One of the best ways of ensuring the preservation of India’s heritage is involving the youth in understanding and recognising its worth. A unique Museum Walk in New Delhi did just that for 55 girls from the Salaam Baalak Trust.
On World Museum Day (May 18), we at Sahapedia felt that the only way to truly share our love for museums was to create the opportunity for children, who might not have otherwise had the chance to experience these spaces, to spend a day exploring these wonderlands.
We live in a time of ‘participatory culture’, i.e., culture is no longer what someone teaches us, but something we co-create, experiment with, and through the amazing world of the internet, share with each other in ways that weren’t possible even 10 years ago. Today’s children are exposed to a lot more information than previous generations, but the downside is that they are also experiencing less of the ‘real’ world. The two worlds aren’t mutually exclusive though, and when creatively brought together, they can actually result in new ways of engaging with our cultural heritage, as our ‘Taking Kids Back to the Past’ campaign showed
This is in fact what Sahapedia is all about. For those unfamiliar with our work, we are an open online resource on the arts, cultures, and histories of India and South Asia. ‘Saha’ (Sanskrit for ‘together with’) defines our endeavour to create knowledge collectively, drawing on experts and practitioners, collaborating with institutions, and through public participation (www.sahapedia.org).
This World Museum Day, we also launched a new website dedicated to the mapping of museums across the country as part of our Museums of India project.
Realising that for our heritage to be considered as something that is vital and worth investing our time and resources into, people need to experience for themselves the transformative power of culture as a means of self and community development. Thus, we’ve initiated a series of outreach programmes, which include free public talks by experts/practitioners at our office and guided heritage walks across the country.
Heritage education is a key component of our activities, and our first step towards this was the museum walk we conducted for the children of Koshish–TISS at the National Museum last winter. Bolstered by the positive feedback this walk generated, this time we decided to take it a step further and involve the community by initiating a crowd-funding campaign on BitGiving to seek their support in taking the young girls of Salaam Baalak Trust for a day to the National Museum, New Delhi.
Aiming for ₹33,500, with a detailed cost break-up that included transport, refreshments, and gifts, we created a video appeal, which we posted on BitGiving as well as our YouTube channel, promoting it across other social media platforms as well. The response was overwhelming. In 10 days, 24 supporters came on board, and we managed to collect ₹50,600.
It was heartening to see that people believed in culture as a cause that needs our active support.
All this resulted in a magical day at the National Museum with 55 bright and bubbly young girls, whose enthusiasm to understand new things and share this new-found knowledge left us spell-bound. At the end of the day, the girls spontaneously came up with a skit that encapsulated all that they had learnt that day. This video gives you a glimpse of their curiosity and creativity:
Our walk too would not have been such a success if it weren’t for our wonderful walk leaders. Ajeya Vajpayee is an MPhil student at Delhi University. Priya Chauhan is a student at the National Museum Institute of History of Art, Conservation and Museology.
Abhishek and Lavanya are both Yuva Saathi volunteers at the National Museum.
The experience was as enriching for them as it was for the children. As Priya Chauhan said, “I realized that it’s all about making efforts to deliver resources where they are needed. It’s about making them accessible, and for the receiving end to be well aware of its value. Kids had the time and liberty to let their curiosity lead them into knowing more things. Their questions and attention to the details of what was being told to them was remarkable.”
The museum walk was a testament to the power of the collective, and the importance of access to collective knowledge. Each little step each one of us takes can make a big difference.
Find out how you can contribute to Sahapedia’s efforts and vision, here.