Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A large number of work opportunities lie embedded in the fields of archaeology and museology, writes Usha Albuquerque

HE regular new displays of exotic sculptures or collections of paintings at the National Gallery remind us of our rich cultural and historical past. With a centuriesí old civilisation, India has thousands of relics of all kinds, and locations of great historical significance, where a through a study of the past helps archaeologists interpret earlier civilisations which provide lessons for the future.

Archaeologists help preserve our heritage in the form of historical monuments and artifacts. Archaeologists need to have a knowledge of Sanskrit, Urdu or Persian and have an idea of the cultural, social influences in a particular region. More recently, remote sensing is being used to collect information about sites that lie below the earthís surface.

Prospects in ruins

Archaeology is a multi-disciplinary subject which integrates a knowledge of history and anthropology with geology, chemistry and even art. Archaeology can be either research related or field-oriented. A study of fossils, monuments, manuscripts, coins and excavated remains provides the researcher with material on which to base knowledge of the societies that existed in the ancient past. Detailed records of all need to be maintained in archives which are preserved and catalogued for ready reference.

There are three broad areas of work here and specialisation can be in:

Numismatics: The past is restructured through a study of old coins, medals, seals, tokens, money and other related objects.

Epigraphy: The job involves deciphering inscriptions, edicts, and manuscripts. Inscriptions may appear on copper plates, stones, stupas, statues, or coins.

Museologists are concerned with the maintenance of a museum, the purchase and display, labelling of new and rare art collections, methods of preservation, repair of parchment, paper and microfilming of documents.

Curators: A curator is the custodian of a museum and its financial and administrative matters. He maintains detailed records of each item including an assessment of its value, conservation, treatment, etc.

Monumental task

Archeologists can, in general, take up museology work connected with the preservation and maintenance of monuments and artifacts listed as ĎProtected Monumentsí and of national importance. This has assumed growing importance with the awareness of the value of ancient art. Objects requiring conservation and restoration are paintings, wall paintings, prints, ceramics, textiles, fossils, statues, monuments, arms and armour, furniture, metalwork, and natural history objects. Treatment can involve undoing previous repair and restoration work, if necessary, and painstakingly cleaning, retouching and storing the object. Careful recording of all treatment is also necessary, for future use, while storage under correct climatic, light and humidity conditions is as important.

Museums have a lot of openings for curators and museologists

Museums have a lot of openings for curators and museologists

Skill set

A background in art, history or culture is essential for an archaeologist.

To become an epigrapher, a Masterís degree in one of the four Dravidian languages, Sanskrit, Persian, Prakrit or Pali is required. A Bachelorís degree in medieval Indian history is also needed. A diploma in archaeology/epigraphy is also accepted.

To work in the national archives, or to become a curator, you need a Masterís in ancient/medieval Indian history or an MA/M.Sc in archaeology/anthropology or a PG diploma from the Institute of Archaeology.

Course clues

The National Museum of India, New Delhi, has set up a Museum University offering courses recognised by the Ministry for Human Resource Development. Here, Masterís and Ph.D programmes in History of Art, Conservation and Restoration of Works of Art, and Museology are offered. The Institute also offers certificate courses in art appreciation, and in Indian art and culture. The Delhi Institute of Heritage Research and Management affiliated to the GGS Indraprastha University also offers Masters in Archaeology and Heritage Management, and in Conservation, Preservation and Heritage Management.

Three-year Bachelorís degrees in archaeology are also offered by M.S. University, Baroda, Barkatullah Vishwavidhalaya, Bhopal, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, Marathwada University, Aurangabad and some others.

Two-year postgraduate courses in ancient history and archaeology are offered by several universities, including Universities of Baroda, Calcutta, Gwalior, Allahabad, BHU, Punjab and Kurukshetra.

The School of Archival Studies, attached to the National Archives, runs short term courses for professionals and those interested in the subject. These courses cover a diploma in archival studies, management of records, reprographics covering microfilming and handling of automated information, and information science.


While most courses admit students from any discipline, a background in history, fine arts, sociology and anthropology can be an advantage. A study of a large number of disciplines is needed, as diverse as elementary chemistry and art and iconography. The Masterís programme at the Museum University requires a good academic record and at least 55 per cent marks, is essential. The selection is also based upon an entrance exam and interview. Admission to courses in archaeology is mainly through a written exam and interview. Training involves fieldwork, laboratory work as well as theoretical knowledge.

Placement prospects

The Archeological Society of India employs a large number of people and specialists are in great demand for maintaining, investigating and reporting about the archeological sites and their condition. The ASI also maintains archeological departments in all states and at sites of historical significance. In some areas specialists dealing with different aspects of archaeology such as temple sites, Mughal period historians, Dravidian inscriptions and so on are selected to handle special assignments. Selection to the ASI is made through the UPSC and state PSCs.

There are also jobs with the National Archives of India which houses all historical data at its headquarters in Delhi and regional offices in Bhopal and Jaipur, and the National Museum in New Delhi and the many state museums across the country, as also specialised museums and organisations such as the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the Defence Services that run and maintain their own museums, the Films Division where old films need to be preserved, the All India Handicrafts Board and others .

Research route

Research and training opportunities are also provided by the Indian Council of Historical Research, and INTACH. The historical division of the Ministry of External Affairs also takes on researchers in the Cultural Affairs Division. There are also several private collectors who provide employment for researchers and restorers.

Archeology and museology offers fascinating jobs for those interested in the past. But it requires an artistic, perceptive and probing mind.

The work requires meticulous patience and sometimes involves travelling to remote areas and handling a lot of fieldwork.

ó The writer is a noted career expert