On World Heritage Day, let us take a look at one man’s effort to preserve Goan heritage through innovation and perseverance. Victor Hugo Gomes has recently begun working on miniature replicas of his collection at the museum to preserve heritage for a little longer. He shares his vision with NT BUZZ
SACHI NAIK | NT BUZZ
The world has seen a lot of miniatures made of plastic. However, museologist Victor Hugo Gomes is the first to have a vision to preserve Goa’s heritage in the form of miniatures that are made using the original and natural materials that made the actual object. The challenging nature of the preservation of heritage from over a hundred years comes to fore only when one looks at the fine details of these miniatures.
The Goa Chitra Museum, Benaulim is the fruit of labour spanning over 30 years and Victor, who prefers to be known as the caretaker of the museum – has been toiling to prolong the lifespan of the artefacts in the museum. It is an undeniable fact that natural materials are bound to die and disintegrate. “Hundred to two hundred years from now, the objects that I have collected in my museum will vanish to bits. Hence, I am making miniature replicas using the original materials so that it lasts at least for two centuries more in Goan houses.”
The miniatures are scaled down to the proportion of 1:10. When they are multiplied ten times the size, they can be reconstructed in their original size. “200 years from now if anyone finds these replicas, they will be able to reconstruct the object using the actual materials that are used. That is the reason I focus on the fine details of every object,” he says.
The miniature replicas are made using the same technology, same materials and the same artisans so that it stays most relevant and authentic. “When we are providing a narrative to any forgotten object we are instilling our point of view. But I am making the replicas of these objects when a very few makers and users of the object are alive, hence the object that I will pass on to the future generation will have unadulterated information, because it is made in the era when the object is relevant to the present.”
Victor, working closely with an artisan, is focusing only on Goan heritage with the aim of replicating the entire collection at the Goa Chitra Museum, albeit in miniatures. The prototypes miniature of agricultural and irrigation tools are ready, however with a few more replicas including the kitchen tools are still in the making. He will launch the first hundred prototypes on June 27, 2018. “It is difficult to find artisans in an era when these tools are not usually made or used. I have to make at least ten prototypes, to get one right,” says Victor adding that teak wood, although expensive lasts longer thus is apt for making the miniature replicas. It will take at least three years to complete the prototypes of miniatures of the entire collection at Goa Chitra Museum.
Various museums across the world sell miniatures that are generally using a 3D printer. When you make a miniature using a foreign material, it doesn’t possess the authenticity and loses out on its original essence. Goa Chitra Museum is probably the first in the world that will have miniature replicas in the original material.
As a child, Victor was introduced to kitchen utensils, fruits and vegetables through wooden toys and says that the miniature replicas can be used as toys to introduce children to culture. Sets of agricultural tools, kitchen tools, pottery, weaving and Goan craft will be made and sold with a book that will provide description to every object in the set.
Victor says: “I finished the first part of my journey that is collecting, documenting, restoring, displaying and introducing it to the general public. I managed to open up a private collection to the world so that they can appreciate our culture and heritage. Many projects have died with the person; I don’t want this heritage to die. In order for it to stay alive I’m institutionalising the project.” Victor wants to set up mini museums with the miniature replicas of Goa Chitra Museum collection in every school so that the students know more about Goan heritage.
Goa Chitra Museum has tied up with some of the world’s top universities, including University of Milan, Italy; University of Bologna, Italy; Carleton University, USA. The students from these universities visit the museum to study under Victor for an entire semester. He further plans to start courses on conservation and anthropology for students in Goa at the museum.
Victor says that it is only in India that one has to apply for grants that are supposed to be a gift and recognition. “When I was in Europe, I saw over 40 museums. None of them face financial problems, because there is something called citizen’s fund there. People collect the funds towards the heritage and culture and in return get tax benefits. Secondly, they do not have a problem of footfalls as the museum is a part of the educational curriculum, where every school and college compulsorily involves museum education.”
Victor says that although the West is struggling to write narratives and stories of the objects they have preserved, India is destroying the stories of the objects that are already known by not preserving them. “Every time an object disappears, a part of the history is gone. That is why we need to take pride and record and preserve our culture. That is exactly what I am doing, recording the history to enrich the future.”
Victor concludes the conversation saying that India needs to change its mindset: “Perhaps I own the collection at Goa Chitra Museum, but it belongs to people. This heritage represents Goa. Goans should come forward to support and take their culture and heritage to a different level. I am not looking at the easy money that corporate or government will give me. However, all of us are responsible towards the upkeep of this heritage. If it disappears, our grandchildren will suffer!”