A recent visit to Jaipur gave me one bright sunny touristy afternoon with my cousin, Sudershan. Ironically, it was his very first touristy experience of the city, in all these years.
We hopped over a bike and chose to visit Albert Hall museum, seeking some interesting stories from the past. I fell in love with almost everything there. A brand new wish list for my house has been virtually drafted in my head.
Some bits of my bespectacled view, exclusively for y’all —
Navigating via Numbers
The museum provides an audio device that narrates stories section wise. One needs to punch in the number of the artefact/ display area to listen to its past. The audio clips have been crafted quite well with a humming tune of Indian classical instruments in the background.
Stories with an ‘Oh’ factor
The Mummy from Egypt
All that Sudershan kept iterating was—”there’s a mummy in here”, right before we entered the museum. The audio told us that mummies were purchased by Europeans as a source for entertainment. Unwrapping displays were organized for people to experience on a ticketed format. Well, influenced during the british rule, Jaipur’s maharaja purchased a mummy to amuse himself. It is not just today that we wish to follow the west, appears like a tradition.
Also, compared is the hindu belief in life after death, however contrary to the egyptians it is beyond the physical presence and preservation of a body.
The Serving Shields
Beautifully engraved cow hide and metal shields are on display that speak of the victorious kings of Rajasthan. Unusually, these shields are said to be used as trays at home, when men are not at war. Brilliant integration of a pretty artefact in everyday life. Rural India showcases some great instances of form and function. This was a new one I discovered at the museum.
The Buddha Iconography
Siddhartha as a king, wore heavy gold earrings before he left his throne for good. The extended ear lobes are the visible form of sacrifice he made to seek spiritual enlightenment. Most deities express an intention, story and reason for their iconography. Buddha’s peculiarly extended ear lobes are one and his hand resting to touch the ground— paying respect to mother earth is another.
Clay Models to Document Information
There were several clay models depicting very complex forms of yoga. The display painted a picture of how ancient yogis went beyond usual human abilities to achieve flexibility that only came with continuous practice, perseverance and balance of mind.
I loved the idea of clay models as a form of documentation. Also, moulded were occupational models that displayed the various ways trade happened in those times. Here are a few of those —
Another piece that caught my eye and heart was this 3D puzzle. Mathematics, logic and puzzles when turned to such pretty forms would be so much fun to interact with. Toys are surely very interactive now, however, this is an interesting one to have for all age groups :)
I wish I could capture all of it. And capture it well. However, my phone camera could only get these:
The museum has great things to show. A slight tweaking in how it talks can make the experience engaging. The oh so needed design intervention, might make the place as likable as a mall.
The numbers are functional, however overall signage is missing that directs the observer from one to another. Names of sub-sections lack prominence. There can be a hint about the art piece along with the numbers to make the observer inquisitive about it. Current categorization is factual and not strung within a storyline. With little investment of resources, one can just re-arrange displays a bit, have new improved signage and it will help observers soak in the experience better.
• Adding Context
The museum space was initially proposed as a community centre, however the successor to the throne planned a museum instead. For present day, it can have an extension of a community centre as well. The courtyard could be utilized as a space for children activities or having interactive sessions to narrate Rajasthan’s history. This helps in time and space orientation for young minds and gives them a context of the display pieces.
The museum surely lacks a strong identity. Systematic branding could increase memorability and recall for Albert Hall.
Camera shy Sudershan refused to pose for a picture together. I should work on my convincing skills. Till then, wishing India a happy republic in the hope that its material culture and heritage is celebrated more often.
§ In spirit of Indian Republic Day • 26.01.2013 §