By nature, human beings are alike. By practice, they become different. ~Confucius
The ‘Educate@Museums’ initiative was developed out of a celebration of the International Museum Day (IMD) on the 18th May. This day was instituted by the International Council of Museums (ICOM) in 1977 and has been celebrated since by cultural organizations and museums across the globe. Each year, the International Museum Week works with a particular theme, this year the focus was Museums and Cultural Landscapes.
There exist a great variety of landscapes that are representative of the different regions of the world. Culture is about what it means to be human. Culture is therefore a bare necessity and a prerequisite for the continued development of society.
Cultural landscapes provide a sense of place and identity; they map our relationship with the land over time; and they are part of our national heritage and each of our lives. They are part of our collective identity. And here, museums have a significant part to play. Museums are the spaces that bring together our collective identities through objects and narratives. From textiles to idols, paintings to masks, museum collections illustrate the shared challenges of humanity and celebrate the diverse ways cultures respond to them. YES Institute focused on the vital role played by museums as cultural landscapes that reveal aspects of our country’s origins and development as well as our evolving relationships with the natural world through the exploration of distinct museum spaces across Delhi.
In May 2016, YES Institute brought almost 150 teachers, 30 private schools, 12 NGO and Government schools and four different cultural locations together over four days, bringing experiential learning modules for private and government school educators to cultural sites. The workshop focused on using cultural resources in the classroom to recognize and support the development of future skill-sets, in the context of today’s knowledge based economy, using India’s diverse cultural capital and tradition as a valuable resource for future challenges. This week’s workshops has arisen out of the inherent belief at YES Institute that YES Institute that equipping educators with new methodologies is a much-needed intervention in order to support India’s development and growth, with the education systems base in India’s rich heritage and culture.
It was held in partnership with four of Delhi’s premier cultural institutes: The National Gallery of Modern Art, The Crafts Museum, The Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts and Sanskriti Kendra.
Every object can be viewed through the lenses of stories, people, places, material, emotions, and social issues. In our exploration of the collections, we interacted with and reflected on all the narratives and ideas cultural objects represent, and explored the museum as spaces where we- as learning mentors, social innovators, and learners- can derive innovative ideas about where and how knowledge production takes place, and how different views of knowledge create possibilities for stimulating creative expression!
Over four days, we explored the different exhibitions at each location, understanding diverse topics from Parsi and Zoroatrian history and culture with The Parzor-UNESCO Foundation at IGNCA, to collections of everyday objects and textiles at Sanskriti Kendra, collected over decades. We learnt how traditional Gujarati textiles contain mirror work, in case one was caught in a sandstorm, they could be found and how this could be connected to design development modules. We thought about how Kantha textiles could be used to understand the ‘Reuse, Re-use, Recycle’ slogans. At the NGMA, we played word association games to start experiencing how we could question objects in the classroom. After returning from our tour around the museum, Flow India led an interactive workshop, first of all understanding why it is important to weave in cultural narratives and resources in the classroom and then using specific collaterals to introduce how to use engaged cultural learning in the classroom. The ‘object onion,’ seen below is a framework whereby educators can go step-by-step, prompting students to ask important questions on the materiality, myth-making qualities, historicity and from this, asking deeper, more philosophical questions.
Some thoughts from our partners:
Ms. Preeti Sinha, Senior President and Global Convenor, YES Institute, said, “Museums have the ability to bring together our collective identities through objects and narratives and they are a celebration of our human journey, in its difference and similarities. The ‘Educate@Musueums’ programme brings India’s rich cultural resources to the forefront as an underused tool for learning. YES Institute is committed to engage and support longer-term commitments with the museum community to activate inter-disciplinary knowledge systems, using our cultural heritage.”
Ms. Shubhra Tandon, Programme Officer, Sanskriti Foundation “Like Museums the world over, Sanskriti Museums are also widening its scope from being mere repositories and generators of knowledge, into dynamic learning centres striving to be perceived as active agents of cultural values. With this objective, we are pleased to partner with YES Institute to promote use of cultural resources as tools for curriculum and for augmenting awareness of India’s rich cultural heritage.”
Ms. Arundhati Mitter, Director, Flow India, “Our endeavour at the Educate@Museum Week initiative is to encourage a paradigm shift in perception vis-à-vis the role of cultural institutions and landscapes as a larger ecosystem in supporting both formal and informal systems education and their value therein.”
Dr. Shernaz Cama, Director, UNESCO-Parzor, “The preservation of culture and heritage in a world rapidly moving towards a mono-cultural norm is a challenge facing communities and countries today. India’s diversity is her wealth; we at UNESCO-Parzor are delighted that YES Institute is working towards not just the protection of heritage but sensitizing teachers on how to use this wealth in enriching the classroom.”