At the heart of Sarmaya is a carefully curated repository of art, artefacts and living traditions from the larger Indian subcontinent. And to think it all began with a Vaseline jar full of old coins from the princely Southern state of Travancore.
But before we get further into our story, we need to know what Sarmaya actually is. To put it simply, sarmaya.in is an online museum. Unlike other museums which occupy physical space, Sarmaya does not adhere to boundaries of time – hence, events that took place two centuries ago will acquire the urgency of a breaking story. And there are also no boundaries of access – anyone with an internet collection can access all the information and collectables at any time of the day.
Now, with the COVID-19 scare and the nationwide lockdown, museums across India are taking their treasures online.
In a Forbes India report, we find out that Abhishek Poddar, founder of Bengaluru’s Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) had gifted his parents a bouquet of 25 paintings for their 25th wedding anniversary, way back in the 1980s.
Each canvas was painted by a leading artist such as Badri Narayan, Arpita Singh and MF Hussain.
In Mid-March, when MAP shut its doors due to the novel coronavirus, Poddar sent out multiple e-mails to his peers in the museum and art world with the collage of the flowers, asking them to send in their own floral renditions.
The response was such that a website had to be created.
“COVID-19 zoomed forward the digital revolution in the Indian art world by five to ten years,” says Tasneem Mehta, managing trustee and honorary director of Mumbai’s Dr Bhau Daji Lad City Museum (BDL) to Forbes India.
View this post on Instagram
‘Are sansar, sansar’ (Oh, this life) is one of the most well-known poems written by Bahinabai Chowdhari, a farmer from Jalgaon in the late 19th century. Bahinabai could neither read nor write. She composed poems that have a deep resonance even today and have become a benchmark of Marathi literature. Nalini Malani’s exhibition ‘The Witness’ at the BDL Museum references Bahinabai’s poetry that provides us an insight into her philosophy and approach to life. The exhibition reflects Nalini’s continuing concerns with the notions of oppression & dominance, of freedom & justice. Nalini has previously created iPad animations of another poem by Bahinabai titled ‘Dharitrichya Kushimadhi’, which is also featured on our page. #BDLMuseum #BDLOnline #Bahinabai #labour #life #NaliniMalani #TheWitness
A post shared by Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum (@bdlmuseum) on Apr 11, 2020 at 9:49pm PDT
Museums across the country are going online in a bid to connect with their audience. This has led to heavy digital footfall with curators regularly running YouTube discussions, puzzles, quizzes, online workshops and expert talks.
View this post on Instagram
It’s #FlashbackFriday! We are taking our audiences through a virtual walkthrough of a past exhibition and a contemporary art acquisition! Find out more 5 pm onwards on our Instagram stories. #BDLMuseum #BDLOnline #museumfromhome #museumsunlocked
A post shared by Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum (@bdlmuseum) on Apr 3, 2020 at 4:16am PDT
Take Delhi’s Kiran Nadar Museum of Art. According to the report, the museum is relying heavily on online DIY activities, virtual tours and a showcase of their old exhibitions. “We want to build new interests among people, and this is the right time to do that. Everyone is currently exploring new things over internet, and art is something anyone can engage with,” says Kiran Nadar, founder of the museum.