SHS Field Trip to Patna Museum, Bihar Museum, and Buddha Smriti Park

October 5, 2016

The following write-up and pictures of the Field Trip have been contributed by Ms. Annalisa Mansukhani, School of Historical Studies, Class of 2018.

On October 1, 2016 as part of the elective courses: “Photography and the Making of Art History in Colonial South Asia,” offered by Dr. Ranu Roychoudhuri and “Publics and Patrimonies: Heritage, History and Memory across Asia offered by Dr. Sraman Mukherjee, the School of Historical Studies conducted a field trip to three sites in Patna – the Bihar Museum, the Buddha Smriti Park and the Patna Museum. This was to allow a deeper engagement with the field of museum studies and art history. After more than six weeks of involvement with seminal texts, the field trip served as an excellent grounding experience, putting to practice several concepts discussed in class. Beginning at the Bihar Museum, followed by a visit to the Buddha Smriti Park, the trip culminated at the Patna Museum with a guided tour of the premises.


Students at the field visit to Bihar Museum

The Bihar Museum in Patna, opened partially in August, 2015 and under construction ever since, is a space of 24,000 square meters on a campus of 5.3 hectares. The space of this museum was different in the way it sought to juxtapose the idea of a work in progress with timeless works of art. Though the eventual transfer of art objects from the Patna Museum would begin only later, the Children’s Gallery of the museum had several incredibly interesting reconstructions from specific periods in history like the time of Mauryan Empire, with audio-visual interactive platforms for visitors to actively participate in crafting their own experience of the museum. A short cinematic screening was held to spread more awareness about the aims of the Bihar Museum and its symbolic presence as an institution of remembering and reconstructing the past.

The Buddha Smriti Park which was the next stop made for an entirely new understanding of the idea of what kinds of spaces a museum could occupy. Previously a prison during colonial times, the Park now contains relics within the Patliputra Karuna Stupa and an art gallery housing a wide range of art as replicas, photographic reproductions and originals. The architecture of the stupa was unique, different from what one would imagine a stupa to be like but it was this contemporary interpretation in glass, steel and wood that made the entire experience a thought-provoking, visual delight.

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