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© CSMVS Museum, Mumbai.
© CSMVS Museum, Mumbai.
© CSMVS Museum, Mumbai.

Conservation Thinking in India convenes scholars from India and the United States to explore different approaches to conserving Indian cultural heritage. Topics will include historical practices of conservation and their combination with those of Western and other cultures, the conservation of historic buildings, the complexities of conserving historic cities, archaeological reconstructions at the Taj Mahal and questions of authenticity, the idea of the traditional craftsman in the context of Himalayan Buddhist art conservation, people in South India who conserve monuments to restore them to worship and the tensions this creates with conservation ideas, how ecologists and geologists think about the past differently from historians, and microhistories of conservation across Indian Southeast Asia.

Conservation Thinking in India is the second of two days of symposia to focus on the robust and distinctive conservation traditions of Japan and India. When launching Cultures of Conservation in 2012 BGC hoped to foster a dialogue between the field of conservation and scholars of the human sciences and bridge the gulf generated by institutional divisions and the inevitable self-siloing of successful research agendas. The associated research project, “Conserving Active Matter,” then taught us that the ways in which we conceive of “conservation,” like the ways we think about “matter” and “activity,” reflect the shape of European and then Euro-American institutional and intellectual history. The working group on Indigenous ontologies of matter made us aware that the Euro-American model described but one set of possibilities. A recognition that the conservation worlds of India and Japan operate differently reinforced our discovery of the provincialness of Western conservation thinking, regardless of how globalized it has become. As Cultures of Conservation comes to an end, we launch exploratory probes into these different conservation worlds in the hope of reshaping an understanding of conservation as a human science.

Conservation Thinking in Japan and Conservation Thinking in India are being held in conjunction with the current exhibition, Conserving Active Matter (March 25–July 10). It is the concluding event in Cultures of Conservation, a ten-year initiative largely funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and dedicated to modeling a cross-disciplinary conversation between conservators, conservation scientists, and humanists.

Funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

9 am
Peter N. Miller (Bard Graduate Center)
Welcome and Introduction

9:10 am
Binumol Tom (Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Technology, Government Engineering College, Kottayam, Kerala)
Jiirnnoddharana: The Hindu Philosophy of Conservation”

9:50 am
Navin Piplani (Sushant University, Gurugram, Haryana)
“Resurrection of the Mehtab Bagh: The Moonlit Garden of Taj Mahal, Agra”

10:30 am
Coffee Break

10:50 am
Kulbhushan Jain (CEPT University, Ahmedabad, Emeritus)
“Complexities of Conserving Historic Cities: A Case of Jaisalmer, India”

11:30 am
Kavita Singh (Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi)
“Vernacular Conservation in Rural South India: Where Worship, Secularization, and Science Collide”

12:10 pm
Lunch Break

1:30 pm
Anupam Sah (CSMVS Museum, Mumbai)
“The Art Conservation Arc in India”

2:10 pm
A.G. Krishna Menon (Independent Scholar)
“The Rationale for an Indian Charter to Conserve the Built Heritage”

2:50 pm
Sanjay Dhar (Indira Gandhi National Center for Arts, New Delhi)
“Tradition and Modernity: The Care of Buddhist Material Heritage in the Himalayan Region”

3:30 pm
Coffee Break

3:50 pm
Vinod Daniel (AusHeritage; International Council of Museums)
“Cultural Conservation: A Local Perspective in a Global Context”

4:30 pm
Pratik Chakrabarti (University of Houston)
“Conserving the Past and Conserving Nature: The Dual Perspective from

5:10 pm

5:40 pm

Pratik Chakrabarti is the NEH-Cullen Chair in History & Medicine at the University of Houston in the Department of History. He has contributed widely to the history of science, medicine, and imperial history. He is the author of several monographs including Bacteriology in British India: Laboratory Medicine and the Tropics (2012) and Medicine and Empire 1600– 1960 (2014). His recent monograph is Inscriptions of Nature: Geology and the Naturalization of Antiquity (2020).

Vinod Daniel
is an internationally recognized museum expert. He holds a number of positions including Chairman of the Board for AusHeritage, Board Member of the International Council of Museums, CEO of Daniel Aspac Pty Ltd, and Chief Executive Officer and Managing Trustee of the India Vision Institute. He has been a Board Member of the Australia India Council (1995–2011) and Vice Chairman of the International Council of Museums-Committee for Conservation (2008–2014). He was awarded the Indo-Australian Award for Meritorious Service by the Indo Australian Association in 2009, and the International Council of Museums Australia award for International Relations in 2011. He has worked with the Getty Conservation Institute (1990–95), the Australia Museum (1995–2010), and on other museum-related projects in over 60 countries, published and presented over 70 papers, and has been featured extensively in media articles related to museums.

Sanjay Dhar
was instrumental in establishing the INTACH Art Conservation Center in Delhi as a center for excellence with focus on developing a region-specific approach to conservation of paintings and training. In 1998, he curated Raja Ravi Varma and Amrita Sher‐Gil Restored, bringing to focus conservation issues related to contemporary Indian art and technical art history. He has contributed significantly to the conservation of wall paintings in the Himalayan region. Trained in India and Italy, he has served as a consultant to UNESCO, WMF (World Monument Fund), and several other private foundations in India and abroad. He received his PhD from the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, supported by an AkzoNobel grant. He has a number of research papers to his credit and has also received several international awards and grants for his projects, notably the UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Award of Excellence.

Kulbhushan Jain
, architect-urbanist and conservation consultant studied and worked with Louis Kahn. He taught at CEPT University, Ahmedabad, for more than four decades and held various positions including Director, School of Architecture, and Chairman, Doctoral Program. He has been a visiting professor at MIT, University of British Columbia, and Polemi, Milano. He has worked as a consultant to NID, Ahmedabad; INTACH, New Delhi; and MMT, Jodhpur. Jain has published several books, articles, and conference papers. He has been a member of several juries for national and international design competitions.

A G Krishna Menon
is an architect, urban planner, and conservation consultant practicing in Delhi for over 40 years. In 1990 co-founded the TVB School of Habitat Studies in New Delhi, which in 2007 became the University School of Architecture and Planning of the Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Delhi. He is actively engaged in research and his contributions have been extensively published in professional journals and several academic books. He has also been actively involved in urban conservation and in 2004 drafted the INTACH Charter for the Conservation of Unprotected Architectural Heritage and Sites in India. In the past he has been associated with the formulation of The Delhi Master Plan–2021, The National Capital Region Master Plan–2021, and continues to be a Member of several statutory Committees set up by the Government to manage the city.

Navin Piplani
is currently the Director, Creative Cluster at the Sushant University, India. He is responsible for a creative outreach of the School of Art and Architecture, the School of Planning and Development, and the School of Design at the University. He is a former Hamlyn-Feilden Fellow and Director of Studies, Centre for Conservation Studies, the University of York (UK). He runs an architecture conservation practice based out of New Delhi (India), and has worked as a core member of the multi-disciplinary team for the Conservation of Taj Mahal. He is a President of the national committee of ICOMOS in India and a Vice President of ICOMOS International Education and Training Committee. He is the Founding Principal Director of INTACH Heritage Academy, and co-authored the INTACH Charter for the Conservation of Unprotected Architectural Heritage and Sites in India, which was adopted in 2004.

Anupam Sah
is an art conservation-restoration practitioner, strategist, and educator trained in India, Italy, and the United Kingdom. He is head of art conservation, research, and training at CSMVS Museum, Mumbai. He is a member of various boards of studies of universities as well as an academic consultant to the Tata Trusts Art Conservation Initiative, where capacity building is one of his main responsibilities. Conferred with the Sanskriti Award for Social and Cultural Achievement and commendations by the Unesco Asia-Pacific office, he has also been decorated as a Cavaliere dell’Ordine della Stella d’Italia for excellence in art conservation. His roots and home are in the Kumaoun Himalaya where he founded the Himalayan Society for Heritage and Art Conservation, and Anupam Heritage Lab.

Kavita Singh
is a Professor at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, where she teaches courses on the history of Indian painting and the history and politics of museums. She has published on issues of colonial history, repatriation, secularism and religiosity, fraught national identities, and the memorialization of difficult histories as they relate to museums in South Asia and beyond. Her books include the edited and co-edited volumes New Insights into Sikh Art (Marg, 2003), Influx: Contemporary Art in Asia (Sage, 2013), No Touching, No Spitting, No Praying: The Museum in South Asia (Routledge, 2014) and Nauras: The Many Arts of the Deccan (National Museum, 2015). She has curated exhibitions at the San Diego Museum of Art, the Devi Art Foundation, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and the National Museum of India.

Binumol Tom
is a Conservation Architect with more than 22 years of experience and has been teaching architecture in various government engineering colleges in the state. She is the author of Traditional Conservation Practices of Timber Architecture: A Case Study of Thai kottaram, Travancore (INTACH UK Trust, 2007) and Glimpses of Heritage: The City of Thiruvananthapuram (IIA Trivandrum Centre, 2011). She has also authored chapters including “Jiirnnoddharana, the Hindu Philosophy of Conservation,” in Asian Heritage Management: Contexts, Concerns, and Prospects (Routledge, USA, 2013), “Paitrika Nirmithikal,” in Kerala Samskaara Padanangal (DC books Kottayam, November 2013), and “Hinduism and Tourism,” in Tourism and Religion edited by Richard Butler and Wantanee Suntikul (Channel View Publications, Bristol UK, 2018).

Attendance Details

In Person
We have opened registration for a limited in-person audience. Bard Graduate Center requires proof of vaccination and photo identification to enter the building. Guests are required to wear masks regardless of vaccination status.

This talk will also be available on Zoom. A link will be circulated to registrants a day in advance of the event. This event will be live with automatic captions.