‘Vivekananda Memorial Program for Museum Excellence’ held at Science City, Kolkata from 15th – 18th July 2015. Shri Pramod Jain, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India inaugurated the workshop on 15th July in presence of Dr. Madhuvanti Ghose, Alsdorf Associate Curator of Indian, Southeast Asian, Himalayan and Islamic Art, Art Institute of Chicago, Shri G. S. Rautela, Director General, NCSM and other participants from museum field in India. The program was organised by Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India in collaboration with Art Institute of Chicago and National Council of Science Museums (NCSM). After inauguration Shri Rautela said-‘The program is designed to foster professional exchanges between the Art Institute, Chicago and various museums in India through seminar, workshops, training, demonstrations etc.’

The Vivekananda Memorial Program for Museum Excellence emerged out of an agreement signed between the Government of India, represented by the Ministry of Culture, and The Art Institute of Chicago, on January 28, 2012. It honours and commemorates the visit of the great Indian philosopher Swami Vivekananda to Chicago during the World Parliament of Religions (a part of the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893.) His memorable speech sparked an important dialogue between Eastern and Western religions delivered at the site of the museum’s Fullerton Hall on September 11, 1893.

This is a four-year program by which the Art Institute of Chicago shares best practices with museums in India through seminars and workshops. As a part of this program, every year a small number of museum professionals from a select group of Indian museums travel to the Art Institute for professional level training. Art Institute staff also travel to India annually to conduct a seminar/workshop. Finally, museum best practices on diverse subjects are shared with the National Council of Science Museums, Kolkata, who acts as a nodal agency on behalf of the Government of India and have the responsibility of disseminating this information to various museums across India.

For the 2015−16 year, it was mutually decided to focus on the subjects of ‘Collection Stewardship, Interpretation, and Audience Engagement’. The program holistically addressed these multifaceted subjects. Among the topics covered was: visitor experience, attracting audience segments, membership, printed and digital interpretative materials, labels, publications, graphics, imaging, the museum shop, educational programming, gallery design, lighting, environmental monitoring, preventive care, art handling, interdepartmental coordination and collaboration, and critical analysis.

52 Participants from all the leading museums of India shared their views on ‘Recent Trends in Museums’, ‘Technology in Museums’, ‘Museum Marketing’, ‘Museum Outreach Programmes’, ‘Marketing and Merchandising’ etc. Dr. Ghose elaborated about the best practices adopted in the Art Institute of Chicago and other museums of USA and how they could be adopted in museums of India. According to the participants, it was an enlightening workshop, as different perspectives were shared and discussed. After this workshop, the 2015−16 Museum Excellence Fellows will visit the Art Institute Chicago from September 28 through October 14, 2015 for seminars, demonstrations, and hands on workshops. Training will continue for the rest of the 2015−16 year with an intensive follow up curriculum, including monthly assignments and conference calls and institutional and regional presentations.

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