The title and theme of the conference was: Exposing and Exploiting
the Distinct Character of University Museums and Collections.
Departmental museums at the University of Karachi: exposure and exploitaton
Associate Professor Nargis Rashid, General History Department, University of Karachi, PakistanDepartmental Museums at the Universities of Pakistan: To begin with one must understand why there is the need to bring forth this aspect and to write a research article on the topic. In Pakistan where efforts have been started to take up an assortment of fields to rework & upgrade, even to uplift and transform General Museums into latest museums. But university museums are still stands no where & neglected.
The interesting thing to note is this: It's always been noticed that Museums (mostly) at the universities have always been considered as a dumping place for objects, references and study. Simply the question arises, why do Museums at Universities have been treated weirdly? Do these have separate meaning? Have different working paradigm? Do not serve the purpose of students? Don't attract students to choose their career, or something else. Generally, the image of Museums in Pakistan is a place for old things displayed or dumped in very strange environment and people working in these places have been considered as old fashioned people or doing unscientific job.
Where as Departmental Museums at Universities are more important then the general museums, as it provide guide ness for students i.e. future generation to get their higher studies and even help them to choose their field for future career while studying in the museums of the department. With a combination of discipline-based knowledge and practical training, students can gain critical intelligence and the ability to analyze and achieve objectives in the professional museum field. There is a need to have uplift of present departmental museums of universities in Pakistan; and it must be given its real status as a Museum. To understand the status of university museums whether they would be categorized as a museum or not let's see what ICOM says about it?
According to ICOM Statutes art.2 para.1 (1989), the definition for a Museum is as follows:
1. A museum is a non-profit making, permanent institution in the service of society and of its development, and open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits, for purposes of study, education and enjoyment, material evidence of people and their environment.Now it is very much vivid & clear that university museums are stands on the same podium or status as the other general museums do. Then what do I want to achieve is obvious from my aims and objectives.
Aims and Objectives of current paper
1. The objectives are:
(a) to encourage and support the establishment, development and professional management of museums of all kinds;
(b) to advance knowledge and understanding of the nature, functions and role of museums in the service of society and of its development;
(c) to organize co-operation and mutual assistance between museums and professional museum workers in the different museums of the universities in the city and the other cities;
(d) to represent, support and advance the interests of University museums workers of all kinds;
(e) to advance and disseminate knowledge in museology and other disciplines concerned with museum management and operations.
In pursuit of these objectives Karachi University ought to establish Karachi University Museums Authority i.e. KUMA to do all such things those are legal, convenient and necessary to enable it to carry out its functions. Museums are the center of learning; it plays a significant role in the projection of all the fields related with science or Arts even cultural heritage and for creating general awareness among the masses.
Brief history of the University of KarachiPakistan got its independence from Britishers and Indians on 14th August 1947. Where all the assets were divided biasedly; like wise the Universities which fell to Pakistan's part after partition in 1947 were few. In 29th October 1951, government established University of Karachi in five evacuee school buildings and Prof. A.B.A. Haleem appointed as its first Vice Chancellor. In the first academic year only four departments were established. Of these were Philosophy, Geography, Mathematics, and zoology. The departments contained no more than one or two teachers.
In 1953-54, the existing departments were expanded and new departments of General History, Islamic History, Political Science, Economics and Bengali in Arts and Physics, Chemistry and Botany in Science were opened (Naseeb: 1978)i. In short, during the time span of two years 13 new departments were established by adding 6 departments in Arts and 6 departments in Sciences. On 18th January 1960 University of Karachi got shifted in its present place measuring 2 sq miles or 518 hectares on the Country Club road now known as University road. From 1965-71 Museums were established at the departments of Botany, Geology, Geography, and General History. The Institute of Marine Biology was established in 1972, has since been raised to the status of Center of Excellence with its own Board of Governors and Academic Committee.ii
Need for the departmental museumsLearning through the museums has become one of the components towards the higher education. Review is required to see how learning theory informs the definition of goal-based scenarios in effective museum educational programs. It can be seen that how a modified information design planning process can structure the development cycle of an educational Museum program from concept to implementation. There is an ample need to explore the appropriateness, advantages, context of use, required resources, and expected outcomes of various technological augmentations for the departmental museum studies.
The emphasis of a departmental museums may be almost anything, but usually one of the goals of a museum is to educate its constituency i.e. students, about the area of interest it represents and a museum keeps items useful to this goal in its collection. The museum may possess items on loan from individuals, companies, or other institutions - however, the museum is very likely to own, or have a legal role as perpetual guardian of, the majority of the items in its care.
At the University of Karachi, academicians felt the need of Museum in several departments in different time period by different personalities of different cadre and in different ways. For which funds and material were collected to set the educational museums to help the students for quick references and understanding.
At present the museums at Botany, Geology, Geography, General History [Archaeological], Museum at Center of Excellence of Marine Biology, Marine Reference Collection & Resource Center, Sociology [Ethnological], and Zoology Departments are in dormant position in many respect. There are several reasons such as Organizational & administrative negligence, dearth of funds, lack of year on year upgrading and absence of short-term & long-term proper agenda and set-up to attract students. The aim of this paper is to bring out the causes of exploitation and look for the program to have its proper exposure.
In this presentation I have tried to bring-forth the reasons for the exploitations of the Departmental Museums at K.U under the dubious conditions, which are as follows:
1. The need for the establishment of these Museums at the University.
All the Departmental Museums established at the University of Karachi had their set up in different times. For instance, the first Invertebrate Museum of the Zoology was established in 1965 with the personal efforts of the then Chairman of the department. It is one of the best museums (collection wise) in the country, with large repository of fishes, Insects, Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds (rare as well), and Mammals etc about more than 100,000 spices. It also consists hundred of charts and photographs to facilitate practical guidance. This large collection is due to the different projects, which different professors had. The museum is open to other floor of the department; it does not have sufficient space for proper display. No arrangement for security, no safeguard or protection from humidity as all species are preserved in liquid or dried-up and kept in show cases of that period, facing age factor phenomenon. No proper arrangements for lighting, manual recording etc. However, at present the Department's new Chairperson intends to bring drastic changes to both faculty and museum and the results of her efforts are already visible.
Department of General History has the honor that the two Vice Chancellors of the University of Karachi were from the General History Department, Prof. I.H.Qureshi: 1961-71 and Dr. Mahmood Hussain: 1971-75. At the Department of General History when new subject Archaeology was introduced, the then Chairman of the department Dr. Mehmood Hussain owing to his personal interest, felt the need of Archaeological Museum; assigned the task to newly appointed lecturer Dr. Arif Mirza for Archaeology. Who with the back of the Chairman succeeded in getting the support from the then Director General of Archaeology & Museums of Pakistan. That's how, in 1966 his personal proposal and efforts helped the department to create Archaeological Teaching Museum for the students. It exhibits two galleries 1. Pre-Islamic and 2- Islamic. Dioramas, sculptures, pottery, photographs, and numismatics are the treasure of this museum.
This museum which had its present shape in 1966 could not have any remarkable change in it since then; however objects are suffering from age factor, mishandling, negligence and lack of interest and funds as well.
Ethnological Museum of Sociology established in 1964 by the then Chairman of the department, his efforts were extra ordinary as he let inauguration of the museum by the hands of the then foreign minister and future prime minister of Pakistan Mr. Zulfiqar Bhutto. It has the good collection more than 600, owing to its Head of the Department who with his personal efforts succeeded in getting the good amount of fund from the then Vice Chancellor. But at present much collection is displayed in an ill organized way at a very small place, which gives very maladroit picture. Again the same problems persists here too.
Besides the Museum at Zoology there is one museum which is also having large and good collection, is Museum of Geology. It started to collect its material from the beginning of the department; i.e.1954. When department shifted to its present location the basement and the ground floor of lab wing were allotted for the museum, it is one of the largest Museum of the universities. Museum is divided into seven phases for display purpose, covering almost 2000 specimens including local and foreign collections. The collection is comprised of sedimentary, igneous, metamorphic rocks and minerals, fossils. And interestingly well equipped with maps, charts, models and gemstones. Presently facing the same problems.
The Museum of Geography is the one museum in the University of Karachi, which was founded by, material, collected by, catalogued by, arranged by, maintained by, and after his retirement from the department still managed and kept in order only by one man who is Dr. Rauf. The Museum is having a large collection through out the country but needs spacious enclosure. He worked hard to collect good number of specimen of tools from the old Paleolithic sites; he discovered a number of sites in Karachi and in Pakistan. At present no one dares to take charge in his presence, in other words he is possessive too.
There is one Museum different from others especially in display is Karachi University Herbarium, Botany department. It is locked in more than 50 steel almirahs; botanical specimen dried up and fixed on paper card sheet comprised more than 100,000 specimens. It is also lying in basement open to other floors of the department. Having great contribution by senior professors especially Dr. Irtefaq Ali. In this Herbarium no display at all is presented in any form.
Problems are humidity, growth of micro organism and rain water which get collected in basement and cause damage to the steel cabinets and helps in growth of micro organism, prevention of which poisonous chemicals are in use which is again hazardous to human health. This is the only Museum in the University of Karachi that is trying to protect its specimens at length. But facing the same circumstances.
Likewise the Marine Reference Collection & Resources Center was established in 1967 as Invertebrate Reference Museum to meet the growing need of marine fauna of the northern Arabian Sea. This is the only Museum, which has its worth for research only. The center is in touch with the international institutions and has recently become the partner of the Expert- Center for Taxonomic Identifications ETI at Amsterdam etc.
The current situation is that all the references i.e. marine species, including the arrangement etc. are not in proper display. When it was asked that why you don't feel it should be properly displayed, they said no need because it is only the reference museum for research only.
Another good example is the Museum at Center of Excellence of Marine Biology. Its museum took its first shape when one of the teachers of the department had completed his Doctorate on fishes in 70's. By that time he had collected a good number of fishes. Just to keep them at one place, he had struggled a lot along with the then Director to get a place and storage jars. In which he succeeded in allocating a place for his collection. And now the center is having a Museum. But when there was a need for a place the so-called Museum was shifted from there to rather smaller place. Since then it is there with broken jars and dried up preserving liquid, insufficient place etc, is the show of dormant situation. As it is the work of one person who is no longer Chairman of the Center, the others are less interested in its protection again the problems are same.
2. The factors leading to the problems.
There are so many factors, which are visible in all the Museums causing the present deteriorating situation.
Present condition utters all the negligence done to Museums at the University. It includes the steps and measures, which had to be taken by the concerned persons, and had never been taken. The absence of qualified people in the museums caused gradual damages to the objects, species, showcases, jars, etc. and environment by keeping it most of the time closed. Mishandling, lack of preservation of objects from time to time. Rats, microorganisms, lizards, no exhaust fans, seepage from the ground and the ceilings. No treatment or cleaning ever may be suggested for or given to objects, artifacts, species, no replacement of showcase clothes or a change of chemical needed for species to preserve them for much longer time, etc, etc.
4. The changing role of the museums in the wide spectrum
All over the world now the change is appearing vividly. Now the University museums are just not the junkyards to dump the objects but it is the way of spreading knowledge and the way of communication to build the relationship between the past and present. By convincing the people the value of collections in any respect. One of the greatest challenges for university museums is to convince the public, the government, and private sector. Too many visitors experience museum collections without understanding why they are there and what larger function they serve. It is through the qualified staff one can satisfy the curiosity of public and get their attraction.
To communicate the importance of collections requires an ability to
connect museum research with the interests of the public, government or
donors, something which at times requires considerable imagination and
The proposed planning for the departmental museums of the University of Karachi.Global technology in every field is having its widespread impact in the nook & corner of the world. If one will not set its foot with it that would be left far behind. It is the high time for us to upgrade our scenario and create feasible environments to introduce advanced trends. However it is important to realize that the work environment is must. Globally, industries are being subject to diverse influences that cumulatively are creating the working environments that we currently find ourselves in. In the light of these considerations, I have included a brief questionnaire and their answers as well to see the need of change we the Asians or under developed countries are looking for. Global influences offer an overall snapshot of key elements to consider when pondering planning options.
Is there any driving need for planning the Museums?
Yes, typically, museums came into being because there was a collection that needed to be protected or a building that needed to be saved, and the presence of strong advocates in the department to acquire the initial funds needed to get started. For the most part, museums were seen as the means to "preserve the past for future generations" and tended to focus on acquiring related material. Most museums have directed those resources towards meeting standards of museum practice and providing for visitors.
Now days the attitudes towards of museums have changed substantially. A museum is expected to be:
A Strategic Plan is a statement of the future envisioned by the museum, based on an objective and realistic assessment of the museum's performance and the opportunities and challenges that can be foreseen. A Strategic Plan is a statement of action for institutional and accomplishment. While is future-oriented, a Strategic Plan is not "what if" but "what will be". A Strategic Plan is like a road map for Museum authorities and staff that set out policy and strategy that guides fundamental decision-making and the allocation of resources around institutional priorities for the next short term and long term planning.
Museum authority or staff needs to come to the agreement on how to address external pressures or internal issues; and to run the things smoothly or in order; must have the fixed target, to achieve the institute must have framework or a plan to work on, such as:
The way to prepare strategic plan
Purpose: To prepare the detailed Strategic Plan that sets out a series of Objectives for each Goal, tasks to be undertaken to realize the Goals, time frame and resources required for implementation, who is responsible for each task, and a mechanism by which success will be evaluated.
How: Staff, ideally in small workgroups that include volunteers and front-line staff members.
Who is Responsible: Director or the Museologist?
Important points to note, how to develop a successful Strategic Plan:
The proposed controlling authority for the departmental museums at universities.After all the past experiences and the output of all the museums at the departments, one can easily come to the conclusion that all had happened is because of the absence of the Head to look after the departmental museums and do needful. All negligence, all problems were there as there was no controlling authority or a board of members with a Head.
There is a suggestion to all the Universities in Pakistan to establish a controlling authority having a Director, to control and upgrade the present state of Departmental Museums, as this is the need of the time. And to adopt new trends and technologies to enhance the work of Museum at large.
Relations with other Organizations
The role of ICOM in Pakistan
ICOM - The International Council of Museums, a great name indeed, their efforts are beyond. But under developed countries need their assistance more. Like they can establish their chapters here to promote the general awareness in the masses by keeping links with museums of all types. According to the Article 1 - Name and Legal Status (1989) 16th General Assembly of ICOM.
In the conclusion I would like to thank the UMAC that they have provided the opportunity to discuss such an important issue of Departmental Museums in the Universities. Ready to join hands with UMAC with their objectives.
Copyright © Nargis Rashid 2002.