Museums have today become far more than mere repositories of artefacts and forgotten histories. They are archives, places of research and reflection, sites of aesthetic display and wider communal recreation. However, they also are living participants- extensions of our cultures and of ourselves.
What do museums mean in 2021? How can they continue to be sites for and participants in the cultural conversation?
On the occasion of International Museum Day 2021, here is my compilation of the coolest new museums in India. These museums are remarkable in terms of design, curatorial vision, relevance and youth outreach. Through their innovative strategies and unique cultural offerings, they have enriched India’s cultural experience quotient.
Based in Delhi, the journey of Museo Camera began in 2009 in the basement of Photographer, Historian, Archivist, Aditya Arya as a personal collection of photographic equipment. Today, it is the largest not-for-profit crowd-funded Centre for Photographic Arts in South East Asia. A unique public-private partnership between India Photo Archive Foundation and The Municipal Corporation of Gurugram—it is one of a kind in India with 18,000 sq. ft. of space dedicated to the art of Photography.
What makes it cool: Their incredible collection of vintage cameras that give a timeline and trajectory of how photography has developed through technology. They also offer programming around archives like digitising, archiving and archival print services as well as annual artistic residencies. More
JD CENTRE FOR ART
Based in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, the vision of JD Centre of Art (JDCA) is to create an art centre that preserves and promotes traditional and contemporary art, without boundaries. This vision is taking shape across the historic 2nd century BC Khandagiri caves in Bhubaneswar. The construction of the Centre is ongoing. The Centre has been established by Jatin Das, its Chairman, eminent contemporary artist in India. JDCA wants to build a living, ever-changing example of sustainable, human-centred design for Odisha, around its diverse collection.
What makes it cool: Their amazing showcase of indigenous craft and their Ration Relief Programming for Craftspeople in response to the Pandemic. JDCA is a part of the Creative Dignity movement that has brought together diverse creative producers, practitioners and professionals to provide relief and sustained prosperity for the craft communities. They have provided relief to over 2,100 Craftspeople in 14 Districts of Odisha. More
THE BIHAR MUSEUM
Based in the state capital the Bihar Museum is an evolution of the original Patna Museum which was established in 1917. In the state of Bihar, the need for a new museum was seriously felt, the Patna Museum having limitations, both in physical space as well as in its design and methods of presentation. A government initiative, the Department of Art, Culture and Youth, State of Bihar (DACY) proposed this new Museum using the existing blueprint and vast collection of the Patna Museum. The direction for the new Bihar Museum was provided by the Chief Minister and senior levels of the Bihar State government. The vision for the new Museum is to be a world-class showcase for the ancient history and heritage of the lands now known as Bihar. Japanese firm Maki and Associates and Mumbai-based OPOLIS Architects executed the radical new design of the museum.
What makes it cool: The building’s design is contemporary, accessible and geared toward being a ‘Learning Landscape’. The first Museum Biennale in India, and the world, is being organised in a hybrid avatar–physical and digital, by The Bihar Museum. They have also worked closely and successfully with the Government of Bihar to create and present this remarkable initiative. More
Sarmaya Arts Foundation is a Mumbai-based not-for-profit curated repository of art, artefacts and living traditions from the Indian subcontinent. Founded in 2015, Sarmaya aims to make India’s art, heritage and culture more accessible, engaging and educational.; they aptly like to call themselves the museum without boundaries. Tina and Paul Abraham’s private collection folds in categories as varied as numismatics and cartography, and tracks narratives across a wide swathe of time, from the second century to the 21st. They promise no boundaries of space, time or access. They create immersive experiences and reimagine our tangible and intangible heritage. Sarmaya is not a museum you go to; it’s a museum that comes to you.
What makes it cool: Other than being one of India’s leading virtual museums, their approach to present history, objects and figures in a contemporary and interactive manner is refreshing and innovative. Their mindfulness toward providing cultural accessibility and democracy in the arts is seen in their multi-lingual and multi-dialectic programming. More
DRISHYAKALA by DELHI ART GALLERY (DAG)
Based in Delhi’s iconic Red Fort, Drishyakala, in Barrack Number 4, is an extraordinary visual arts showcase, one that not only highlights a part of India’s historical trajectory but also provides a valuable glimpse of the diverse panoply of Indian art. Through four iconic exhibitions with over 450 artworks spread over 27,000 square feet, DAG maps the complex trajectory and vibrant legacy of Indian art and heritage.
What makes it cool: DAG has revitalised and enhanced this iconic heritage monument and brought its historical spaces to life by housing this incredible collection of Indian art within it. With the aim of maximum outreach at its core, DAG has also created small tactile galleries—The Inner Eye: Art for the Visually Impaired—on each of the three floors. Tactile artworks are accompanied by artwork text—in Hindi and English— in Braille. In addition, there is a dedicated space for children—‘Every Child is an Artist’: The Learning Hub—which has regular programming—workshops, curated walks, poetry sessions—for schoolchildren of all ages and college students. More
Asad Lalljee is the CEO of Avid Learning, a public programming initiative and creative platform. On 19 August, Avid is hosting a session titled Museums 2021: Cultural Meaning and Digitizing Legacy. You can sign up here