Mumbai’s first children's museum presents lessons in history, good values and the importance of child-friendly spaces in the city.
Frequent visitors of the city’s largest museum, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), will spot an interesting addition in its sprawling grounds — a glass-enclosed mini-museum, housing an interesting mix of artefacts taken from the museum’s existing collection. This is the newly launched CSMVS-Children’s Museum, a museum made ‘For the Children – By the Children’, and the first of its kind in Mumbai. The Children’s Museum, which is supported by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, was officially launched yesterday, in the midst of much fanfare and festivity.
Talking about the need for a children’s museum and more child-friendly spaces in the city, Director General of CSMVS, Sabyasachi Mukherjee said that, in a lot of ways, the citizens of Mumbai had become like Oscar Wilde’s Selfish Giant, because our cultural hubs are designed to entertain adults while excluding children. “But the time has come for us to realise our mistake because children are our future. So let’s knock down the walls before spring disappears,” said the Director.
If you’re wondering about the features that make it a ‘children’s museum’, everything that you see inside the museum is the result of the work of young minds and hands. Right from curating the artefacts to zooming in on titles and the messaging, everything has been done by a group of 25 children. These 25 ‘young curators’ were selected through an essay writing and drawing competition, which saw the participation of 2500 students across almost 40 schools. Post the selection process, the children attended weekend workshops over a period of three months to learn the skills of museology.
And the workings of a child’s mind can be sensed even as you peer at the exhibits, all of which are accompanied by colourful boards that announce values like ‘Friendship’, ‘Peace,’ ‘Courage’, ‘Environmental Consciousness’ and ‘Team Work’. Next to each board lies a collection of artefacts that embody the corresponding message and so, a beautiful painting of a man petting a lion hints at friendship, while a bronze sculpture of swaying dancers speaks of teamwork. Vintage animal-shaped artefacts taken from the Museum’s Ratan Tata Collection remind us about the need to preserve wildlife while the glistening sword of an ancient ruler stands for valour. These are just a few of the artefacts on display and the young History enthusiast will find several more to gaze at and ponder over.
The museum also houses two other ‘artefacts’ that catch the eye, which are the sturdy trunks of two trees that seem to erupt from the floor of the museum and disappear through its roof. The trunks lie untouched and surrounded by glass walls. “Trees need to be protected. We need to conserve the environment rather than destroy it. So, these trees weren’t cut to make room for the museum, but were made a part of it,” says one of the young curators about the unique additions. Apart from the displays, the museum also has a reading nook filled with child-friendly books on a range of topics, a couple of interesting artefacts and of course, a dozen-odd soft toys.
However, the museum’s collection will not be a stagnant one and the aim is to introduce new themes and artefacts every couple of months. “We want the museum to be dynamic so that new values and learnings can be explored. And we want children to be a part of the process because this is the perfect platform for them to express themselves and their worldview in a judgment-free environment. We hope this endeavour pulls children away from gadgets and closer to nature and history,” says Kaustubh Kulkarni, Vice President – Communications, DSP Merrill Lynch Limited.