobs such as an an engineer whereas this job requires you to think out of the box and is very unique.
– Varleen, Student-Curator
My favourite thing throughout was meeting new people and telling them about our marvellous history. I met many Indians, foreigners and students from different schools.
– Harshit, Student-Guide
I can see myself taking up a museum based career as history is one of my favourite subjects and I would love to teach people about the rich history and culture of our country.
– Adish, Student-Librarian
For the museum staff, it was very encouraging to see children taking such an active interest in their work. They admitted learning a lot from the students’ feedback and found their perspectives rejuvenating. This helps them build on volunteering and docent programmes in the museum, now that they know they have several young people who would be interested.
Our work was also featured in the media.
Initiatives like these give the youth a chance to build on leadership and other soft skills, but also create long lasting relationships between the museum and its audience.
We are grateful to the Govt. Museum and Art Gallery, Chandigarh for trusting us wholeheartedly on this campaign and providing us with the support and expertise without which it wouldn’t have been possible. We also thank Mrs. Renu Puri and Mrs. Kimmy Dhanoa from Vivek High School who stood behind our vision. Big shoutout to teachers, Mrs. Shaveta Agnihotri and Mrs Mandeep Sidhu, for boosting the confidence of students and keeping their enthusiasm high throughout the workshop. All of them together enabled our celebration of museums to be a success and kept up the spirit of learning.