The Telegraph - Aussie help for Tagore museum - 14 March, 2011

Australia will collaborate with Visva-Bharati on a new Tagore museum conceptualised to catalyse a rejuvenation of the core fabric of the Santiniketan campus and boost global tourist traffic.

AusHeritage, Australia’s international cultural heritage network, and Visva-Bharati will engage in a joint forum in Santiniketan on March 15 and 16, to develop a functional brief, identifying critical aspects of the proposed museum.

“Our endeavour is to bring in international best practices to this uniquely emotional site and work in tandem with Visva-Bharati to prepare a leadership document which captures the key issues involved in creating a new, world-class museum,” Vinod Daniel, the chairman of AusHeritage, in town en route to Santiniketan, told Metro. Daniel is leading a four-member Australian delegation that includes heritage specialists Michael Crayford, Anthony Hemingway and Catherine Millikan.

The new museum will store and display current collections from Rabindra Bhavan at Visva-Bharati, including manuscripts, paintings, furniture, textiles and musical instruments. The forum will explore key aspects for a new “top-of-the-line” museum and the resulting brief can form the basis for the architect and others who will design the structure.

“At a macro level, the challenge is to create the design for a building that is both functional and sustainable. The next step is to secure the collection and arrange a scientific display pattern, proper documentation and digitisation, while ensuring smooth visitor flow and comfort,” Daniel added.

Udaya Narayan Singh, the pro-vice chancellor of Visva-Bharati and the director of Rabindra Bhavan, said: “We are in the process of organising a national-level open architectural competition for a twin museum-cum-auditorium complex for Rabindra Bhavan and Kala Bhavan at Visva-Bharati.”

Nilanjan Banerjee of Rabindra Bhavan felt the collaboration between AusHeritage and Visva-Bharati was “very important in defining the new museum”. AusHeritage’s members include businesses and institutions employing conservation architects and planners, museum and archive planners, materials conservators, historians, archaeologists and other heritage professionals.

With support from the Australia India Council, AusHeritage members have worked on many projects in India, including providing assistance for designing an international exhibition gallery for the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya in Mumbai, developing a charter for conservation of buildings for the Indian National Trust for Art and Culture, capacity building for museums in Assam, Kerala, West Bengal and Delhi and several other preservation initiatives.

The Australian institute is keen to offer its expertise in helping Calcutta’s museums preserve their collections better and also equip them to react with alacrity to disasters. “Our strength lies in preserving tangible heritage and we are keen to work with cultural institutes of Calcutta and even try to catalyse international funding to assist projects here,” Daniel declared.

AusHeritage and INTACH have signed an MoU to collaborate in cultural heritage initiatives.