Published in Cultural Forum, Vol-VIII, January, 1966, pp. 139-140

India is passing through a cultural renaissance and though its progress may still appear insufficient vis-à-vis the needs of the country and the standards of our time, it has already assumed a breath-taking speed when measured against the economic, technical and human resources available. That this revolution has affected the museums in India also needs no special explanation. True, the majority of visitors still consist of curious crowds enjoying the wonder house, but an intelligent and appreciative public is developing which really wants to learn from the collection and these have become sufficiently complete to be capable of conveying a coherent story and a valuable message. A new task has been set in leading museum in the country that of providing a general civic education. They have, that is to say, to give the intelligent visitor a picture of his region, his country, or even of Asia and, indeed, the whole world, in a balanced display of well explained exhibits with all their essential visual aspects of arts and crafts heritage of the past and the present. And they must build up all the facilities for rendering this documentation intelligible and interesting.

Aware of their importance, India today is planning to museums of various kinds. In this growing pattern, the Crafts Museum in India, is destined to play a very important role. By assembling, preserving and displaying craft objects, this institution will righty justify India’s unique position in the field of handicrafts Board, Government of India, since its inception in 1952, undertook to collect and preserve as many of these valuable objects as possible for purposes of study, research and reproduction. Although these outstanding exhibits provided an inspiration for developing a crafts museum, it was not until the year 1956-57 that a suitable display of the material could be arranged in New Delhi and the Crafts Museum for the first time brought to the notice of the public.

Temporary House

This was, however, only a temporary arrangement and these unique collections are now kept in Thapar House, New Delhi, pending the construction of a new building of its own. Inasmuch as the purpose of the Crafts Museum is to contribute, through the use of exhibits, to the contribute, through the use of exhibits, to the cultural and intellectual life of the community, and to heighten the appreciation of the works of our craftsmen, whose traditional techniques and forms are fast disappearing, it is absolutely necessary that there should be a permanent habitat for these growing collections. Accordingly, a planning scheme for a permanent building has been drawn up.

Future Plans

The proposed new building of the Crafts Museum will have twelve main components including display rooms and open-air arrangements; an auditorium to seat 600; with stage and dressing rooms; lecture, demonstration and class-rooms; library and reading rooms; special exhibition hall; juvenile section; lobby, reception, sales counter; storage, laboratory and workshops, etc. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the philosophy which motivates exhibit policies in modern museums is that of creating a hospitable, relaxing environment in which the visitor is encouraged to identify himself with the exhibits.

A collection is necessary to form a museum, but all that is a collection is not a museum. The Crafts Museum gallaries will not be stuffed with merely the rich and the rare. The guiding principles in the matter of selection has always been the inclusion of those specimens which can be reproduced again, if necessary, with modification and reorientation. So the reproduction-of-the-specimens programme of the Museum is all important in relation to the collection.

A museum like the Crafts Museum aims at presenting to a large section of our people striking vestiges of our traditional culture. It will link the popular arts and crafts of today with the old traditions, and these significant products will not merely be objects of scientific research; they will play an important part in the social, educational and the cultural developments of our country.

Rich and Variegated Acquisitions

The collection in the Crafts Museum has been by acquisitions of dolls, toys, paintings and textiles, stone and ivory, wood and metal objects, terracotta and jewellery from various parts of India. The extensive collection of textile, is a speciality of the museum. The bold colour, decorative designs and motives, reveal the craftsman’s depth of imagination and the clever way of rendering simple and variegated forms in woven material. A prize collections is a rare specimen of a very large size Kalamkari print. Besides, there are Balubrocades, Gujrat patolas, Tanjore silk, decorative kanthas from Bengal. In addition to these, there is a wide variety of specimens of costume designs, excellent embroidered works, choli pieces and ghagras.

India is rich in jewellery but her traditional designs are probably best preserved in the folk type. The Crafts Museum has also made a special effort to collect as many specimens as possible so that modern designers and craftsmen may choose from the myriads of Indian forms-now threatened with gradual extinction.

The museums movement is one of the constructive forces in our changing social structure. Aware of their importance, India today is planning to develop museums of various kinds. In this growing pattern, the Crafts Museum is destined to play a very important role. By assembling, preserving displaying and demonstration craft objects this installation will rightly justify India’s unique position in the field of handicrafts--- a cultural heritage coming down for millennia.

Published in Cultural Forum, Vol-VIII, January, 1966, pp. 139-140
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