Interview: International Visitors Programme
In cooperation with the Ministry of Culture of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, the International Visitors Programme of the NRW KULTURsekretariat brings cultural journalists, mediators, politicians, curators and other disseminators from around the world together with the cultural scene in NRW.
The Visitors Programme cooperates with the Goethe-Institut as well as with other international cultural institutions, creative artists and cultural offices in NRW and with cultural organizations.
In April 2016, people were selected from various countries to participate in the research trip to Germany with the objective to get familiarize with the art museums landscape in the region and to gain a deeper understanding of their history, functions and the structures.
Dr. Asma Ibrahim and Dr. Kaleemullah Lashari were selected from Pakistan. They share their experience here.
Please tell us about yourself:
Dr. Asma: I have done Post doctorate fellowship from University of Wisconsin, Madison, Doctorate in Numismatics, Fellow of Salzburg seminar. Served in the Department of Archaeology & Museums in different functions and as director of the National Museum of Pakistan, and Editor in the Tribune Daily, Travelogue Monthly Magazine.
From 2006 till to date working as Director, State Bank of Pakistan Museum & Art Gallery Department, under which established the first monetary museum of Pakistan. Carried out several excavations in Baluchistan and Sindh, and Indus delta area, discovered an underwater city in Indus delta, as Co Director and Director, Head of the Pakistani Mission, with the foreign missions of France, Italy & Germany
Collaborative work done for many documentaries with international channels such as BBC, ZDF, CNN, Discovery, HBO, my work on Persian Mummy was documented by BBC, Horizon, “Mystery of the Persian Mummy”, & about Indus valley civilization for BBC education channel-4. Served in the Board of Governors Indus Valley School of Art & Architecture, and is a member of number of Committees for the establishment of Museums, Conservation and governing bodies.
As founding member established a Centre for Archaeological & Environmental Research. For the revival of dying arts and crafts established a foundation with the name of “Terracotta, a project under Zohra Ibrahim foundation” with her own personal funding.
Author of many books including two course books and several research articles.
How did you like Germany, which cities and places you visited? Give us highlights.
Very informative and enriching experience, visited Düsseldorf, Duisburg and Cologne. There were so many art galleries and museums and we couldn’t visit all of them. Public-private partnership was very interesting for us and existed in almost all the spaces we visited. The mechanism of funding for the art was also very unique, not just the state supports, but the fundraising strategies were exceptional everywhere.
We visited multiple museums, some of them were; Museum Folkwang, Museum Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf, Museum DKM in Duisburg and Kolumba in Cologne.
Excavations and pathways for the visitors in the Kolumba museum were amazing. We went to glass museum, the collection of which was very informative and important for me, due to large variety of glass from very early times to contemporary period. One could see the journey of glass through history. It was of great interest and importance for me as am excavating at the site of Banbhore, Sindh, where I am doing research on glass, and its scientific analysis as well. There were interactive exhibitions. The most interesting thing was the beautiful Ghandhara collection showcased at the DKM museum at Duisburg; it was the private collection of the founders. There I saw pieces of Ghandhara which are not mentioned anywhere or displayed. The experience was very intriguing, am anxiously waiting for the publication of its catalogue.
Apart from this, Art is everywhere in Germany, in the hotels, public spaces. The hotel where we stayed had art work of different artists in different rooms, along with their books, and the books published about their art work. It was a study itself. The crockery in the hotel was designed by different artists and were art pieces themselves, it was such a thrilling experience to have breakfast in such beautiful art pieces. Different art spaces and museums have various programs to cater every age group from youngsters to the old people.
The educational programs of the museums for children, the role of the retired people as volunteers in the museums were some of the aspects which I really liked and learnt from.
Outcome of the visit, how did you benefit from this research trip?
Connection for Karachi Biennale, and implementation of Public-Private partnership here in Pakistan, we can apply the landscape and dynamics that they used in their museums here in our archaeological sites. Development of the museums within institutions.
How do you plan to implement strategies that you learnt here in Pakistan?
Private-Public partnership was a new concept which exists in Germany and I really liked it, the private collectors are willing to give their collections to the local museums and art spaces.
I am also thinking to do it here in Pakistan starting with few great art collectors.
Tell us about some of your current and future projects.
Recent projects are consultancy for Sindh Police Museum, Oxford University Press Museum, Mukhi House Museum (historic house being converted into museum of recent past), Sukkur Archaeological Museum, N.A.Baluch personality Museum, wildlife museum, Museum of Recent Past and several others.
Last year our NGO SEAS Pakistan (Sindh Exploration & Excavation Branch) won an award, i.e. US Ambassadors Fund for Cultural preservation for the conservation of Varun Dev temple at Manora, it is a two year program ending 2017 October.
Sindh Exploration & Adventure Society was established in 1989, by Dr.Kaleemullah Lashari and me, since then we are taking up different projects under this, this is personally funded , under this we took up a project of documentation of heritage sites and since then we have documented more than 900 heritage sites, historical as well as archaeological.
Under this NGO a centre for archaeological & Environmental Research was established, which has a facility of a laboratory for material analysis of buildings, paper conservation and other scientific tests, a library, facility of JStore, and library of data of heritage survey its documentation, a training centre for dying arts and crafts of Pakistan.
One of our other worth mentioning project is the conservation of a stone carved graveyard at Rumi, Hub with a facility of rest house there.
During our meetings with several curators of the Museums, many projects are discussed and further work will be carried out on those as soon as something materializes.
The group itself was quite versatile and well selected, therefore amongst the group also several future works were discussed which need a little bit of planning and funding and am sure they are going to be quite beneficial for the relationship of different international museums and art institutions.
I would also like to thank Ms. Anika Mittendorf and Ms. Judith Pawlitta, NRW KULTURsekretariat; they were so friendly and well organized.
Highlights and Experience shared by Dr. Kaleemullah Lashari:
International Visitors Program: Museum Collections in NRW
The program was organized by the NRW KULTURsekretariat from 12 April to 15 April 2016; it was a very well thought out exposure for the visitors to the Museums and their collections management, in the NRW region.
Even though I was not new to Germany, having done my Post Doctoral Fellowship at Museum für Islamische Kunst, Berlin, this area was totally new to me.
The combination of the museums selected in the program for visits was a conscious selection made in order to understand some pertinent issues of management.
There are the museums supported fully by the state, others are municipal funded, and few are drawing support from state as well as local sources, and there was a museum based on private collections and support. Thus such a combination of varied sources and its implication of museum programs was quite an interesting study. Further to it there has been a phase of new arrangements in the recent past where museums opted to strike Public-private partnerships to run their show; the advantages and difficulties of this experimentation was also one of the area of the study. The resultant insight has helped in understanding the working of the modern museums and the difficulties these faced; it was a thought provoking experience, and lessons learnt have sank-in well.
Being a person dealing with the conception, establishment and management of museums in Sindh Province, it proved a very fruitful exposure to some of the very important museums. The visit also provided with the occasions of interaction with outstanding persons in the field of Art History and museum management, this generated fruitful discourse, as the other participants young and also experienced were a good assortment from various backgrounds, I must admit that it proved quite educative.
The way the visit was conducted was indicative of the well-experienced and very thoughtful people in the Kultursekretariat. I am especially thankful to the organizers, who accommodated me with in the program, though it was very last moment that I showed my interestedness to join.