Leeds Museums and Galleries gets International

Founding director of ReReeti – a Bangalore based organization working towards revitalizing museums and bringing them closer to local communities –  Tejshvi Jain describes her experience of visiting Leeds Museums and Galleries. Tejshvi explored our museums, made friends and uncovered Indian links in our collection. 

I got the opportunity to visit Leeds for a month as part of the fellowship I was awarded by the Nehru Trust for the Indian Collections at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The purpose of the visit was to explore three areas:

  • Partnership opportunities between India and the museums under WYLAMP
  • To take the Indian link to WW1 forward and to present it to schools in Bangalore
  • To explore community engagement under the creative case for diversity

On my previous visits to the United Kingdom I had got a glimpse of how the museums function. However, the experience here at Leeds and the interaction with museum professionals in the West Yorkshire area has given me a greater understanding of how a number of museums under one local authority function. Talking to people from the various departments and across the nine sites has expanded my knowledge from single museum management to multiple museums management. Understanding the different organizational structures and funding streams within LMG and WYLAMP has helped me envision how I would want to structure the upcoming museums that I am associated with back in India.

Exploring the different resources and ways of engagement about WW1 has helped define the project back home more clearly. Hopefully, we will soon see a collaborative exercise between ReReeti and LMG in the near future.

My first experience of audience development at a workshop in V&A many years ago has also helped me think big. Seeing the curators and community curators working here has given me an understanding of how to work with limited time and resources. While curators work on large exhibitions, community curators are constantly engaging and co-creating small, impactful displays all the time. The emphasis on co-curation, involving communities and the method of achieving it with small budgets is one of my biggest takeaway lessons. Not to forget the different themes it has inspired! Attending the ‘collections development’ meeting helped me understand the workings of diversity in collecting objects.

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Two of my best memories created here besides making friends and gaining knowledge were participating in the Heritage Jam 2017 and the tour of Temple Newsam. The experience of working hands-on in a project with a diverse team – not to mention winning it! – gave me an opportunity to look at heritage from a visitor’s point of view as opposed to that of a museum professional.

I am coming back on my 25th anniversary to take a tour of the Channon cabinet at Temple Newsam for my husband to find the ring. If you do not know the story,  do ask the visitor assistant Debbie – or tweet @TempleNewsam to find out!

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By Tejshvi Jain, founding director of Rereeti.

ReReeti is a Bangalore based organization working towards revitalising museums and bringing them closer to and making them more relevant to local communities. To find out more, visit their website by clicking here.

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