Akhter is assigned the task to re-establish the National Committee of ICOM in Pakistan. In an interview he shared his thoughts about importance of museums with Technology Times
What is the importance of museums in enumerating the history and culture of a civilization and its evolution over period of time?
AKHTER JAVED: Curiosity, observation, and acknowledging the learning through senses starts in baby right from the mother womb so knowing, analyzing, and reacting is a fundamental substance exists in human beings too. It develops sense of owning the past and following good things in present to set the future. It also reveals that recording the history and displaying it at some easy accessible place (Museum) for research and knowledge has a great importance in the best interest of nations. Our culture is very rich and we are the custodians of very old civilizations, UNESCO has approved 18 sites the world heritage in Pakistan so one can imagine the importance of our diverse past, culture and civilization. Museums are the place to know about past, recent past and very recent past to bring evolutionary changes in the thoughts to evaluate and set the future direction to furthering the culture as well as motivate to conserve, collect and preserve the heritage.
One of code of ethics defined by ICOM is appropriate to write here so it is as follows:
Museums are responsible for the tangible and intangible natural and cultural heritage. Governing bodies and those concerned with the strategic direction and oversight of museums have a primary responsibility to protect and promote this heritage as well as the human, physical and financial resources made available for that purpose. Museums hold primary evidence for establishing and furthering knowledge.
Being President of ICOM-Pakistan what are your focus areas of improvement of Museums and what endeavors you have taken so far?
ICOM has already set comprehensive rules and responsibilities for National Committees so, I need to follow those for a big change we all dream to see our museums in the country. We have 27 museums in the country and this number needs to be increased in the benefit of society so, I am trying to bring universities museums in to the ICOM network as well. My main focus is to train the museum professionals to enhance their skills through their participation in ICOM announced training programs and to support museums to use ICOM forum to connect/interact with counterparts in other countries and collaborate in projects of mutual interests. So far a Ganga Ram Museum is being established and Museum Study Program is being started at Lahore College for Women University (LCWU), Lahore. Professionals from Lahore Museum, National College of Art, Pakistan Museum of Natural History and LCWU facilitated by ICOM for training in China and Japan. Soon we are going to call a conference of all heads of member institutions to discuss and draw a road map for future development in the museums.
What are the core objectives of ICOM Pakistan and what is the strategy that you adopted to attain those objectives?
Well the ICOM defines role/objectives/responsibilities of ICOM-Pakistan (National Committee) and for national committees of all other countries are as under;
The National Committees are the main tools of communication between the General Secretariat of ICOM and the ICOM members. The National Committees will ensure the interests of the organization are managed in their respective countries. The National Committees will represent their members within ICOM and they contribute to the implementation of the organizations programmes. In any country, National Committee will perform the task by combining interests of different museums/Individuals for the same cause of ICOM.
The responsibilities of the National Committee are to foster cooperation, mutual assistance and the exchange of information among its members and in particular to:
a. Support and promote the aims and objectives of ICOM among Professional Artists/Scientists/Students and museums in the host State, and contribute to the realization of ICOM s programs both within that State and elsewhere.
b. Promote membership of ICOM among professional museum workers and museums in the host state.
c. Be the principal instrument of communication between ICOM and the members in the host State by establishing consistent and practical methods for sharing information, including regular newsletters and/or on-line access.
d. Ensure the management of ICOM s interests within the host State.
e. Represent the interests of the members, including professional interests, to the ICOM Secretariat.
f. Cooperate with the International Committees of ICOM and make arrangements with national and international museum organizations (where they meet ICOMs basic requirements) to address the needs of the Artists/Scientists/Students/Museum Profession. These arrangements should be self determined by the community of the host country and developed to serve the interests of the professionals.
g. Provide an open and democratic approach to art, science practicing institution and museum professionalism by being an inclusive forum for all qualified members of the institutions/museums.
We are at the stage of structuring ICOM-Pakistan to add regional board members, extracting think tanks at regional/national levels and different committees out of members to facilitate the executive board in making right policies. Although, we have been able to increase the members very significantly in the country but still the number is not sufficient for strong network in all over the country.
Our strategy is to bring museums and educational institutions in the country on one forum for exchange of information and to connect the expertise with each other. We have already started to train the staff of member institutions in abroad through ICOM programs in order to improve their skills.
Member institutions will start interacting with similar institutions in other countries soon on this forum for long term collaborations. We are also planning to start e-museum support program for schools in collaboration with UNESCO in order to educate younger ones.
How museums can play a key role in science popularization in Pakistan?
I am one of the strong proponents of Science Museums or Science Centers in Pakistan, as it is our dire need of present day. Museums are open door universities and disseminate knowledge in informal self-experiencing mode therefore very affective in transferring complicated science knowledge through easy methods to its common visitors. It is safe to say that museums are the tools that educate masses and motivate, means popularize the specific set of objectives in masses thus many of us support the idea of having science museums or science centers in the country. I am certain that ICOM and its committees will gladly abet us in this area.
What are your comments about Technology Times and Tech TV?
Technology Times is a versatile newspaper and Tech TV is a distinct web channel. They are the only information source to read about latest scientific advancements in the country. I really appreciate the efforts of the people associated with it who are contributing towards national cause. I extend my cordial complements to Technology Times team for this starting venture and adhering to the noble cause of science popularization. I humbly pray for its success and affirm my support on behalf of ICOM-Pakistan on museum related collaborations.
What is your message for IMD-2015?
On this International Museum Day, I would like to express my support for the chosen theme of “Museums for a Sustainable Society”, and best wishes to all national and international museum community.