Looking Back, Looking Ahead: Reflections on Rereeti as We Turn a Year Old

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On the occasion of Rereeti completing a year, our Founder-Director Tejshvi Jain shares with readers the story of its beginning, the challenges we have overcome and what we have lined up for 2016.

‘Be the change you wish to see’ – Mahatma Gandhi

This December, our blog completes one year and I would like to thank our readers for supporting us through our journey. We have increased our viewership by 31% over the last 5 months. Our readers are not only from India, but USA, UK, Australia, Canada, France, UAE, New Zealand, and other countries. I would also like to thank the museums, schools, partner organizations, children and families who have availed and enjoyed our interactive learning services. As I look back over this year and the challenges we faced (and partly overcame), we have come a long way!

In 2012, when I first visited UK for a training program at the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A), I got a first hand glimpse of the international museum community. The sector was so dynamic, including the exchange of knowledge and skills between museum professionals to share best practices and overcome common curatorial challenges. I saw this even in Germany, where a group of museums got together to share skills and knowledge, thus using their limited resources effectively. However, in India this kind of collaboration is not that commonplace: Museum professionals often work within their institutions and departments, and do not have many opportunities to interact with peers or learn about museum best practices in other continents. I felt this gap all along my stint as assistant curator at the then newly opened National Gallery of Modern Art, Bangalore. This bothered me.

From the many visits to museums in India and abroad, my interest and concern, for the kind of audience engagement that museums cultivate, has grown. Most Indian museums have excellent collections but fail to actively engage with their audience. The difference between museums that do not have an active engagement and outreach strategy toward their community versus the ones that do have a policy in place have is that the latter  follows the ‘outward in’ approach. They see museums from an outsider’s point of view, a layman and this approach helps them identify the needs and requirements of their visitors and looks for solutions that will help them address these lacks. The National Council of Science Museum (India) and a handful of other museums have incorporated this approach, recently, however, I yearned for museums across India to follow suit.

Impetus to Set Up Rereeti

In 2013, the ArtThinkSouthAsia fellowship helped facilitate a project that looked at addressing the above mentioned areas. The project aimed at addressing the gap between museum professionals, cultural practitioners, public, and government authorities. It looked at getting everyone on a common platform, to understand different perspectives and requirements, and collectively think of solutions. My secondment at the Museums Galleries Scotland(MGS) confirmed the positive impact an organization solely dedicated to the museum sector can have on the public value of museums.

In due course, this project turned out to be more than a few months worth commitment. Rereeti evolved slowly and organically. It took me two years to figure out what we would do and how we would achieve it. Having a non-business mindset to set up a company was most challenging; I found the financial and marketing skills required for running an organization especially tough learning curve. Like many cultural practitioners-turned-entrepreneurs, the most difficult part is to strike a balance between one’s practice as an artist and honing my managerial skills as an entrepreneur.

While I personally struggled with these challenges, as a manager I struggled with prioritization. In my past roles as a teaching faculty and facilitator in Indian colleges, I would often find myself in situations where interpretation of the same text for different audiences daunting. This need for multiple interpretations was strongly felt at the museum too. I soon realized this area is under-researched and unexplored in India. Hence, besides connecting museum professionals, outreach and audience development was the other area we decided to focus on.

What Does Rereeti Do?

To sum it up, Rereeti is a platform connecting museum professionals to share, learn and network. It is a resource house for the museum sector in India. Rereeti facilitates museums to help develop programs that lead to an increase not just in visitor footfall but deeper audience engagement as well. We see museums as public spaces and our role as facilitators who help create value through our learning and outreach services. However, this is a mammoth task given the policies and funding structure governing Indian museums. Fortunately we have been able to take this forward with your support and encouragement.

Some of the milestones we achieved are include international recognition at the Museums and Web Asia Conference (Melbourne) and partnerships with local and international museums, organizations and schools. I am happy to share with our readers that we (probably) are the only blog dedicated to producing original content for museums, galleries and heritage sites in India across a gamut of functions and knowledge areas, such as curatorial, educational, design and exhibition, signage and lighting, audience engagement, content and marketing for museums, and digital strategy.

Road Map for 2016

We are looking forward to a year where we are able to spread the joy of visiting museums for all visitors to museums in India; spread the joy of understanding and appreciating the world around us through unique learning and engagement activities. We aim to make our engagement with schools deeper and facilitate children to open their minds and challenge them through our modules and museum exhibits. Workshops for museum professionals and teachers on ways of engaging audience/students in museum and heritage spaces are in the pipeline.

We would like to work with government museums on their temporary exhibitions by providing learning aids and relevant programming support. We are in the process of adapting our content to suit the requirements of government aided schools. We plan to hire our first full-time staff and look forward to expanding our team across other cities. Our greatest challenge for the coming year is to raise our seed fund and forge substantial tie-ups with government museums. Any help from our readers to help achieve this is welcomed.

Learning from our mistakes and past experiences we move into the new year with hope and optimism. We would like to hear from you on how we could be useful and relevant to you, your organization, your students, and your children. Please participate in our survey to help us serve you better. The survey will take four minutes and will be confidential.

Wishing you a happy new year in advance. We will be back in the new year!

‘It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.’ – Confucius

About the Author

Tejshvi Jain is Rereeti's Founder-DirectorTejshvi Jain is the founding director of Rereeti and worked at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Bangalore prior to setting up this non-profit organization. Get in touch with her info@rereeti.org.

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