Workshop: Access & Inclusion in Museums, Mehrangarh Fort Museum, Jodhpur

2598Workshop alert: Access and Inclusion in South and Southeast Asian Museums

Venue: Mehrangarh Fort & Aana Jharna Museums, Jodhpur

Dates: 28 – 30th November, 2019

Organised by: Commonwealth Association of Museums (CAM), ICOM ICTOP (International Committee for Training of Personnel) and ICOM India, in collaboration with Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur and Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum, Jaipur.

This workshop brings together professionals from across the Commonwealth (UK, Canada, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Bangladesh and India) to learn to break barriers and make museums and heritage sites accessible and inclusive to all. Through expert-led sessions and roundtable discussions, participants will share problems and challenges, workshop solutions together, and learn from one another’s experiences. Together, we will develop new perspectives and skills and apply them in our own institutions.


According to the 2001 census, 21 million Indians or 2.1% of the population is suffering from some form of Disability. Visual Disability accounts for 27.9% of the population, Mental Disability is 10.3%, Speech Disability is 7.5%, Hearing Disability is 5.8%

Access is the ability to physical get near a place or person and Inclusion is the idea that everyone should be able to use the same facilities, take part in the same activities, and enjoy the same experiences, including people who have a disability or other disadvantage

India’s Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act of 1995 does not cover several types, such as Down’s syndrome, learning difficulties like autism, or depression. The Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment launched the “Accessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan)” in 2015 as a nation-wide flagship campaign for achieving universal Accessibility

But in both PWD Act and the Accessible India Campaign there is NO mention of the arts, culture, museum and heritage sector. Since India is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities since 30 March 2007, it is imperative for our heritage sector to deliver on this basic human right, and for our professionals to gain the necessary skills to do so

Gaj SinghjiH. H. Gaj Singh of Jodhpur, the 36th Custodian of Marwar- Jodhpur and the Managing Trustee, Mehrangarh Museum Trust will inaugurate the workshop. He established the Trust in 1972 to make the Jodhpur royal family’s collections accessible to the public

For over five centuries Mehrangarh has been the headquarters of the senior branch of Rajput clan known as the Rathores. Rao Chunda (r. 1384-1428), the twelfth Rathore to rule in Marwar, established his capital at Mandore, which he had acquired as a part of a dowry. Two generations later, Rao Jodha (r. 1438-89) began to build a fort at a new site six miles to the south, on an isolated rock with a higher elevation and better natural defences. Jodhpur, the town that sprang up at its base, was named after him. The fort was named Mehrangarh, meaning ‘fort of the sun’ – a reference to the clan’s mythical descent from the sun god Surya. Over 500 yards long, its wall rises in places to a height of 120 feet and is 70 feet thick. (taken from the history by Dr Giles Tillotson, from the Mehrangarh Museum website)


We start with a guided tour of the grand Mehrangarh Museum and Fort with Karni Singh Jasol, Director, and Dr Sunayana Rathore, Deputy Curator, Mehrangarh Museum Trust – two immensely dedicated people.

Karni JasolUnder the excellent leadership of Karni, this Museum has won several accolades. He has ensured that its collections reach the world over through exhibitions. Over the span of his career, Karni has received several prestigious awards, including The Charles Wallace Award; the Nehru Trust Award; the Alfred H. Barr Jr. Award by CAA College Art Association, and a Fulbright Scholarship. Under his headship, Mehrangarh Fort has been awarded the UNESCO Asia Pacific Award of Excellence in 2005, the Fassa Bortolo Domus Award for Architectural Conservation in 2012 and has been recently nominated for the prestigious Agha Khan Award for Architectural Conservation.

Sunayana RathoreSunayana is a Museum professional with in-depth experience of collection management, research, operations and project planning. She is currently Deputy Curator, Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur and has worked on many aspects including Creative Planning, Design and Display, Exhibitions, Preventive care and storage for museum objects ranging from organic to inorganic material. She has been extremely helpful in coordinating the workshop from Jodhpur. A very special THANKS to you  Sunayana 🙂

2762G Tillotson 2019We are lucky to be taken on a tour of the Fort ramparts with Dr Giles Tillotson. Consultant Director, Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum, Jaipur, Giles is a former Reader in History of Art at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and a Fellow (and former Director) of the Royal Asiatic Society, London. He has authored and edited many books on Indian architecture, history and landscape, including Taj Mahal, Jaipur Nama, Delhi Darshan, and the historical novel Return to Bhanupur. He has lived in India since 2004, working as a writer, curator and consultant to museum trusts.


Prof Asha Hans

The Keynote: An Unforgettable Journey will be delivered by Professor Asha Hans, Executive Vice President, SMRC and Founder, Women with Disabilities Network. It is an organization founded in 1985 in Bhubaneswar, Odisha and run by persons with disabilities, it is accredited to the United Nations ECOSOC and has observer status with UNFCCC. It is also an Associated Member of Rehabilitation International. Prof Hans serves a number of domestic and international organisations such as the International Red Cross, UN Women’s, Peace Humanitarian Fund, International Task Force Disaster, Climate Change and Conflict and Rehabilitation International New York, and the Welfare Board Govt of Odisha. As an academic, her latest work is the Gender Imperative; Disability, Gender and the Trajectories of Power; Social Development; Report on Disability and Women Disability and Identity.

The workshop sessions are as given below:

Roundtable and Discussion: Current Status in South and Southeast Asian Museums moderated by Catherine C. Cole:

  • Museums and Minorities: Politics of inclusion and exclusion in post war Sri Lanka
    Hasini A. Haputhanthri, Independent Consultant, German Development Cooperation, International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Sri Lanka
  • The Status of Accessibility and Inclusion in Museums of Bangladesh
    Md. Serajul Islam, Deputy Keeper Department of Ethnography and Decorative Art, Bangladesh National Museum
  • Towards Accessibility & Inclusivity: NHB’s Heritage Institutions in Action
    Jamal Mohamad, Senior Manager (Programmes), Malay Heritage Centre, National Heritage Board, Singapore
  • Interpreting objects and building partnerships for inclusion: Theory and Practice
    Professor Ambika Patel, Head, Department of Museology, M. S. University Baroda
  • Accessibility in Museums by Ida Rieu Welfare Association (via Skpye) which has been working in Karachi since 1921 to integrate blind, deaf and mute children into society. The State Bank of Pakistan is collaborating with the Association in creating such opportunities

A brief profile of the global speakers and their work in the field of Access & Inclusion is enlisted below:

JamalJAMAL MOHAMAD is the Senior Manager (Programmes) at National Heritage Board’s Malay Heritage Centre where he develops and implements a variety of activities targeting different audience segments, including underserved communities such as the elderly and youth-at-risk. He was also the former Artistic Director of Teater Ekamatra and has background in theatre and film productions. He is a recipient of the Erasmus Mundus Scholarship (2008), Goh Chock Tong Youth Promise Award (2008) and National Arts Council Overseas Bursary (2008).

Ambika PatelPROFESSOR AMBIKA PATEL heads the Department of Museology, Faculty of Fine Arts, The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Gujarat, India. She is currently Secretary, ICOM India and Board Member ICOM ASPAC (2019-2022). She has lectured widely and received numerous scholarships and fellowships such as the Andrew Mellon Conservation Fellowship 2015 at Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. She is the author of two books and 32 research articles in national and international journals.

HasiniHASINI A HAPUTHANTHRI is part of a global network of practitioners on peace building, education, cultural and heritage management. Trained as a sociologist at Delhi University India and Lund University Sweden, Hasini specialiSed in Oral History and Museum Anthropology at Columbia University New York. Her current work addresses heritage management issues that have direct implications to postwar contexts. She recently concluded a baseline survey of 25 museums, with its publication forthcoming as Museums, Memory and Identity Politics in Sri Lanka. Her session is called Getting the Objects to Talk: Working with Oral Histories in Museums.

Charlotte SpinkThe Access and Inclusion: Making museums more dementia-friendly and accessible to the mental health community session is by CHARLOTTE SPINK. As Access and Community Engagement Officer, Durham University Museum, Charlotte creates and delivers the pre-school provision at the Oriental Museum and Palace Green Library as well as delivering a range of programs for visitors with particular access needs, such as people living with dementia and visual impairments, and children with autism. She also works with a range of community and faith groups to develop and deliver events and community exhibitions.

Tejshvi JainBuilding an inclusive exhibition is TEJSHVI JAIN’s session at the Arna Jharna Museum. She is the Founding Director, ReReeti Foundation for Museums, Galleries and Heritage Sites. In 2012, she was one among 15 participants to be selected by the Bonita Trust and the Ministry of Culture, India to attend a two-week training program at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum. In 2013 she was the only Asian selected to attend the International Visitors Program by the NRW KULTUR Secretariat, Germany. She holds the Art Think South Asia Fellowship 2013-14 and was awarded the NTICVA UK Visiting Fellowship 2017-18.

Chandni. Rajendran_PhotoStories for Children with Visual Impairment session will be by CHANDNI RAJENDRAN, Co-founder, Tactopus Learning Solutions, TEDx speaker, Inclusion Fellow. Chandni is a designer and entrepreneur, currently leading a social impact venture, Tactopus. The studio creates mixed reality learning experiences for children with vision impairment and learning disabilities with an inclusive and playful approach. She graduated from the Master’s Program in Interaction Design IDC, IIT Bombay in 2017. She is a TEDxspeaker and India Inclusion Fellow.

Siddhant AniWelcome Disability Welcome This Ability is by SIDDHANT SHAH. He is the founder of Access For ALL, is a TEDx Speaker, heritage architect and Universal Design expert who specialiSes in bridging the gap between Cultural Heritage and Disability. He works with museums, Art 14 events, art galleries and cultural heritage sites to make them more accessible through access audits, educational and multi-sensory experiential activities, focusing on kids/ senior citizens as well as special needs audiences and providing accessible infrastructure. Access For ALL has successfully collaborated and consulted on cultural accessibility projects in India, Malaysia, China, Pakistan and Spain.

Catherine ColeCATHERINE C. COLE has been the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Association of Museums since 2013 and Principal Consultant, Catherine C. Cole & Associates since 1993. She focuses on cultural planning, strategic planning, program review, innovative interdisciplinary arts and heritage projects, and teaching, largely in Indigenous and migrant communities. Previously she worked as a curator and interpreter in museums and historic sites. She has  published numerous books and articles.

Mrinalini VMRINALINI VENKATESWARAN is a Consultant to the MSMS II Museum, Jaipur and a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society, London. With a background in archaeology, she has worked with a variety of collections and institutions in India in roles ranging from collections management and curation to planning and publications. She has served two terms on the Board of the Commonwealth Association of Museums and is currently a Rajiv Gandhi Cambridge Scholar at the University of Cambridge, where she is completing a PhD in History. She was the previous CAM Board Member who organised the 1st Access & Inclusion Workshop in 2016 at Jaipur.

Poulomi Das
Photographer: Priyanka Tolia, Dehradun

I am currently a member of the CAM Board. Also a Consultant for Museums & Heritage Spaces and writer of this blog. I was the Senior Assistant Curator for the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum, and consulted for the Bihar Museum. I was a Nehru Trust Fellow in 2015 and 2006 to the British Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum, and an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) Fellow, Department of State, Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs, USA, in 2010. I have been working towards making Museums and Heritage Spaces inclusive and enjoyable through my work since nearly two decades. I focus more on young adults, since this is the age group most affected by Depression and prone to suicide.

Between Catherine, Mrinalini and me, we coordinated this workshop with the support of the amazing Mehrangarh Museum Trust team. It has taken us more than a year to reach here. I had proposed the idea of holding a workshop to understand where we have reached since the 1st Access & Inclusion in South and South East Asian Museums was held at the MSMSII Museum, Jaipur in 2016. We need to constantly appraise our status and where we have reached to realise how far we are from the final goal of creating an Accessible & Inclusive society, especially in the Museums and Heritage sector. We HAVE to make new policies and impact lives more emphatically.

The 2016 workshop guidelines link can be found here:

Click to access Access-in-Museums-in-South-Asia-3-Dec-2016.pdf

Profile photos and text provided by the speakers, and edited by Mrinalini. Tthe Mehrangarh photos are by MMT.




4 thoughts on “Workshop: Access & Inclusion in Museums, Mehrangarh Fort Museum, Jodhpur

Add yours

  1. Access for in museums around India has been a pet project for you for quite some time now have heard this from you almost 10 years now and I know u have been ever since working in that direction in what ever or which ever way u can may it be consulting for new museum design or restructuring old ones or blogs or workshops..u have taken up this point…all the best to you ….
    Very few people think of such things like accessibility for all at places of art physically or mentally challenged..

    Thanks for all the enlightenment about all the dignitaries and people who were there for the workshop and have worked hard and towards attaining the common goal..

    And for the first time I got to know your professional achivements … three cheer mam..

    Keep writing


    1. Yes, I have been working towards making spaces accessible – for more than a decade 🙂 glad you appreciate the work… long way to go. Please wish the very best for the tough part ahead


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