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Museum on Wheels Takes History to Remote Parts of India

Museum on Wheels Takes History to Remote Parts of India

Museum on Wheels, a unique initiative by a nonprofit museum in Mumbai, India, is taking culture, science, heritage and history to the masses in remote areas for free.

By Arundhati Nath

A traveling museum

Dressed in spotless white and navy uniforms, students of Dr. N P Shah English Medium School in Maharashtra, India, queue up excitedly to enter a bus. Only, this is no ordinary bus; it is a traveling museum that Atreyee Chakravarty, an education facilitator from the Museum on Wheels will take them through.

Colored in hues of gold, light and navy blue, two big buses make their way through the roads of some of India’s remote areas. These buses are a part of the outreach program of the 101-year-old nonprofit museum, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS). They travel to faraway districts to spread awareness about the history and cultural heritage of India and the world.

Eggs and fossils of Indian dinosaurs and jellyfish, architectural fragments, textiles, jewelry, colorful miniature paintings, ancient and modern musical instruments, and sculptures are neatly displayed inside separate compartments in the buses.

Students being shown a fossil inside the Museum On Wheels. Photo by Arundhati Nath.

Bringing cultural heritage to people without access

The Museum On Wheels was the brainchild of Mr Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Director General and Secretary, Board of Trustees at CSMVS. “Mr Mukherjee was conscious that our museum is located in South Mumbai, an elite neighborhood. He felt it was important to bring out the ideas and stories from our collections to people who may not have easy access to the museum,” says Joyoti Roy, Assistant Director, Projects and Public Relations at CSMVS.

The first bus was bought by CSMVS in 2015 through a one-time grant from the Ministry of Culture, Government of India. From the beginning, CitiBank has been supporting all operations of the project including funding of the second bus in 2020. A team of eleven people are involved in this program.

Children exploring musical artifacts in the Museum On Wheels. Photo by Arundhati Nath

Expanding to other states

For the first four years, the Museum On Wheels traveled to all the districts and remote areas of Maharashtra. Then the initiative was expanded to the states of Goa, Karnataka, and Gujarat. In 2023, Delhi, Haryana, and Rajasthan were added to the list of destinations. Many schools, colleges, communities, and villages have participated in the Museum On Wheels initiative. It has seen the arrival of more than 1,438,696 visitors so far.

Child-friendly activities

The exhibitions are done with some replicas, artifacts, and digital interactive platforms to make them interesting and fun. Apart from the theme-based exhibits, there are several educational arts and crafts activities like coin making, puzzles, and quizzes, as well as activity sheets and handouts given out, which are associated with the theme. Exhibitions in the buses have had a variety of historical, scientific, artistic, and social themes.

Also read: Korea to open more ‘mobile museums’ for marginalized groups

“When we visit museums, we usually see artifacts or weapons, but the coin-making process that our students experienced hands-on in the Museum On Wheels was something they have never done before. The children were very happy,” says Vaishali Dattatray Ragde, a teacher from Shri Balaji Secondary School and Junior College at Kolhapur.

“We’re coming up with a child-friendly map of all the heritage sites of Maharashtra, which will emphasize the importance of forts and monuments. We will be distributing this map while displaying our exhibits in the bus,” Roy adds.

Chinese artifacts. Photo by Arundhati Nath Credit: AmarYadav

A fascinating learning experience

Varsha Kumta, School Head, Ryan International School, Malad, had the opportunity to visit the Museum On Wheels with her students at their campus recently. “From ancient seals and artifacts from the Harappan civilization to exquisite sculptures, the bus featured remarkable pieces from Japanese and Chinese civilizations as well. It was a fascinating learning experience for our students to witness such exquisite objects of art,” she says.

Free of cost

Access to the traveling museum and all activities are provided free of cost, making them accessible to individuals and institutions interested in hosting the buses. Many Indians in remote areas do not have access to a museum and this initiative is trying to change that. “The response has been overwhelming. When the buses move into remote areas and open their doors, it almost becomes a day event or a fair; it’s like a grand procession,” Roy says.

As the Museum on Wheels program expands to the Northern states this year, it aims to foster love and appreciation for art, science, and history, one destination at a time.

Also read: Sindh Establishes Laboratory for Archives and Artifact Preservation


Courtesy: India Currents (Posted on Feb 21, 2024) 


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