Museums, your space of refuge

We live in times of great emotional unrest. We all deal with multitude of complex situations and overwhelming emotions on a daily basis. It could be the environmental deterioration or politics or personal relationships, it could be unhappiness at work or student loans. There is a lot that we need to process and reflect upon, and there is a lot that is beyond our capacity to immediately resolve or make peace with. We are stimulated and it is perhaps fair to assume that we all need a space of refuge. Where do we seek this refuge such that we can find hope, endurance, patience, resilience and communities that would sustain us? Where do we seek refuge such that we are vulnerable but safe, allowed to wander in thoughts without feeling lost? A space where we can sense calm and gain a better lens?

I often seek refuge in a park close to where I live, I sit by the lake and let the noise dissipate. It allows me to observe my own thoughts and let go of the ones I do not need to act on. But at times I need a different place of refuge, one that allows me to learn more perspectives and to widen my world. I seek refuge in stories, in beauty, in courage, in human aspirations. I seek comfort in the stars, the planets, the sun, the vastness of the cosmos and the unimaginable possibilities of the human mind. I feel connected with species that exist today and that once existed because there was carbon then and there is carbon now. I find courage when I discover the intricate works of craftsmen, the great feats of scientists, mathematicians, surgeons and engineers. I let my mind be nurtured through philosophy and poetry, wisdom and wit. I take care of myself, I seek refuge in museums. And I invite you to do the same.

A few weeks ago, a kind lady told me that there is someone somewhere who is watching over all of us, making sure we are alright. I thought it was the mountains, the deodars, the beautiful sky. The river that flows and the grass, that beautiful green. The mountains are watching over us, that’s what I thought. Remembering my room with a window, that opened to the view of the mountains at night, the sky lit with stars, the silhouettes of the mountain Gods lit like jewels, and the sounds of birds and insects. It gave me a perspective much higher and wider than my daily existence, and allowed me to have precious thoughts, to be filled with the joy of living, to offer compassion to fellow beings. Perhaps the museums too are like mountains in our cities. Mountains lit with the wisdom and vision of people and cultures around the world. Where in the midst of the city’s noise and pollution, you can still listen to a river’s song and a call for joy. A mountain of continuity, of learning, of just being here. Allow your mind to open this beautiful window, it is so much better than the never-ending 5-minute videos, the forwards, the anger and the onslaught of information online. Take care of your mind, of yourself.

Hope to see you at one of our upcoming programmes through the Museums Mazzedaar Collective.

Poornima Sardana is an independent museum consultant from India. She designs museum strategy for education, development and community engagement. She develops and facilitates programs that focus on building people’s relationship with museums and each other through dialogue, meaning and often playfulness. She is currently researching and experimenting on museums’ contribution to society’s well-being particularly emotional. For this purpose she is working towards her consultancy Museums Of Hope and has co-founded this collective project to spread joy. Poornima completed her MA in Museum Studies at NYU through the Fulbright-Nehru Scholarship, has been an Arts Think South Asia Fellow at the London Transport Museum and explored Science and Liberal Arts through the Young India Fellowship Programme. Prior to this she studied Design with particular interest in storytelling, board-games and designing for children. She is an illustrator and hopes to create her own graphic novel. Poornima had founded The Mazzedaar Laboratory, an initiative to conduct experiments in the museum space and is host for the podcast Duniya Museums Kee.

Museums Mazzedaar Collective brings to you the expertise of two Museum professionals who have been experimenting independently in Museum Pedagogy, Playful and Participatory Experiences as well as impact of Museum Programmes and Outreach on Mental Health. While they continue on their individual journeys, through this project they collaborate to reimagine museums for all people, as spaces where people learn and engage with the diversity of this world through non-intimidating and relevant experiences. We want people to enter dialogue on issues that matter to them while understanding the past and preparing ourselves for a better future. We design unique programmes within museums, at heritage sites and in your own organization or institution through outreach.