Thomas P Campbell has been in charge of the world-renowned Metropolitan Museum of Art since 2009. Among the most prestigious international art institutions worldwide, it houses close to two million exquisite pieces and works of art, spanning over nearly 5,000 years of global culture and heritage. The art expert was on his debut visit to the country. In an elaborate interview with Madhavi Rajadhyaksha of TOI, he spoke about the relevance and importance of museums in backdrop of the technological advances and his engagement with India:
- Technology is one of the most exciting things to have happened to museums today. However, one has to be careful about where one uses it. For instance, the internet provides an incredible opportunity for us to reach audiences around the world and further our educational mission. The Metropolitan Museum has all of the collections online, apart from the scholarly publications and catalogs since 1965.
- Where you’ve to be careful is introducing technology in the galleries because you want people looking at the objects, not the video screens. You want people to be in heads-up, not heads-down mode. I think the notion that museums are under threat because of technology is a total red herring. On the contrary, we live in an age of 24x7 newsreels, ins-tant information from around the world.
- Museums are all the more important as places that can help explain the context of current affairs. They provide places of relaxation and inspiration. Most importantly, they’re a place of authenticity. We live in a world of reproductions — the objects in museums are real - a way to get away from the overload of digital technology.
- We’ve just signed an MoU with the Indian ministry of culture that will hopefully be the umbrella under which we work on a number of projects with India. One of the first initiatives involves bringing conservators from Indian museums to the Metropolitan to train and work on areas of mutual study. We've had exhibitions involving Indian art like 'Wonders of The Age' showing Indian manuscript paintings. We did up the new Islamic galleries that have plenty of Indian art.