Author: Anwesha Chakraborty, University of Bologna, Italy
Science popularization has gained significant momentum in India as evident in the setting up of more than forty science centres in the last three decades. National Council of Science Museums (NCSM hereafter) which is accountable to the Indian Ministry of Culture for funding purposes, manages this network of museums and centres not only in cities and urban zones, but also in rural areas. The pace at which India is addressing the need of science popularization is, however, not new. The first scientific and technological museum in Kolkata was established in 1959, about a decade after India’s independence (1947), to preserve significant objects of national scientific heritage.
Soon though, state science policies were geared towards promotion of self-sufficiency in fields of science and technology, hence the interest shifted from traditional science museums to science centres whose purpose was promotion of scientific literacy and inclusive scientific education. The NCSM was thus born in 1978 and was provided complete government support. The focus of science communication in India was firmly on science teaching and not science appreciation, resulting in the creation of a number of new centres. Saroj Ghose, the erstwhile director of NCSM and ICOM ascertains, India had already positioned herself at the forefront of the global science centre movement.
The paper, designed as an introduction to science communication in India, seeks to critically examine the role of NCSM with respect to the changing interests of the state in the content of science which was to be popularized and the global transformation of the traditional science museum space to include the hands-on approach of science centres. To support the arguments, the paper will use interviews already carried out with the top management and senior officials, annual reports, budgets and the digital archives of the NCSM and the central government.