Chapter 2: The Museum in the Colony: Collecting, Conserving, Classifying ?This chapter unravels another inceptionary moment: the making of the institution of the museum in colonial India? (43). ?differences in form, functioning, and location that separated such a body from its metropolitan counterpart?such that the focus would be the issue of local knowledge that was specific to the needs and context of the Indian empire. The idea is to see the museum in India not just as part of the extensive knowledge-producing apparatus that was so central to the experience and the ?fantasy of empire.? It is also to study the ways this project of producing and disseminating knowledge would be fractured in the course of its enactment in Indian history? (43). ?the museum?s system of assemblage and ordering and in its invocation of the field around the collected, displayed, and labeled object. It is equally visible in archaeology?s driving urge to name, describe, and document as it swept through India?s virgin terrain of ruins and relics? (44-45). ?When museums first began to be planned in British India during the mid-nineteenth century, a European model of museums as state institutions for the collection of historical, scientific, or artistic artifacts was already well established. The British museum, founded in 1753, had emerged by the early nineteenth century as the exemplary metropolitan institution: a magnificent repository of antiquities of all civilizations of the world. Foremost of the knowledge-producing institutions of the empire, it exemplified the idea of the imperial archive, an entire epistemological complex for representing comprehensive knowledge whose reach extended across the globe? (45). ?India?s exotic universe in its entirely, in its past and present, in its natural and human wealth, scientific and civilizational resources, offered itself to the space of the museum. To the Western antiquarian, India could figure as a single unified site where her flora and fauna, her fossils and minerals, her cultures and customs, her diverse people and, no less, her arts and antiquities could all feature within the same collective constellation, even as each had its own classificatory labels? (46). When the Kolkata Asiatic Society envisioned the museum, it was for collecting, not displaying. The scholars would be able to view its content, but not the regular people (47). Scholars were most concerned with India?s natural history. While the pasty was a mystery waiting to be illuminated, the botanical and zoological specimens were more immediate. India?s castes and tribes were exotic, as were its plants and animals (47). The museum was divided into two main sections: archaeological/ethnological and geological/zoological (48). As such, the museum remained in the 1860s and 70s largely the domain of naturalists and zoologists, with taxidermy its main interest (49). The next museum was built in Madras and focused almost entirely upon geology and natural history. However, there was a growing interest in the products of the empire. Therefore, new places were created for the ?decorative arts? of India. This was because there was a nostalgic impulse in England ?to revive the dying preindustrial traditions of craftsmanship.? ?It was the discovery of the country?s living traditions of craftsmanship and decorative design that had assigned India its pride of place in the circuit of world fairs and international exhibitions? (49).
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