27 March 2014

Museums & I

I was told recently by someone that I visit many museums. My first reaction to this remark was of disbelief and denial. On closer scrutiny, however, of my various media I did have to accept that I have visited my fair share of museums. May be even more. Visiting museums though not a crime, is decidedly a stale hobby, associated with greying scholars and self appointed intellectuals who find the past more interesting than the living. There can be many arguments against this supposition, but none strong enough to dismantle it from the collective public consciousness. One of the reasons for this, is the remarkably uninteresting way our museums are curated and displayed. An exception to this is the Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai, which though small, is elegant and attracts the young and the old alike. However, on one count all museums falter, that of providing the public an opportunity to have a memory in the form of a photograph. Most of the museums forbid, videography, flash photography, professional cameras, tripods or even DSLRs. Almost all, charge exorbitant amounts for photography in comparison to the piddly amounts charged for the entrance tickets.Not to speak of the dozens of times the photography tickets are checked, in the most rude and obtrusive manner. The lighting and the glass showcases themselves preclude to any decent amateur photography, in most cases capturing the glare on the glass showcase but the object. In this age of immediate uploading of "been there done that"on the internet social media, this attitude is criminal on the part of the museums. They have to get out of this mentality of being ivory towers of academia among the ignorant hoi polloi. I did manage to subvert some of the limitations but only after a monumental effort of finding the right camera angles and slow shutter speeds all the while braving the persistent ticket checkers. Till such time the museums move in step with the times and  allow at least better photography opportunities, let alone more informative and educational displays, visiting museums will almost be a crime in the popular public perceptions, and quite rightly so.

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