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Published on: March 25, 2021, 3:41 p.m.
Bihar Museum throws light on the past
  • Bihar Museum: highlighting the rich heritage of India

By Suman Tarafdar

A state-built museum is a major landmark anywhere, and the still new Bihar Museum is drawing admirers for its design and content, as it seeks to represent one of India’s oldest civilisational centres. Much neglected and impoverished in recent centuries, Bihar is seeking to shine the spotlight on its more glorious past and the Bihar Museum in Patna is trying to address this by hosting the first Museum Biennale in India.

The Biennale, which will open to coincide with the Bihar Divas on 22 March, will also have a nod to present realities of emerging – hesitantly – from a lockdown via its hybrid shape – physical and digital. The initial plan for it to be an event spanning three months is now down to seven days, till 28 March, thanks to the pandemic. The current plan is to have specially curated virtual tours of the participating national and international museums, which will be streamed online as well as at the Bihar Museum.   

The state government has thrown its weight behind the event. “Bihar Museum Biennale is a step forward to highlight the rich heritage of India and bring alive the extraordinary history of Bihar and also celebrate the cultural narratives from various parts of the world,” says Nitish Kumar, chief minister, Bihar. Adds Anjani Kumar Singh, nodal officer, Bihar Museum & Advisor to the chief minister of Bihar: “The Biennale is our initiative to celebrate the strengths and uniqueness of museums from India and around the world fostering an inclusive culture and bringing a global internationalism to a national identity”.

On ground, visitors at the Bihar Museum will be able to go on a curated, audio-guided tour of the highlights of the collection. Additionally, they will also have the opportunity to explore two curated exhibitions at the museum –one on the ‘Making of the Bihar Museum’ by leading architect Rahul Gore and, another, which will showcase the rich collections of 19 local state museums of Bihar.

The inauguration of the Bihar Museum Biennale will be followed by a two-day international virtual conference aimed at viewing the museum as a site of incubation, inventiveness and ideas. Each session has been specially created to initiate a discourse around the cultural objects of the museums of antiquities, of modern art, of contemporary art and the vision for future museums, which will now be hybrid – physical and digital and experiential.

“Bihar Museum Biennale will be an opportunity to bring out a compendium of the Indian museums and to celebrate their respective collections, each telling its own story,” affirms Alka Pande, project director, Museum Biennale. The Biennale aims to sensitise the public to the importance and significance of a museum culture in India and facilitate an understanding of our culture, building a strong sense of identity, nationhood and the self. Laudable aims indeed, and despite its curtailed avatar, the Biennale will be a test for further such initiatives by museums across India.

Participating museums in the Biennale

• Assam State Museum

• Bihar Museum, Patna

• City Palace Museum, Udaipur

• Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai

• Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya, Bhopal

• Kanha Museum of Life and Art, Madhya Pradesh

• Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Delhi

• Museo Camera, Gurgaon

• Museum of Art & Photography, Bengaluru

• Museum of Goa, Panaji

• National Gallery of Modern Art, Delhi

• Piramal Museum, Mumbai

• Virasat-e-Khalsa, Anandpur Sahib

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