As the iconic Partition Museum, Amritsar, wins ‘Best Wider World Tourism Project’, Lady Kishwar Desai speaks on the future of history tourism amid the pandemic
As one of the pillars of India’s recorded history, the Partition Museum in Amritsar located in the graceful red brick Town Hall has made the country proud, winning the ‘Best Wider World Tourism Project’ award at the British Guild of Travel Writers International Tourism (BGTW) Awards 2020, held online on April 18 in the United Kingdom.
Simon Willmore, Chair of BGTW, dubbed the public museum — launched by The Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust — “a first-class example of a tourism project that is having a positive impact on the community and the environment.”
The museum opened its doors to the public in August 2017 after more than a year of planning and development of what would be the world’s first museum and memorial on the Partition. It comprises 14 galleries, all housing audio-visual records, artworks of various mediums (photographs to paintings), as well as numerous refugee artefacts.
During the pandemic, the museum adapted to social distancing by making tours virtual and hosting online film screenings, talks and exhibitions. The museum also teamed up with Google Arts & Culture for virtual interactive showcases like The Railways and Partition. It also collaborated with the District Education Department for an educational programme with audio-visual files to facilitate a virtual tour for schoolchildren.
Looking ahead, there will also be a second museum on the Partition at the Dara Shikoh Library Building, Old Delhi, which will be ready by August 15, in time for India@75. The adaptive reuse of this historic building has been possible through the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, and the Art, Culture and Language Department, Government of Delhi. Additionally, paying homage to DSLB’s cultural and historical significance, the building will be converted into a hub for curated cultural experiences, tentatively titled Daastaan-e-Dilli.
There will also be performing arts venues, a café as well as a library and reading room. This space will offer both physical and virtual events many of which will include sections on Sufism.
Thrilled at the win, Lady Kishwar Desai, an author and Chair of the Arts and Culture Heritage Trust, speaks of the future of museum tourism amid a difficult year. “What we are experiencing now is a temporary phenomena, perhaps disrupting travel for a year or two which is nothing in the history of civilisation. After all, we still visit Hampi and Khajuraho hundreds of years after these were created,” she says. “Museums are modern methods of preserving history and culture and once the pandemic is behind us, people will want to travel again and these museums will hopefully outlast the events of today.”
She continues, “We would request philanthropists and patrons of culture to support museums, as these are permanent legacies which will continue to draw crowds and evoke curiosity among tourists capturing history and heritage for future generations. There is a huge impact of a physical structure which virtual experiences cannot replace, but each can support the other.”