India Now - page 54

AR T S AND CU LT UR E
N A T I O N A L C R A F T S M U S E U M
52
FEBRUARY-MARCH 2015
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representing habitats from all over
India and has 15 structures including
dwellings, courtyards and shrines like
Kuluhat and Banihat from Gujarat.
It was built by artisans with materi-
als from the representative area.
The museum’s renowned core col-
lection was built by legendary freedom
fighter and social reformer, Kamaladevi
Chattopadhyay, who is behind the
establishment of a number of India’s
iconic cultural institutions. The pur-
pose of instituting the museum in
1956 was to preserve and showcase
the vast treasure trove of India’s crafts
heritage, as some were already on
the verge of sliding into extinction.
Today, the museum, which functions
under the Ministry of Textiles, Govern-
ment of India, has an enviable collection
of objects, covering a range of genres
from sculpture, stone and wood craft,
papier-mâché, ivory, metal and textiles.
Only 3,000 objects are displayed in the
various galleries and the rest are under
its reserve collection, from which select-
ed objects are displayed at special exhibi-
tions. However, craftspeople, designers
and researchers can access a large part
of the reserve collection for their refer-
ence. Ghose says that this is the result
of their hard work. Giving an example,
she adds, “We have successfully put our
collection in order through digitisation
both Indian and foreign scholars from
universities like Princeton University.
The museum now expects Harvard
University to send its interns this year.
From India, they receive interns from
various design institutes and other
premier organisations. The research
and documentation centre further
adds to its scholarly value with its vast
collection of more than 10,000 books
on topics like Indian crafts, arts and
textile industry and history and is
open to all for reference and reading.
However, the Crafts Musem is also a
museum of living arts. On any given
day, you can find artisans showing their
crafts and demonstrating their skills on
the campus. As Ghose says, “We have a
huge craft sector in India, probably the
largest in the world, depending on how
we define the term craftsman. The num-
ber varies from 10 million to 200 million
people involved in crafts in the country.
It is a living sector because these are the
skills and talents that are available at
this point of time. Our task is to support
the sector in every way we can. One of
the ways that we do it is to bring crafts-
people from all over India and provide
them that exposure to exporters, design-
ers, market, etc.” It also helps keep these
crafts alive in modern consciousness
because as traditional crafts find new
markets, the craftspeople get the will to
carry forward their ancestral legacies.
The many steps to involve the public
are paying off. The museum abolished
its ticketing system altogether on popu-
lar demand and the footfall went up to
60,000 annually from a meagre 4,000
in lean months and 6,000 in peak
months (winter). In November 2014, the
footfall was 25,000. The revenue on nor-
mal days is
`
1 lakh and on a peak month
Sunday in 2014, Café Lota which is
usually full to capacity (50 seats), had a
queue of 70 people outside. The revenue
of the Lota shop that day was
`
460,000.
“I was shocked,” exclaims Dr Ghose.
With new folk artists coming to
the fold and into modern conscious-
ness, the Crafts Museum will con-
tinue playing a meaningful role.
Pictures Speak:
The
vast treasure of
indigenous Indian crafts is one of the largest,
most varied and richest in the world.
“We have a huge
craft sector in India,
probably the largest
in the world... The
number varies from
10–200 million people
involved in crafts...”
Dr Ruchira Ghose
Chairperson, National Crafts Museum
and organised material objects in order
so that they can be easily located.”
The wide range of collection includes
rare works of indigenous tribes of
India, folk and rural art. There is a 300
years-old Bhuta sculpture collection
of the coastal Karnataka region show-
casing figures of goddesses and folk
deities; rare bronze figurines from the
tribes of Chhattisgarh, a wood carved
haveli depicting the architectural style
of Gujarat with
jharokhas
(windows),
balconies, along with wall hangings,
bead work, rare and unique
saris
employing techniques of brocade,
ikat,
jamdani
and tie-and-dye, etc. While
brief captions provide basic informa-
tion about the displayed objects, one
can consult the museum’s catalogue
in the library for further details.
With organised cataloguing, digiti-
sation, exhibitions, etc., access to the
museum has increased, bringing in
PHOTO BY SUBHOJIT PAUL
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