In music, the pause button is a symbol of silence – a break before you can either rewind to the past, or fast forward to the future.
The Indian Music Experience museum celebrates the diversity of music in India, and as an extension, diversity and inclusion is something we deeply care about. From its design 10 years ago, which ensured that we were accessible to those with physical disabilities, to even our earliest outreach activities, including tours by specially trained docents for the hearing and visually impaired, as well as those with learning disabilities, we continue to prioritise accessibility. One of our current projects involves developing a museum app, which will allow for even greater interaction with the exhibits, especially for those with special needs. Whilst digital engagement is by no means a new issue, the present situation has forced us to accelerate that thought process as we look to remotely engage with our audiences. As a music museum, we have taken full advantage of the domain we work in to organize online music therapy sessions, songs and storytelling for children, virtual tours, and artist interactions.
While doing so, we are acutely aware that online engagement is a poor second to the magic of people coming together in a physical space. And even when the eventual reopening does happen, experiential and technology-oriented museums such as ours are driven by the experience of touch, which will continue to have restrictions in the months to come. However, my belief in the creative and innovative capabilities of the people who work in this sector makes me optimistic that we will, however gradually, figure this out. Within our digital engagement, it is critical that we keep asking ourselves these questions. How do we include the large audiences outside the reach of digital technology and the internet? How do we ensure all the content we put on the internet is accessible to people with disabilities? Are we ensuring those with access to, but limited comfort with, technology are able to engage with us?
Museums, in many ways, set the benchmark for the rest of society. From architecture and design, to accessibility, to community engagement, we ideally should, and often do, lead the way. Let us work together to show the world that museums and the arts have an increased relevance in a post-COVID world.