Talk on 'Decaying Exhibits, and Missing Publics: Colonial Bombay and its Museum-Making' | Shiv Nadar University
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Talk on 'Decaying Exhibits, and Missing Publics: Colonial Bombay and its Museum-Making'

Event Date: 
Thursday, November 3, 2022 - 00:00

The Department of Sociology invites you to a talk titled ‘Decaying Exhibits, and Missing Publics: Colonial Bombay and its Museum-Making’ by Dr. Deepti Mulgund, Assistant Professor, Department of Art and Performing Art. Part of the Sociology Thursday Seminar Series, the talk is scheduled for 3 Nov at 12:00 PM; D330.



The first iteration of a museum in Bombay was in the form of an economic products museum, prompted in no little part by Bombay’s status as a port city and the plenitude of natural resources to be found in the Subcontinent. Birthed in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century, museums of economic botany, economic geology, or those dedicated to ‘economic products,’ often displayed plant, and mineral samples, identifying specific parts of commercial value; the resultant exhibits worked to present information about not just the plant but also the possibilities for its conversion into a commodity.

This presentation focuses on the process of creating a museum exhibit by turning to the early histories of the museum in colonial Bombay (now Mumbai). Analysing the statements of varied colonial actors, it identifies a concatenation of issues centred on the question of the exhibit, including the threat of decay that constantly hung about the collections, the translation of amateur interest into disciplinary expertise, creating space for the institution within the colonial bureaucracy, and the distance between the commodity and the exhibit. The presentation will offer brief observations on the question of publics engendered by this museum, and reflect on the histories of the economic products museum in Bombay, and in the larger imperial network, and their elisions.

About the speaker

Deepti Mulgund, (Ph.D. School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, 2019) is an art historian, specializing in nineteenth and early-twentieth century South Asia. She is currently serving as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Art and Performing Art, Shiv Nadar Institution of Eminence , Delhi-NCR, India. Deepti was a postdoctoral fellow at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz (June 2019-December 2020) and a German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) doctoral fellow, at the Humboldt University in Berlin, in 2015-16. Her earlier research, and publications have focused on citizenship and the art museum in the colony. In her doctoral monograph (under preparation), Deepti considers the imaginaries of citizenship, and equality, engendered by art publics in colonial Bombay (Mumbai). Her on-going research follows distinct trajectories—drawing pedagogy in the nineteenth century of industrial capitalism and empire, and picnics, as a modern form of leisure; these are united by her longstanding interest in marking art’s dispersal into the social sphere.

Thursday 03, Nov 2022