February 2016 has been a really busy and exciting month full of museum and heritage learning! Over the last few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to work with several diverse groups of Mumbai’s citizens, encouraging them towards a more critical and creative engagement with the heritage and histories around them. One of my most challenging programmes was a 5-day, intensive workshop on heritage interpretation with 24 undergraduate students from Wilson College. Aged 17 through 21, studying everything from philosophy to history, they were sharp, engaged and exciting to work with.
After an interactive session in college where we discussed the ideas behind and need for heritage and museum interpretation strategies, the students broke into groups to study different heritage areas and themes across Mumbai in greater depth. Three days of exploratory site visits all together were followed by two days of independent group work and planning. The workshop concluded with students sharing imagined interpretive strategies for their chosen themes and sites.
Evaluated against the workshop’s stated aims, the students certainly appeared to grasp the centrality of first identifying and understanding any heritage site’s audiences – both existing and potential. They further understood the significance of considering all interpretive ideas against the needs of these audiences and creating plans accordingly. They worked successfully as teams and, after some initial prodding, found their voices in critiquing and questioning everything they saw and experienced at heritage sites through the course of the workshop. Their ideas were fresh and, whilst they definitely needed further developing and honing, were still a huge step up from any existing interpretation anywhere in the city. My personal highlight was when a student said that she would never again be satisfied at any museum or heritage site in the city again! Really fun and productive times:)