The science museums movement began on May 2, 1959, with Calcutta’s very own Birla Industrial and Technological Museum, on Gurusaday Road, the very first organised science centre of its kind in India. But it was nearly two decades later, in 1978, that the National Council of Science Museums was born.
From two — one in Bangalore and the other in Calcutta — and a third in the making in Mumbai, the Council, now in its 25th year, has 28 museums and science centres across the country, with nine more on the way.
I.K. Mukherjee, director-general of the Salt Lake-based body, says: “About five million people visit our science museums every year, with another 2.5 million at the mobile science units, that trek cross-country to remote areas, spreading the knowledge of science.”
Seminars and workshops for children and adults, science fairs, training programmes on multimedia and demonstration techniques for museum employees, travelling exhibitions at home and abroad, collaborations with international museums to exchange ideas and export home-grown exhibits… The list doesn’t stop there.
Having recently completed a joint-venture Science Centre in Mauritius, next up is a National Agricultural Sciences Museum. But the Council’s current pride and joy are six museums in the Northeast — in Aizawl, Imphal, Dimapur, Gangtok, Itanagar and Shillong.
Starting off as an amateur at an international gathering in the US in 1985, the Council has since taken its shows to France, China and Bangladesh, with Bhutan being the destination this year. But its exhibits, including those of the Birla museum, are displayed in museums across the world, from Australia to Israel and Turkey to Singapore.
Lined up for the future is “consolidation, quality and upgradation”, with more mobile museums and overseas ventures. “The demand for our exhibits has increased, and we will boost our work in that area,” adds Mukherjee.
The Council is in talks with institutes and universities for a diploma course in science communications at the post-graduate level, for those wanting to work in museums, “because we need to formalise this sector”.