By Junaid Shafi Bhat
Museum is a place where past lives. It works for a society as it cares, conserves objects of historic, scientific, or cultural interest and displays its collection for the common people. Museums are important because it houses the memory of people and civilizations, history, and culture. It is a permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment.
Apart from display and exhibition of ancient objects, the common people can witness the history and culture of the past people. Being custodian of the historical past, an important function of the museum is the collection of objects, which have historic, scientific and antique value. The collection of the objects is done through various modes like purchase, gift, loan, exchange, exploration, excavation, treasure trove act, bequest etc. A museum do not collect anything that is theft, smuggled or very much fragile. So depending on all this fact a museum decides what to collect and what not to. Each museum authority adopts and publishes a written statement of its collection policy.
Another important function is the preservation and conservation of the collected objects, as we all are aware of the fact that museums are the custodians of heritage. The responsibility comes to museum to preserve scientifically these objects so that people generation after generation can view it, can know about it and see the wonder of our heritage. Objects need regular care as every object is subject to deterioration due to spontaneous change in environment and subsequent physio-chemical factors. Regular care is required in both display and storage following the preventive conservation or curative conservation whenever needed. Museums practices various preservation techniques, which are exclusively objects specific to protect them from attacks of organisms like fungus, insects, rodents etc. and damage from humidity, temperature and light sources and intensities.
Recently there was a workshop on “Preventive Conservation of Manuscripts” at SPS Museum Srinagar to sensitize the custodians of precious heritage. In the workshop various methods of preventive conservation of manuscripts were exhibited which can help us to preserve the precious historical manuscripts for our enlightened future generations. The rare manuscripts and paper documents should be stored in protective archival boxes and folders, made of acid-free and lignin-free materials, large format materials is best stored in a plan cabinet with shallow drawers, the rolling of large items (e.g. maps) should be avoided.
Conservation and repair techniques were also emphasized and shared to the participants. Surface cleaning: Paper and leather can be dusted with a soft brush, and dust can be removed from the books. Care must be taken, an inappropriate cleaning technique could permanently ingrain dirt.
Mould and insect removal: Insect accretions and mold residues are normally removed by scalpels, aspirators, or specialized vacuum cleaners. Deep freezing may be appropriate to kill the insects.
Adhesive removal: Some adhesive materials are acidic and harmful to paper, causing stains. Repairs made with water based adhesive such as animal glue can be removed in a water bath, by local application of moisture, or with poultices or steam. Steam is sometimes helpful to remove adhesive.
Mending and filling: Severe tears that cannot be stabilized with polyester film can usually be mended on the reverse with narrow strips of torn Japanese tissue. The strips are adhered with a permanent, non-staining adhesive such as starch paste or methyl cellulose.
Sewing and rebinding: Books with broken sewing, lose or detached boards or leaves require special care. Several techniques are used in conservation binding. The original sewing in a volume should be retained, it can be reinforced using new linen thread and sewing supports.
Participants got entertained and knowledge and also got a chance to knew more about heritage looking at the real evidences. SPS museum should also organize several workshops, cultural programs, activities like sit and draw, quiz, model making, paintings and many innovative activities. Moreover the institution should become pubic friendly. There is a less knowledge among the people about the objects of scientific and historic value that is the reason Kashmir is losing the rich heritage, because they are not aware of the history of past and accidentally and intentionally throw away or destroy the objects carrying plethora of information which can reveal the history of Kashmir. Therefore common people should also be invited, so that they also get to know the importance of cultural heritage.
After collection and scientific preservation and conservation another important function of museum is to document the object which were collected from various sources. Documentation is the process of preparing record of collected objects by formal entry in the entry register, accessioning, cataloguing and indexing with photo-images. It is considered as one of the main administrative function of any museum.
(The author is associated with Department of Archaeology (CCAS), University of Kashmir)