Friday, October 24, 2003, Chandigarh, India


Museology: looking at the past
Sanjay Austa
USEUM are the repositories of our heritage and culture, and if the sight and smell of the civilisations and eras of yore excite you, museology is a career option for you. It is a profession where history is revealed not through history books but first hand by solid artefacts of history lined across museum walls.


Museology: looking at the past
Sanjay Austa

A museologist (left) makes a point to students.
A museologist (left) makes a point to students. — Photo by writer

MUSEUM are the repositories of our heritage and culture, and if the sight and smell of the civilisations and eras of yore excite you, museology is a career option for you. It is a profession where history is revealed not through history books but first hand by solid artefacts of history lined across museum walls.

From the cultural history of any nation, museology is an important professional. It ensures that our precious heritage and culture are not only well-preserved but also made attractive and accessible to the populace. In a nutshell, a proper understanding of the past and disseminating information about this past is the work of a museologist.

Museology at its core is a science dedicated to the systematic study of the organisation, management and the function of a museum. Some years ago, museology was connected only with archaeology, art and paintings, but in recent years it has begun to represent many other aspects such as anthropology, arms and armour, numismatics, epigraphy and jewellery. All this has thrown open the floodgates of opportunity for those interested in cultural heritage, art and history.

Museums have also fast become community centres and have a social relevance attached to them. They are increasingly being called "heritage centres" as their activities become more interactive. For example, the museum now routinely hire exhibition designers for many exhibitions for attractive display of art-effects. Museologists usually work in the government sector in museums run at the state and national levels. Museums are also opening in the private sector and are creating many more employment opportunities for museologists.

Museologists can work as curators in museums, where they are in charge of cataloguing and organisation of the museum artefacts. More importantly, they are also in charge of classifying and describing museum articles. Curators help students and researchers with reference material. They are also involved in research or processing of records, general administration and supervision. A curator can go on to become a Director of a big museum.

There are options in teaching too. Ms Manvi Seth is an Assistant Professor (Museology) at National Museum Institute, New Delhi. She passed a two-year museology course offered by National Museum and has been teaching here since one year. "Museology as a career is unfortunately not well-known even today. However, it is an exciting career, offering myriad opportunities for growth," says Ms Manvi. She had studied history in her graduation and just chanced to hear about the course in museology offered by National Museum.

National Museum Institute, Delhi is one of the most sought-after centres for museology. However, even then not many students apply. Only 10 students are selected for the two-year degree course every year. As there are not many museologists and many new museums are opening up young museologists have no trouble getting a job. However, a museologist must be prepared to work in different cities as there are only one or two museums in one particular city. Because of the lack of competition, most students avail and get selected for scholarships to study abroad.

Museologists and conservators are usually employed in the government sector. The museums run by it are many. There is the National Museum, Delhi, besides museums in cities all over India. There are also the National Council of Science museums, which are specialised science museums where a museologist can work.

Some of the major institutes in India that offer degree and diploma courses in museology are National Museum, Delhi — it offers an MA degree in museology and also a Ph.D. The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda offers an MA in museology. The University of Kolkata offers a PG diploma in Museology. Banaras Hindu University offers an MA in museology. Aligarh Muslim University offers a one-year diploma in museology.

Many students of history are finding museology as a suitable course. Says Nilangana, a second-year student at National Museum Institute, Delhi, "I was looking for a professional course after completing my honours in history. Museology was the best career option that I could think of."


Where can I learn sign language?

Q I am working as a social worker in a small school for the hearing handicapped. Could you please suggest where I could formally learn how to interpret sign language?

— Jaidev Sharma

A The Ali Yavar Jung National Institute for the Hearing Handicapped (, Mumbai, and Sri Ramakrishna Mission Vidyalaya, Coimbatore offer courses for sign language interpreters at three levels (of 3-mths each). On completion of each level, you will be given a certificate. Completing all three levels will make you eligible for a diploma in the subject that is recognised by the Rehabilitation Council of India (a statutory body under the M/o Social Justice & Empowerment). To enrol for the courses, contact the institutions directly.

The RCI also offers a 2-week orientation course for existing users/interpreters of sign language after which they can take the relevant A/BC-level exams to pursue higher-level courses.

For details, contact the RCI, 23-A Shivaji Marg, New Delhi-110015, or log on to the RCI website:

Armed forces

Q I am a graduate keen on taking the Combined Defence Services Examination. Could you please tell me about the pattern of the exam?

— Pradeep Bishnoi

A The Combined Defence Services Examination is conducted twice a year (Feb and Aug) by the Union Public Service Commission to admit cadets for the Indian Army, the Navy and the Air Force. The eligibility criteria and the pattern of the exam are as follows:

For IMA: Unmarried male candidates with a Bachelor’s degree in any discipline.

For Air Force Academy: Unmarried male candidates with BE/BSc (Phys and/or maths).

For OTA: Male candidates with a Bachelor’s degree in any discipline.

For Naval Academy: Unmarried male candidates with BSc (Phy & Maths). Selection is on the basis of an objective-type written exam followed by SSB tests and interview for those who qualify the written exam. The intelligence and personality tests essentially cover outdoor, group and psychological activities.

The written exam is held at various centres all over the country and consists of three papers for admission to the IMA, Naval and Air Force Academy. The examination for the OTA consists of only the first two papers.

Paper I tests your English (comprehension, verbal and usage skills). Paper II tests your knowledge of current events and general science. Also includes questions on geography and history of India. Paper III tests your knowledge of elementary mathematics, algebra, trigonometry, geometry, mensuration and statistics.

While the standard of questions in maths is of class 10/matric level, all other subjects are of the Bachelor’s degree level). You now have the option to take the GK and Math papers in English or Hindi. Each paper is of a 2-hr duration and carries 100 marks. Once you clear the written tests, you will proceed for the next stage of the selection process, which is conducted by the Services Selection Board. The SSB tests evaluate your potential and aptitude in terms of reasoning, intelligence, communication skills, courage, initiative, confidence, responsibility, social adaptability, decision making and organisational ability ("officer-like qualities").

The tests call for average intelligence and comprise: Personal Interview, Outdoor or group task officer’s test and psychological tests. These are conducted at designated Army, Navy and Air Force selection centres.

For details, log on to:

Incidentally, the application deadline has been extended to October 27 ‘03. So hurry, you still have a chance.

Correspondence course

Q I am a Class XII student in the commerce stream. I don’t want to join a regular college. Instead I would like to work and do a correspondence course side by side. Please tell me what factors I should keep in mind while choosing a course.

— Gurbaksh Sondhi

A Increasingly, students have begun to opt for your kind of decision. In order to zero in on the best course, you must go in for a recognised well-known university. Then check out its jurisdiction. Except the Central universities and a few others, most universities stipulate their own domicile requirements. First try your local university. It will save you the bother of travelling to another city for taking your exams. Also check out whether the university offers contact programmes in your city from time to time, as these can be of great help.

As far as the course is concerned, opt for an ‘honours’ degree instead of a ‘pass’ course if available in the subject of your choice. You could also refer to the Caring’s Guide to Correspondence & Part-Time Courses, for a comprehensive listing and details of recognised correspondence courses offered by all universities and professional institutions in India.


Q I have done my Master’s in French and would like to work with the United Nations as an interpreter. How do I go about it?

— Bikram Ujjwal, Chandigarh

A Working in the United Nations Organisation (UNO) as an interpreter calls for proficiency in more than one foreign language. Fortunately, French happens to be one of the six official languages of the UNO. However, you can apply for the post only upon successful completion of the Simultaneous Interpretation Course from either of the schools at Geneva or France. At the UNO, interpreters are recruited after qualifying in a test which is administered individually. They usually work for six months in a year and are paid approximately $650 per day plus overtime. A university degree coupled with extensive general knowledge is essential.

Please send in your query preferably on a postcard along with your name, complete address and academic qualifications to: Editor, Query Hotline, The Tribune, Sector 29, Chandigarh-160020, or at