“There is room for every state in India to have at least a 100 museums,” says Vinod Daniel, a ‘conservation scientist’ of international renown.

“Australia, with a population of 20 million, has 2,000 of them. All are running despite not being government-funded,” he pointed out to BuisnessLine here.

Global Exposure

Daniel is a chemical engineer from IIT Delhi, who went off to the US to pursue masters. There he got a role to play in outlining the ‘chemical principles of preserving heritage.’ That was at the Getty Museum at Los Angeles under the Getty Trust, the world’s largest philanthropic body.

“My title was called conservation scientist. And that led me into the world of museums. This is nearly 28 years ago.”

He worked in the US for five years and then started doing international work and lecturing. Later, Daniel took up a job at the Australian Museum and moved in from Los Angeles in 1995. He was at the museum till 2010.

“My role here was quite diverse; in the beginning, I used to head conservation. Then, I got more into the management realm. So, towards the end I was a senior manager.”

“But I also used to work a lot internationally that took me to over 40 countries on museum-related projects,” Daniel said. Because of his background in heritage and museums, he started also working in India, with the Metropolitan Museum back in the US, and in Egypt. He is now a board member of the prestigious International Council of Museums and travels across the world every month on training errands.

If India wants to build its museum world, it is important to say that it will not copy a particular mode, Daniel said. A museum is often a combination of what the authorities want or what the professionals want, married with what the public wants. It is important to see what your audience would want in a situation like this.

No trained staff

“In doing that, one of the things you need is of course money. But Im not sure whether that’s the biggest handicap because I guess governments are supporting building museums.”

But there are two aspects that are missing in the Indian context. There’s not enough trained staff who can design, build and run museums and staff them. That’s a huge problem. And the other aspect is you don’t want the government of the day to dictate terms to a museum.

Most museums in the global context that do well have a degree of autonomy. They run through a board or trust or some independent structure. The board might be appointed by the government but the government can’t dictate whether this director goes or stays.