Engaging with Bengal’s Folk Heritage at Gurusaday Museum

A Sahapedia Baithak organised by The Makers Collaborative

15th September 2018, Gurusaday Museum.
On Saturday afternoon, around 25 people comprising of concerned citizens, artists, professors, museum professionals, researchers, students, and heritage lovers gathered together for discussing a very important issue – ‘Engaging with Bengal’s Folk Heritage at Gurusaday Museum’, which was organized in the fashion of a Baithak evening courtesy Sahapedia and The Makers Collaborative. 

The Baithak was organised in the context of the current crisis that the Museum faces since the Central Government stopped its funding in December 2017 – that of its survival. The Museum is home to a remarkable collection of folk art that spans decades, from the time of undivided Bengal to present-day India. A wide-reaching social media campaign was launched earlier this year, which seems to have fizzled off after a few months. A crowdfunding campaign was also planned and widely supported by the public but that also seems to have not taken off yet. While the Museum is certainly not shutting down, nevertheless more substantial interventions are needed to highlight the problems that it is facing and look at possible solutions to prevent it from dying a slow death. It is undoubtedly a unique and precious Museum that needs to not only be saved but to be celebrated.

The panel of speakers included Mr Kalam Patua, Kalighat Artist; Dr Sayan Bhattacharya, Education Officer, Indian Museum; Dr Piyasi Bharasha, Assistant Professor, Department of Museology, University of Calcutta; and Dr Rajat Sanyal, Assistant Professor and Head, Department of Archaeology, University of Calcutta, who also moderated the session.

Dr Bijan Mondol, Curator, Gurusaday Museum, opened the discussion with a visual walkthrough to the audiences of the gems housed at the Museum and a low down on the current situation. The floor was then open to the panelists who highlighted the burning issues and presented possible solutions. Professor Bharasha talked about how the Museum can restrategize with a new vision statement of engaging different audiences and drew from best practices, such as creating a corpus fund. Dr. Bhattacharya drew from his experiences at the Indian Museum of the need to market, reaching out to the young and the importance of media spotlight in the current situation of crisis being faced by the Museum. Mr. Kalam Patua, currently one of the most popular artists of the Kalighat Pat tradition spoke about the need to nurture folk artists and symbiotic relationship which must exist between this unique Museum of Folk Art of Bengal and the Folk Artists of Bengal that are still surviving – both must add value and relevance to the other. Some very valid suggestions were presented by members of the audiences, such as starting of certificate courses and more and more
internships at the Museum by Shantanu Majee of JU.

Other common themes included, as Professor Sanyal, summarised, the need for collaboration – among Museums of Kolkata, concerned University Departments, cultural organizations that connect museums to communities and active citizen engagement to rally with the Museum and stand with the Curator in this time. The take away from the Baithak includes the use of social media for awareness and mobilisation of collaborative initiatives – not only digitally but on-ground as well.

The Baithak was preceded by a guided tour to illuminate the gems housed by the museum.

 

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