Notes on Antique Textiles, Folk Art & Timeless Traditions – Jaina Mishra
Recently I came upon this book.
And it reminded me of my visit to the Calico musuem.
Set in Ahmedabad, this is one of the most venerated museums in Indian textiles. The collection is fantastic and their preservation is fantastic.
But my experience as a visitor was not.
The collection is fragile so the museum management limits the number of visitors and allows only a certain number of people – so it is not a ‘walk-in’ museum.
(The only other place that I have seen this system of restricted entry in, is the Potala Palace in Lhasa!)
Once we entered, we were quickly put together in a group and were given instructions in the way my strict Convent teachers from 30 years ago might instruct unruly children. Don’t do this don’t do that etc. There was nothing wrong with what they said. But the tone with which they said it soured the experience.
The museum houses not only antique but ancient textiles that are a visual feast! And so, once we were in the presence of the beautiful textiles, all this seemed worth it. But…
There are ONLY guided tours. And you are NOT ALLOWED to split from the group. The museum docent stands ahead of the group and the group listens. The group is herded by a group of 3-4 men surrounding the group – so that we remain a single tight knit unit. Should you wish to linger on at a textile exhibit and gaze at it longer to study it through the glass – Nope – that was not allowed. You HAD to move along with the group. And you had to view it in the time they allotted for the viewing which, I felt was insufficient.
This was all in the interest of preserving the textiles – they said.
I am all for preserving these textiles and I love the category myself. But I was disappointed withe the way the visitors were being dealt with.
Through the tone of speech, through the behavior of the team, I felt completely unwelcome in that museum. As though we were an encumbrance in their existence. In India one never feels this unwelcomeness ….
They probably have a point of view and it IS their collection so I should feel grateful for being allowed in to view it. But then I wonder why they allow visitors at all. It would be quite okay to keep it locked up and well preserved without allowing any visitors in.
Maybe they were just having a bad day?
This visit happened in 2007 – by now I should have forgotten – I haven’t. And although I have returned again to Ahmedabad and will go back again, and still love textile art, I have no desire to visit this museum again.