International Seminar on 'Museums and Changing Cultural Landscape' was organized by the department of Museology, National Museum Institute of History
of Art, Conservation and Museology in collaboration with the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) from 2-4 September 2012 at the Central
Institute of Buddhist Studies (CIBS), Leh, Ladakh, India.
Ladakh is one of the highest inhabited places on earth, with a culture that remain isolated for centuries. The heritage, natural and cultural, of the region is unique an the community is close knit. This once isolated land is accessible like never before, every year more and more people from all over the world are visiting Ladakh. Interaction and exposure for both the groups, visitors and people of Ladakh, is enormous and it is bound to affect the ecology, nature and culture of
Ladakh. Ladakh has the potential of becoming a melting pot of cross-fertilization of ideas and experience. The rich culture is being ruffled now by the ever-growing avalanche of tourists and the information explosion but only in tourist spots and in its only town, Leh. There is a growing realization of the need to preserve cultural traditions alongside balancing the pressures of modern needs. In recent years there has been an increasing insistence in Ladakh that there should be a museum in Leh showcasing all aspects of Ladakhi culture. There are many monasteries in Ladakh that serve as museums on Buddhist religion, art, and culture. Some of these monasteries have opened small museums and many others are in the process of setting up similar museums.
The aim of the international seminar, 'Museums and Changing Cultural Landscape' was to explore museums' potential to be platforms for documenting, representing, and communicating socio-cultural change in the context of Ladakh. The intent
was that the seminar would help initiate the process of planning a museum for Ladakh in a manner appropriate to the people and region. The seminar traced a two-fold path running parallel yet connected - addressing the need for a museum in Ladakh and using this as a case study to question and explore the changing form and relevance of museum. Socio-cultural change and its unprecedented pace
is a phenomenon which museums all over the world are struggling to deal with. It
is being realized that museums have to become platforms reflecting, representing
and communicating change in the society and its constantly changing needs.
This book aspires to collect, document and represent various aspects of Ladakhi
heritage, life and culture in their tangible ad intangible manifestations. It seeks
to explore ways not merely for preserving physical collections but also for
connecting the younger generation with their own identity, for stimulating dialogue
on the present issues concerning culture, and for providing a mechanism for
understanding and channelizing the future course of cultural change. It also hopes
to raise questions such as - In view of fast disappearing traditional community
centers and cultural platforms can museums fill the void of documenting and
representing socio-cultural heritage and identity?; How effective is the process of
involving people at all levels of setting up a museum? Should the members of the
community not answer whether they require a museum in the first place? If yes,
then what should be the form, nature, characteristics, and functions of such a
The seminar invited scholars of culture and heritage studies to discuss, share and advice on the possible forms of a museum for Ladakh. International scholars,
museum experts and academicians attended the seminar from various parts of the world and India. Papers in this book are on various aspects of development of a museum, such as conceptualization, building of collections, documentation,
communication, community participation, and intangible cultural heritage. Ladakhi scholars have written about the cultural history of Ladakh; the cultural similarities between Central Asia and Ladakh; collections within monasteries; memories and knowledge outside the Monasteries; the Islamic heritage of Ladakh; traditions of Ladakhi people; Intangible heritage of Ladakh. International scholars
and scholars from other parts of India deliberate on theoretical and methodological issues such as: why visit museums? ; will the museum be active or a passive space? Who are the audience going to be? ; documentation of cultural heritage; Ladakh as
a cultural and living museum; the process of conservation and reconstruction; the importance of keeping alive the link between the object and its context; the need for keeping the visitors at the heart of the museum; community as the stakeholder;
cultural mapping; and more.
The seminar was accompanied by a photographic exhibition, 'The First Frames: In the Footsteps of Early Explorers". The exhibition brought to the people of Ladakh some of the earliest photographs of Ladakh and Tibet. The exhibition represented the collection of photographs and fresco tracings (1947-1949) of Li Gotami from the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sanghralaya (CSMVS), Mumbai; the photographs of the German archaeologist August Hermann Francke( 1909) from the digital photographic collection of the library of the University of Leiden; and archival photographs (1960s) of Ladakh from the photo archives of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The exhibition aspired to rekindle, in these fast-changing
times, memories of earlier life, culture, architecture, and religion in the Western Himalayan region.
Since long there has been consciousness and awareness amongst the people of Ladakh about the preciousness of their culture and. its vulnerability and fragility to the forces of modern times. Many renowned scholars and experts have been
coming to Ladakh since 19th century to study various features of its history, culture, archaeology and ethnography. However these efforts have mainly been
isolated from each other. Today the people of Ladakh are eager to make efforts to document, preserve and represent their culture through a new community
platform - the Museum.
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