Tomorrow I am flying to India. That sounds so ridiculously simple, yet so ridiculously complicated! Not least since there is due to be deep snow in Sheffield tomorrow, but when I step off the plane, it will be a very pleasant 24 degrees and sunny.
I am part of a very exciting research project, a partnership between the School of Museum Studies in Leicester, and the National Museum Institute in Delhi, funded through the British Academy and British Council. The project is called Things Unbound: Engagements with Objects in India and the UK, and I have set up a project blog which details the processes, partnerships and learning along the way.
It’s very closely aligned with my own research and practice: we’ll be exploring how visitors engage with objects, emotionally, sensorially, and imaginatively (I think), as well as running some training workshops for museology academics and fellow PhD students to begin to cement a partnership between ourselves several other museum studies courses in India. So far, we actually have very little idea of what we will be doing. This terrifies the control freak in me. I have never been to India, so I am completely not prepared for the culture shock that will hit me, and because of the lack of detail about what we will be doing, and when, it still seems slightly surreal. An adventure, rather than a piece of work.
I can’t believe I will be there in 48 hours. I’m going to write on this blog, as well as the ‘official’ one. There are several things that I am really interested in, which are an aside from the main purpose of the project. Firstly, I am really looking forward to spending time with Sandra and Margarida, and getting to know them both in different capacities. I am also looking forward to meeting with our Indian colleagues, Manvi, Manjari, Moumita and Juha. I have a feeling that relationships between academics and students in India may be more formal than they are in the UK, so it will be interesting to see how we are viewed as PhD students. I am also concerned that some of the practices of object engagements which are second nature to me, might be viewed more sceptically by what may be a more traditional museology discipline in India. I am taking my green object box and all sorts of things to rummage about with. But who knows?
Aside from this, I am excited about the utterly different cultural immersion. Living in a place for three weeks, closely working with Indian colleagues is such a different experience than a holiday or travel might be. I can’t begin to imagine the feeling when I get off the plane (apart from exhaustion). Sensory overload I think. But what that looks/smells/sounds like, I really don’t know. And in relation to my theological work, I am really interested in the notion of permanence and impermanence and how that looks in relation to objects in museums, the access/conservation paradox and so on. If all is impermanent, then how does a museum function?
So anyway, back to some practical details. We’ll be staying at the stunning looking Lutyens Bungalow in Delhi for some days (with its lovely garden, and swimming pool), and will then be going to Jaipur for some more days, and then back to Delhi. But I don’t know when or how long for, or even where we are staying in Jaipur…
I think I need to get to grips with this totally different pace: whatever will be will be.