Greetings from the CSMVS, Mumbai!
We are happy to present Volume 10, Issue 1, 2017, a Special Biannual Edition of the Museum Newsletter.
This Special Edition gives us an opportunity to share our approach towards Conservation of Cultural Property and also to re-interpret the role of Museum in the light of Globalisation, technological advancement, power politics and Climate change. Museums play a direct or indirect role in preserving cultural heritage and enriching communities in which they are sustained. Museum as an institute holds an important place in society because it does not only tell the story of man and the world and how humanity survived in its environment over centuries but also because it houses things created by nature and by man in the past and thus it is important for the changing society and nation.
As the world gets more and more globally homogenous and the notion of identity gets increasingly complicated, it is important for countries, more particularly the under developed and developing countries (Asia, Africa, Latin America and Middle- East) and their people of diverse cultures to have places where they can come and see themselves, their roots, their history, memories and future. According to many, museums, educational institutes, heritage and cultural spaces are decisively the only public places for different communities or immigrants living in metros and cities to explore and understand their past and also to re-invent their identity in a rapidly changing globalised world.
Though there exist numerous threat perceptions to cultural heritage in the world such as human ignorance, religious intolerance, economic imbalance, social inequality, climate change, natural disaster, social conflict, war, theft, illicit trade and terrorism, the three major direct and indirect threats come from globalisation, technology and power politics. The task of sustaining or sustainability of cultural heritage – preserving traditions, practices, languages and beliefs – in the face of constant social and technical change becomes subject to considerable community and generational tensions.
Over the past two decades, a kind of silent cultural invasion has taken place in many countries. Developments in newspapers, photography, cinema, music, radio, television, video and DVD, computer, multi-media and cyberspace have ushered in new socio-economic and socio-cultural balance or imbalance as you may interpret, between those who hold power and authority, whether political, social, economic or cultural, and the large population in the country upon whom the products of industrialised culture are showered. These products of the culture industry no longer affect only a few intellectuals or elite but control and mould the entire section of young minds through comics, popular publications and electronic media. People may have a complacent feeling of freedom of choice with least knowledge that their so called freedom has been dictated, somewhere else, several years in advance in the production chain. We are simply passive consumers of such culture industry products.
A few selective examples of immediate impact of globalisation and technology are provided here for a better understanding of the situation and also for measuring the long term impact on cultural heritage. One such example is loss of linguistic diversity and identity. According to a recent survey by People’s Linguistic Survey of India, the people of India used to speak 780 languages but 220 Indian languages have disappeared in the past 50 years and another 150 could vanish in the next half century as speakers die and their children join the majority’s language and refuse to learn their ancestral tongues. For instance, Odisha has one of the most diverse tribal populations in India, with 62 tribes, including 13 primitive tribes, residing in the State. They speak 72 mother tongues grouped into 38 languages, 19 of which are nearly extinct. Only four tribal languages have written script i.e. Santhali, Ho, Sora and Kui Lipi.
Impact can also be seen on the changing life style of different communities, costumes and dresses, town and urban planning, architectural styles, local languages and scripts, traditional food and habits, crafts, music and performance etc. It is a widely acknowledged fact that our traditional art and craft forms are facing such a huge threat from the machine and digital technology that its sustainability is now a big question before us. If no appropriate action or step is initiated by the Government and Society at large, then very soon Indian traditional or living art forms will be on the verge of extinction.
It is evident from the fact that due to unprecedented technological dependency in the UK, Europe and America, these countries have now almost lost their crafts and traditional art forms. Today, the preservation of cultural heritage presents major challenges even in circumstances of peace and prosperity. The threats to ‘heritage’ are unlimited.
In different parts of the world the ethnic violence is causing massive destruction of common cultural heritage. History is replete with instances when such massive destruction was done in a planned and systematic manner with a view to wipe out the cultural identities of the adversaries.
Needless to say, the impact of power politics is visible everywhere, more particularly, in South, South-East and Central Asia, Africa, Middle-East and Latin America. Politically motivated integration and disintegration is a part of international politics, and has very badly affected local economies, social and cultural fabric of many countries. Therefore, it is high time for the UN General Assembly and the Security Council to review the geo-political situation and also the role of some of the major powers and their greed which directly and indirectly indulge tension in many parts of the world. How can new international networks be created and how can state authorities of different nations be engaged in a dialogue at an early stage to build stepping stones for the World peace and universal brotherhood movement?
It is a matter of concern for every nation irrespective of geographic locations, languages and religions, to protect their diverse cultural heritage from the aggressive global forces and from their hidden agenda of one language and one culture. It is sad to observe that many communities or ethnic groups living in different countries as immigrants are forced to assimilate constraints under the garb of ‘law of the land’.
One may refer to the American concept of the ‘melting pot’ – where people with different origins, languages, religious, and social customs merge to form a single unified culture. However we should not forget that different metals melting in a pot to form a new alloy even while having characteristic concept of diversity. Today, developing and under developed countries and their people with diverse properties of their own, lose their identities as the original metals melt. This is contradictory to the cultures want to become an equal partner in the world narrative and also wish to strongly reposition themselves in the changing landscape of the world for the preservation of their unique regional and national identities.
Specialised museums, libraries, cultural organisations and educational institutes, and more particularly, Universities have a role to play because of their grassroot link with the life of the common people. They will have a special responsibility to honour the basic principles of different communities and commitment to cultural pluralism for holding the nation together.
We cannot stop globalisation, technology or power politics but we can certainly demonstrate our sensitivity towards preservation of diverse cultural heritage and people’s identities, and minimize the impact of these debilitating elements. It is the duty of world communities to reformulate a systematic preventive strategy to protect cultural diversity of mankind.