Highly accomplished international museum expert, George Jacob, visited the Young India Fellowship (YIF) campus in South Delhi last Friday evening to reveal to Fellows some of the fascinating secrets behind the global museum sector.
Indian-born, Canada-raised Jacob explained how museums have the potential to drive economies, preserve culture and contribute to the collective memory of a community or nation. The Yale graduate has been involved in more than $200 million in museum projects world-wide, including those for the Smithsonian and NASA-Ames funded Astronomy and Cultural Centre.
Jacob was the 39th notable guest speaker to address Fellows since the YIF programme began in May. He spoke exclusively to Fellows during his visit to India, the guest of a fellow BITS-Pilani alumnus. Jacob had come to the university to deliver a lecture in March last year, when Fellow, Sudheer Marisetty, was student union president.
Jacob started his talk – Creating Cultural Capital: Museum Design-Build Industry – by telling Fellows about various renowned museums and exhibits across the world, such as the National Museum of Saudi Arabia, the Contemporary Arts Centre in China and the Louis Vuitton Fashion Museum.
In terms of designing museums, the “museologist”, “designing museums is all about communicating stories, because there are a lot of stories that need to be told”.
“Mr Jacob told Fellows about various aspects of project development and the variety of skills that go into designing museums. He also spoke about the whole process of developing museums as being about listening to and thinking with clients, because in the end, it is the client’s culture that you represent,” Sudheer said.
The “museologist” also mentioned the need to marry technology with liberal arts to come up with innovative designs, as museum design involved a blend of engineering and designing.
“When asked by Fellows about the current challenges the Indian museum industry is facing, he expressed concern about the lack of a policy framework both for museums and fine arts, inadequate training, and the need for mentorship to groom the younger generation. On being asked about what he would like to do in India, he said he would like to work on contemporary themes and that he would specifically work on projects that had an impact on the economy,” Sudheer said.
Jacob said the multi-billion investment in recognising and creating cultural capital worldwide was only beginning its early dawn in India, and elaborated on its enormous potential and on India’s soft-power in leveraging this untapped sector.
“With a power to strengthen civil societies, transform regional and local economies and enhance ‘Brand India’, to offering out-sourcing opportunities of a different kind hitherto unexplored, India is virtually sitting on a gold-mine of possibilities – perhaps far richer that those held in the vaults of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple finds, that could become the Museum of the Millennium,” Jacob said.
YIF Deputy Dean Dr Anunaya Chaubey said the lecture opened the minds of the Fellows to the power of design and imagination. “It underscored the need to fuse technology and aesthetics to render any vision and also how culture can drive development and energise an economy,” he said.
Fellows have since the inception of the YIF programme, through the YIF Guest Speaker Series, had the opportunity to interact with the “who’s-who” of the corporate, academic, arts and social worlds, almost twice every week.
Some of these eminent personalities include Pramod Bhasin (founder, Genpact), Sanjeev Aga (ex-MD, Idea Cellular), Sir Robert Swan (Polar explorer and leading environmentalist), Kiran Seth (co-founder, SPICMACAY). The speakers share their views about a wide range of issues, including pursuing one’s passion, and the importance of introspection and life- long learning along, with having a vision for oneself.
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The Young India Fellowship (YIF), in conjunction with the University of Pennsylvania, is the first academic programme in the country to fill the void in higher education for a holistic, multi-disciplinary course based on the liberal arts. A one-year, fully funded residential scholarship, YIF has been specially conceived and designed to create the country’s finest, most socially conscious leaders. Each year’s batch of 50-plus Fellows will take subjects including Analytical Thinking, Leadership, Writing and Listening Skills, Philosophy, Sociology, Psychology, History, Economics and Statistics as well as classes designed to bring out their creativity, such as Art Appreciation and Latin Dancing. They will undertake a unique experiential learning internship, and gain practical work experience through a real-life project. Fellows will be taught by leading thinkers from respected universities both in India and abroad, and will be mentored by some of India’s best known leaders, chosen for their ability to be outstanding motivators and role models. YIF is the precursor to Ashoka University, a world-class university focused on the liberal arts and sciences, set to open in the Delhi NCR in 2013. Ashoka’s founders, the International Foundation for Research and Education (IFRE), envision the university as India’s finest centre of higher education, comparable to the leading research-based, multi-disciplinary universities in the world.
About George Jacob:
India-born Canadian museologist George Jacob has planned, designed and established museums and award-winning educational experiences spanning 11 countries and is among the leading museum thinkers of our times. Former Smithsonian intern and Canadian Commonwealth Fellow, he was educated with Degrees in Museum Studies, Social Anthropology and Leadership at the Birla Institute of Technology & Science, University of Toronto and Yale School of Management. With a track record of over $200 million in museum projects worldwide, he is the recipient of an unprecedented $19 million in US Federal and State grants and the author of the seminal books Museum Design: The FUTURE and the sequel Exhibit Design: The FUTURE. Diverse museum projects cover a range of academic and popular pursuits. During these years, he has had the distinction of being the founding Director of three museums including the $30 million NASA-Ames funded Astronomy & Cultural Centre, Vice President of OMSI, OMNIMAX facility, Chair of numerous professional committees on museum ethics, policy, museum law, standards and curatorial practices. He was honoured to be the Project Director for the production of the Star Spangled Banner (the 1812 flag that inspired the American National Anthem) permanent exhibit at the Smithsonian in Washington DC dedicated to the nation by President George W. Bush. He is, at present, the Principal Advisor to a $266 million 8 museum cluster project in the making jointly with MIT.