A Museum in My Mind

Fossil Gallery, Indian Museum, Kolkata, 2020

At a moment when neo nationalists are pledging to rewrite and reconstruct historical narratives in school textbooks and museums, for a short weekend in February, I proposed to take on the role of an amateur museologist, and created my own personal reading of the oldest museum in the country—The Indian Museum in Kolkata.

I had heard countless stories about the Museum before I visited it earlier this year; the discovery of the 250 million year old tree fossil, in nite ammonites gathered by Geologists now strewn around the galleries, naphthalene balls used to preserve the four thousand year old Egyptian Mummy, the hanging blue whale carcass, secret rooms still lled with 19th century air and the sunmica clad furniture that has replaced the original Burmese teak wood cabinets in recent years. I imagine a museum, such as the Indian Museum, as a site of excavation of temporal unraveling; where collapsed centuries come together in displayed objects.

Who chose these objects? How did they physically reach the Museum? What does displaying do to the telling of those that have not been displayed?

The museum acts as a repository of selective material memories—a fertile ground for erecting fantasies, where factual accuracy of the museological narrative often becomes irrelevant.

This project culminated in a workshop conducted at the Max Mueller Bhavan, Kolkata. The project was realised within the framework of Five Million Incidents, 2019-2020 supported by Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan in collaboration with Raqs Media Collective.