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India celebrates 200 years of museum work

An international conference and intensive seminar on the theme “Strategic Transformations: Museums in the 21st Century” was held from 9-14 February, 2014 in New Delhi and Kolkata. The event coincided with the 200th anniversary celebration of Kolkata’s Indian Museum, the oldest museum in India.

India celebrates 200 years of museum work

This international conference and intensive seminar, which was held at multiple venues in New Delhi and Kolkata, was organised by the Indian government and the Department of Culture together with ICOM India. Divided into six thematic sessions, the conference reflected on the history of museum work in India and concentrated on recent museum developments and ways to prepare museums for the challenges of the 21st century.

The session focused on the following topics : “Museums and Transformations,” “Museums and Digital Domain,” “Museums and Human Resource Development,” “Museums and Relevance – community engagement, benefits and active citizenship,” Museums and Relevance: Making Changes using Culture as a tool” and finally a panel of the conference’s main speakers entitled “Strategic Transformations: Museums In 21st Century.”

ICOM President Prof. Dr. Hans-Martin Hinz was invited open the conference with a speech on “Global Trends in Museums” at the National Museum in New Delhi on 9 February. Looking back at development trends and the changing role of museums over the centuries, Prof. Dr. Hinz also spoke about the current state of museums and cast a vision for their future. He argued “If we want to explain how neighbouring societies have influenced our culture and history and vice versa, for better or for worse, it is important to think about the presentation and explanation of collections and objects in order to foster international identity. Visitors from different countries should leave such exhibits with the impression: Yes, this is my history, this is our common history.”

On 13 February, Prof. Dr. Hinz gave a keynote address on “Museums and Transformations in Post-Reunification Germany” at Science City in Kolkata. In this speech he used the example of the transformation of German cultural institutions and of German society as a whole after the fall of the Berlin Wall, demonstrating society’s capacity for change and the role museums and other institutions can play in this shift. ICOM’s President congratulated the rapid development of museums in the region and encouraged fellow colleagues to reflect on the future of museums and the roles they will play in serving society over the next 10-20 years. He urged them to ensure that museums be a “cultural driving force for the sustainable development of the world.”