Authored By : Deepika Gandhi, Director, Le Corbusier Centre, Chandigarh Architecture Museum and Jeanneret Museum.
Among many other unsung victims of Corona induced lockdowns are museums all over the world. It was heart-breaking and also humbling to know that Museums come under “non-essential” services hence no fervent representations have been made to open them up again nor is social media lamenting their continued closure even as people came within inches of each other in spas and markets.
During this time it was very important to keep the Museums alive in public memory and ensure sustained interest of future visitors as well. Since cultural institutions here have not yet reached the level of having virtual tours and interactive websites this seemed to be a daunting task. But hidden in every challenge is an opportunity which prompted me to create a series of Infotainment modules that I started sharing regularly on social media platforms like the museums’ Facebook page, our Whatsapp broadcast list and other architecture related groups. A post is created at regular intervals with one page of information of some interesting aspect of the city and a second page or message with an activity like ‘spot the differences’ or find the missing parts on an image related to the theme of the post. Recently jigsaw puzzles of images of Chandigarh were added to the activities to bring fresh interest. Having created these posts all though the lockdown, I now feel that these little nuggets of information are in fact filling in a void we were unable to plug even when the Museums were open to public. One, it is helping the museums reach the local population which usually does not visit the Museums, and second it helps to draw attention to small facts and details which are usually lost in the usual whirlwind tour of the museum. The activities have the double impact of not just engaging people in a more fun way but also making them look more closely at details, patterns and designs they would normally miss while breezing past an exhibit.
The response has been very encouraging and most people have conveyed their desire to visit the museums to see for themselves what all is being conveyed through these posts. Recipients confess to learning about aspects of the city and its heritage they were not aware of despite living in the city for decades! Many misconceptions have been cleared and many more ‘Aha’ moments created. These activities are perhaps a natural extension of my being an educator at heart – always trying to find interesting ways of making students understand concepts and presenting information in an attractive format. I must confess that I have been using the humble Windows Power Point to create these posts, but keeping the design crisp and in keeping with the theme has helped engage people better. As the lockdown opened up I feared people wouldn’t be inclined to receive these posts –especially on whatsapp. So after each ‘unlock” I sent a message to all recipients to inform me if they wished to discontinue receiving these posts. Contrary to my expectations I was pleasantly surprised to know that almost everyone wanted to continue and people were in fact forwarding them further in their personal groups as well!
Encouraged by the response I plan to continue reaching out to citizens via social media based platforms even after the museums open up as it has opened up a new possibility of spreading micro information on specific topics and deeper engagement not just with the museums but with the city and its heritage at large. Also hopefully people shall be curious about finding more interesting facts and would want to be involved in the various activities we keep hosting at the museums once the lock down is lifted. Every dark cloud does have a silver lining!
About the Author
Deepika Gandhi, an Associate Professor, Chandigarh College of Architecture and is holding the charge of Director, Le Corbusier Centre, Chandigarh Architecture Museum and Jeanneret Museum as well.
She was a part of the team that prepared the Dossier for the transnational serial nomination for World Heritage for the Capitol Complex, Chandigarh She has co-authored the book “Sukhna, Sublime Lake of Chandigarh” and co-edited the book “Le Corbusier rediscovered-Chandigarh and beyond”. As part of heritage sensitization efforts she has created booklets for the schools in Chandigarh. She has supervised and completed the restoration of Jeanneret house (and curated the museum on Pierre Jeanneret), Le Corbusier Centre and its Canteen block