Museum of PMs is almost ready, says Culture and Tourism Minister Kishan Reddy


Calling for more thorough documentation of India’s growth, Minister for Culture and Tourism G Kishan Reddy said Feb 15 that the prime ministers’ museum, which will showcase the contribution of all of India’s prime ministers so far, is almost ready.

The minister did not, however, set a date for its opening. Last year he had said the museum, being created in what used to be the Teen Murti Bhavan complex where India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru resided, would be inaugurated Dec 25, which is former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s birth anniversary, but that did not happen.

Kishan Reddy was speaking at the opening of a first-of-its-kind two-day global summit on ‘Reimagining Museums in India’, organized by his ministry in partnership with Bloomberg. The summit is a platform for conversations on global best practices in museum creation and management and to engage with museum professionals and plan the reinvention of museums in India over the next decade.

Speaking about India’s rich cultural heritage and advocating its preservation, propagation and perpetuation, the minister said the summit, being held in Hyderabad, would facilitate cultural exchange and promote international cooperation in the field of museology.

The emphasis on museums comes in the context of the ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ program of the government of India to celebrate the country’s history, culture and achievements in the 75th year of independence.

The summit was attended by several prominent museologists and featured addresses by Alberto Garlandini, president of the International Council of Museums, Dr Webber Ndoro, director general of the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property, and by founders and directors of several notable museums across the world such as Manuel Rabate of the Louvre, Abu Dhabi, Kenson Kwok of the Asian Civilizations Museum, Singapore, and Sabyasachi Mukherjee of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, formerly the Prince of Wales Museum, Mumbai.

To document India’s cultural ethos, both past and present, the government has placed an emphasis on museums. In the words of Joint Secretary Lily Pandey, “Museums acquire, document, preserve, conserve, research and exhibit our tangible and intangible culture.”

It is therefore no surprise that over the past eight years, the government has put great effort into reviving, redeveloping and creating museums across the country. Since 2014, 110 museums have been founded by the culture ministry and several more have been upgraded. India currently has a total of nearly 1,000 museums and is looking to establish more to better embody and display the country’s spirit.

In achieving this imperative, the minister and Joint Secretary Pandey explored the idea of innovation – something that has become the need of the hour due to the pandemic’s impact on various museums across India.

The minister said the pandemic had also brought new opportunities for museums, giving them a chance to reinvent themselves, add innovative solutions and create a more inclusive environment for greater accessibility. This, he said, could be done through the integration of artificial intelligence, augmented reality and virtual reality technology.

The minister also expressed a desire for museums to reflect a more diverse view of the country, including of minorities who are an integral part of it. To that end, he announced the opening of 10 museums focused on tribal freedom fighters, in places like Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam, Ranchi and Goa.

Later, addressing reporters, the minister highlighted the efforts being made to bring back the country’s stolen heritage. He said, “95% of the heritage that was stolen or taken away has been returned during the tenure of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Of the 212 antiques that have been returned since 1976, 199 were returned after 2014. Among these, 157 antiques have been returned from the USA recently.”