This volume brings together a range of essays that offer a new perspective on the dynamic history of the museum as a cultural institution in South Asia. It traces the museum from its origin as a tool of colonialism and adoption as a vehicle of sovereignty in the nationalist period, till its role in the present, as it reflects the fissured identities of the post-colonial period.
Introduction Saloni Mathur and Kavita Singh. Part I: Inaugural Formations 1. The Transformation of Objects into Artifacts, Antiquities and Art in Nineteenth-century India Bernard Cohn 2. The Museum in the Colony: Collecting, Conserving, Classifying Tapati Guha-Thakurta 3. Staging Science Gyan Prakash Part II: National Re-orientations 4. The Museum is National Kavita Singh 5. Grace McCann Morley and the Display of Indian Modernity Kristy Phillips 6. Museumising Modern Art: National Gallery of Modern Art, the Indian Case-Study Vidya Shivadas Part III: Contemporary Engagements 7. Museums are good to Think: Heritage on View in India Arjun Appadurai and Carol Breckenridge 8. Recollecting the Rural in Suburban Chennai Mary Hancock 9. Reincarnations of the Museum: The Museum in an Age of Religious Revivalism Saloni Mathur and Kavita Singh 10. Museum Watching (13 ethnographic portraits from the field). About the Editors. Notes on Contributors. Bibliography. Index
This series takes as its starting point notions of the visual, and of vision, as central in producing meanings, maintaining aesthetic values, and relations of power. Through individual studies, it hopes to chart the trajectories of the visual as an activating principle of history. An important premise here is the conviction that the making, theorising, and historicising of images do not exist in exclusive distinction of one another.
Opening up the field of vision as an arena in which meanings get constituted simultaneously anchors vision to other media such as audio, spatial, and the dynamics of spectatorship. It calls for closer attention to inter-textual and inter-pictorial relationships through which ever-accruing layers of readings and responses are brought alive.
Through its regional focus on South Asia the series locates itself within a prolific field of writing on non-Western cultures, which have opened the way to pluralise iconographies, and to perceive temporalities as scrambled and palimpsestic. These studies, it is hoped, will continue to reframe debates and conceptual categories in visual histories. The importance attached here to investigating the historical dimensions of visual practice implies close attention to specific local contexts which intersect and negotiate with the global, and can re-constitute it. Examining the ways in which different media are to be read into and through one another would extend the thematic range of the subjects to be addressed by the series to include those which cross the boundaries that once separated the privileged subjects of art historical scholarship from the popular – sculpture, painting, and monumental architecture – from other media: studies of film, photography, and prints, on the one hand; advertising, television, posters, calendars, comics, buildings, and cityscapes on the other.