The Von Hügel Lecture – Professor Deborah Swallow

5.00 – 6.00pm Monday 20 May 2013
Mill Lane Lecture Theatre
6.15 – 7.15pm
Drinks reception, MAA

Professor Deborah Swallow

Professor Deborah Swallow:
From Mumbai to Mehrangarh – India’s evolving museum environment


Deborah Swallow came to The Courtauld as its Director in 2004 after working first at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (1974-83) and then at the Victoria and Albert Museum where she was Keeper of the Asian Department and Director of Collections. After taking a first degree in English literature, a year teaching in India gave her a deep interest in the arts, culture and religion of the Subcontinent, initially explored through the discipline of social anthropology (the discipline of her PhD) and subsequently as a curator within the context of an art museum. She continues to work on issues relating to the arts and cultural heritage in contemporary India.


The role of museums in India has been the focus of much debate within India in recent years, albeit within an admittedly restricted intellectual circuit. This debate is also now part of international discussion about the nature and purpose of “ the Museum”. In his recent book, Museum Matters (2011) for example, James Cuno reviews the principles of the encyclopaedic museum and in his epilogue on India argues that the imperial museum enterprise failed to embrace this concept. As a result Indian museums typically defined India and its culture in narrow, politically determined terms. With the western world’s greater focus on India as a major economic power, soft diplomacy has also become prominent in its international relations. Cultural figures accompany political leaders on the visits to the subcontinent, a plethora of MOUs are signed and a range of projects undertaken. This lecture will explore some of the facets of this newly emerging energy, the ongoing debate about the purposes of the museum in India and the range of new projects that are underway.


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