The New Museum

Introduction

Now a new Museum, with 9,000 square feet of exhibition space, is being created, due to open in 2019. This new Tibet Museum in Gangchen Kyishong, the seat of Central Tibetan Administration, will depict Tibet in a historic, political and international context, showcasing its unique culture and contemporary developments.

It involves a core Tibetan team complemented by the expertise of curators and consultants from several international capitals. The new Tibet Museum will present state of the art exhibitions focusing on Tibet’s history and the Tibetan freedom struggle, providing spaces for reflection and interactive experience as well as creative and artistic exchange.

The new museum will offer new education programs to suit people of all ages and from around the world. Through its exhibitions and programs, the new museum will seek to engage a global community about the history, culture and present situation of Tibet and its diaspora, while inspiring appreciation for the Tibet struggle and the issues currently facing people in Tibet.

Issues of human rights, democracy, the environment, demographic shifts and cultural preservation will be addressed, along with the teachings and legacy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and other topics. The new Tibet Museum intends to be an authentic showcase for Tibetan history, culture and the political struggle— it will be an institution that will educate, increase awareness and convey the Tibetan story to young Tibetans and others, enabling visitors from across the world to better understand a great civilization.

Needs Assessment

The current Tibet Museum is not large enough to present in one space Tibet’s history, culture and current situation inside Tibet, and the resilience of Tibetans in exile and at home. A larger museum is needed to accommodate more in-depth explorations of Tibetan culture, to address key issues related to contemporary Tibet and to provide educational opportunities.

The Tibet Museum’s visitors include not only Tibetans, but also political and religious delegates, international tourists, the increasing number of Indian tourists and scholars visiting Dharamshala, and students.

As the Museum is situated within India, there will be a particular focus on the strong interconnection between India and Tibet’s Buddhist heritage, and the significance of Tibet to both India and China’s futures.

There is a need to educate and inspire the international community on Tibet’s rich past and why this ancient civilization and culture needs to be protected.

Furthermore, as decades have passed since the first exiles left Tibet, there are now many Tibetans who have spent their entire lives outside Tibet. The Tibet

Museum seeks to offer them a connection to Tibet with its rich culture and traditions. This means greatly expanding not only the museum’s exhibitions, but also its educational and outreach programs, which are impossible to carry out in the current space.

The Dalai Lama visiting an exhibtion

Goals and objectives

  • To create a venue for the celebration of Tibet and Tibetan life that engages visitors, inspires dialogue and functions as an educational gathering place for the broader community of Tibetans and visitors alike.
  • To provide carefully curated permanent, temporary and online exhibitions, including educational information and artifacts, on various topics pertaining to Tibet’s history, arts and culture, the environment, current political situations and life in exile.
  • To provide a holistic and balanced understanding of Tibet and its people to current and future audiences.
  • To showcase both traditional and contemporary Tibetan art and culture.
  • To launch a parallel and complementary effort to solicit from within and outside the Tibetan community the donation and loan of artifacts that have artistic, ethnographic and historical value in order to expand and illustrate the exhibition narratives.
  • To build an archive where important documents, images and artifacts can be safely stored and easily accessed within accepted museum standards.
  • To manage and develop the new museum in a professional manner with staff trained in museology and cultural heritage.
  • To design a year-round calendar of exhibitions and special presentations within a three to five-year planning calendar developed in collaboration with other museums, members of the Tibetan community, Tibet supporters and academics.
  • To create a professionally recognized institution that follows accepted international museum standards and practices.
  • To establish educational programs for school-aged children and adults.
  • To expand the use of technology to reach and inform visitors, including online and virtual attendees.
  • To set up the museum as a separate legally registered nonprofit in India, though still affiliated with the CTA.
  • To join international museum associations including the International Committee on Museums (ICOM), the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience and build institutional partnerships with leading international museums.
  • To collaborate with other non-profit organizations and artists in the region on educational programs, exhibitions, and marketing and communications to attract visitors and share resources where appropriate.
  • To create a network of museums that are managed and administered by Tibetans and those with Tibet-related collections.
  • To convene a regular conference on Tibetan arts, museums and exhibitions.

Overall Outcomes

  • Foster a global community aware and informed about the status of Tibet, its freedom struggle and the various movements.
  • Move toward the creation of an environment of goodness and kinship and the propagation of valued principles at the core of Buddhist philosophy, spirituality and oneness.
  • Garner support and patronage for the Tibetan Freedom Movement.
  • Provide an exemplary and unprecedented museology establishment for exiled and refugee communities and their culture, traditions and struggles.
  • Stimulate a greater commitment to the Tibet issue by expanding the support base and friends of the cause.
Visitors at Tibet Museum

Exhibition Content

The Tibet Museum has the opportunity now to expand, dramatically reorganize and reconceptualize the content of the exhibitions. The new and larger space will allow for introducing more themes, such as artistic and cultural traditions and contemporary expressions as well as issues such as the environment and socio-economic and political challenges. The expanded content will allow for closer inspection of existing themes including escape, life in exile, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

The Tibet Museum will emphasize the fact that the story is ongoing by utilizing flexible exhibition spaces and content to allow for expansion and modification over time. The exhibitions will not be treated as separate installations, but rather a flow will be created to allow visitors to view the materials seamlessly as one large exhibition with interrelated topics.

The goal of the new and revised exhibitions is to leave the viewer with a deeper and more holistic understanding of Tibet and Tibetan life by weaving together narratives and themes exploring the past, contemporary life and visions for the future.

Exhibition themes

Expanded and New Exhibition

With almost four times as much space as the existing museum, the new museum will expand on eleven themes through its permanent exhibition programs, highlighting the following:

1. Tibet: An Introduction

  • Tibetan Life Before Chinese Occupation—including photographs, documents and physical objects such as Tibetan traditional dress, objects of home life, the Tibetan national flag, examples of political and religious life etc.

Experiential outcome: Gain an insight into the magnanimity of Tibet and the Tibetan people.

2. Tibetan History and Culture before the Chinese Invasion

  • Tibetan History—from the first king to the Chinese invasion in 1949, including photographs, artistic renderings and digital imagery etc.
  • Arts and Culture over the Centuries—document the cultural traditions and religious art of historical Tibet, including literature, music, dance, painting and architecture.

Experiential outcome: Experience the illustrious history of Tibet and the Tibetan way of life.

3. Occupation of Tibet

  • Consequences of Chinese Occupation—through the use of photographs, documents and digital imaginary examine the repercussions of the Great Leap Forward, democratic reform, the Cultural Revolution, the destruction of monasteries, Sinicization, population transfer, 1.2 million deaths etc.

Experiential outcome: Render the impact of China’s occupation of Tibet and the aftermath of its imperialist designs.

4. Contemporary Tibet

  • An understanding of Tibet’s contemporary situation and its drivers in a political, international and historic context, grounded in the context of China’s international reach.
  • To convey a sense of the deep threat of the evisceration of Tibetan religion and culture.
  • Through stories of political prisoners, to arouse deep empathy and to inspire a sense of the need for change and justice.

Experiential outcome: Render the impact of Chinese government repressive policies against Tibetans.

5. Memorial Space for 1.2 Million Tibetans

  • Commemoration—possibly in the form of a contemporary art installation, commemorate the 1.2 million Tibetans who have lost their lives as a direct result of Chinese occupation.

Experiential outcome: Etch in visitor’s memory the sacrifice of Tibetan lives.

6. Resistance and Resilience

  • Resistance and Resilience—address the 1959 uprising, the Nyemo revolt, the 1987, 1988, 1989 and 2008 uprisings in Tibet, the animal fur burning movement, the Lhakar movement, the No Losar movement, the language rights movement and self-immolation in Tibet.

Experiential outcome: Depict the Tibetan resistance to repression and resilience in face of efforts to obliterate Tibetan cultural identity.

7. The Environment

  • Environmental Issues and Concerns (historical and current)—address environmental protection before 1959, environmental changes since 1959 due to deforestation, mining, climate change, glacial melting, etc., Tibet as Earth’s third pole and water tower of Asia, current impacts on downstream countries (south and east Asia).

Experiential outcome: Tibet as the giver—Asia’s rainmaker and water tower. Provider of fresh water and food security for over a billion lives in 11 downstream nations. If Tibet dries, Asia dies.

8. Escape

  • Escape—documentation of the difficult journey undertaken by Tibetans while crossing Tibet toward a better life and education in exile, using testimonies, maps and personal narratives. Experiential outcome: Showcase stories of courage in the face of adversity—the rugged Tibetan spirit that braved the rough terrain.

9. Exile

  • Exile—creation of the Central Tibetan Administration and exploration of the contemporary life of Tibetans in exile, including home life, family, education, locations of Tibetans in exile, etc. Experiential outcome: Experience life in exile—the diaspora where change is the only constant in life and reconciliation is a recurring pattern.

10. His Holiness the Dalai Lama

  • Life and Messages—including objects from his life from pre-occupation to the present day.
  • International Influence and Impact—including his role in world events and his teachings today. Experiential outcome: Render the benevolence and greatness of His Holiness, who is not an individual per se, but an idea, and a phenomenon that is both eternal and immortal.

11. Hope and Success:

  • The value of Tibetan culture to the world. The influence of HHDL and Tibetan Buddhism. The resilience of Tibetan people. A new generation of Tibetans re-defining and re-imagining what it is to be Tibetan.
  • This section aims to inspire, move people and educate. It should reveal the vibrancy of a living culture and seal the success story of Tibetan people and the freedom struggle based on non-violence and reconciliation.

Experiential outcome: Stirring of the emotions and channeling them into action and engagement on Tibet. Expand the network and horizons, and garner more allies and partners for the future.

Yumbulagang Palace in Yarlung Valley

Special Temporary Exhibitions

The new Tibet Museum will feature a dedicated and permanent space for temporary exhibitions, ensuring a dynamic exhibition schedule that has the capacity to engage timely issues and attract repeat visitors. The temporary exhibition space will enable the Tibet Museum to present a wider range of topics and go into greater depth than would otherwise be possible. The enhanced climate control and security system will ensure the possibility of receiving original objects loaned from other museums, private collections, and contemporary artists. This space will also provide an opportunity for enriched and more frequent community engagement.

Exhibitions might include:

  • The work of contemporary Tibetan and non-Tibetan artists
  • Museum exhibitions loaned from international collections and museums
  • Thematic exhibitions exploring contemporary issues
  • Exhibitions in partnership with other Tibetan arts, cultural and historical organizations
  • Other thematic exhibitions from the Tibet Museum collection

Auditorium and other spaces

Auditorium
  • Documentary film screenings
  • Tibet awareness talk series Digital Room/Reflection Room
  • Oral history kiosks
  • Quiet room to reflect and absorb the museum experience
  • Library/testimony/family educational activity area Other Space Includes:
  • Main entry lobby with welcome desk for guest services and information
  • Gift shop/bookstore
  • Lavatory (one)

Education / Programs

New education programs tailored to preschool, schoolaged and university students, as well as the general public and families, will be developed and integrated into the redesigned exhibitions and space. By targeting specific audiences, programs will maximize the benefits of engagement and education in the Tibet Museum.

A Museum Educator position will be created in the future to develop, manage and promote educational programs when resources allow.

Existing Programs

  • Documentary film screenings
  • Tibet awareness talk series New Programs Could Include
  • Regularly scheduled visits from schools
  • Family art projects
  • Internship program for international university students
  • Docent program
  • Guided tour of all Tibetan museums in Dharamshala
  • Recorded testimonies accessible in library/family
  • educational activity area
  • Recording of visitor testimonies
  • Expansion of documentaries and Tibet awareness talk series
  • Archives and secured storage space for expanding archival material and ongoing collections of objects (not open to the public but accessible to scholars)
  • Solicitation of photographs, artifacts and object from individual donors

Storage

Collections are the locus of a museum’s mission and drive the museum’s programs, including exhibitions. Currently the Tibet Museum permanent collection consists of forty thousand photographs (some original, some reproduced and some in negatives and slides), torture implements, Tibetan currencies, coins and stamps, some independent Tibet army attire and other miscellaneous items.

Additional objects such as works of Tibetan contemporary art are needed to augment and enhance the exhibitions and programs and to engage audiences in new ways. These objects will require proper storage and inventory management. A collections management inventory system is also necessary to track objects in the database—popular museum databases will be evaluated to determine which answer the needs of the Tibet Museum. The collections database will require a dedicated computer/server to house the data as well as a backup that is stored offsite.

Minimum Storage Criteria

  • Be located separately from all other activity (including exhibitions, preparation, and general administrative functions)
  • Be kept at the same optimal temperature/humidity/ environmental standards as exhibition areas
  • Be secure with limited staff access and alarm system if possible
  • Allow for objects to be easily accessible
  • Consider earthquake damage prevention systems
  • Include an integrated pest management system

Naming Opportunities

Naming Opportunities for New Spaces The creation of new dedicated spaces in the museum generates the opportunity for named spaces through targeted donations. Naming opportunities will exist for (but not limited to) the following spaces with donation between USD 15,000/- to USD 1,00,000/- (INR 10,00,000/- INR 65,00,000/-) -:

  • Auditorium for movie screenings and lectures
  • Temporary exhibition gallery
  • Library/testimony/educational activity area/ Reflection room
  • Main entry lobby
  • History of Tibet till 1949
  • Occupation of Tibet
  • Contemporary Tibet
  • Torture room
  • Resistance and Resilience
  • The environment
  • Escape
  • Exile
  • Hope and Success
  • Archive storage room
  • Educational program development
  • Souvenir production
  • Catalog and book publications
  • Donor plate
  • 1.2 Million Tibetans Memorial
  • Tibet Introduction

Credits

Project Leadership

Dr. Lobsang Sangay, President, Central Tibetan Administration
Dhardon Sharling, Secretary, Department of Information and International Relations
Kaydor Aukatsang, Chief Resilience Officer, Central Tibetan Administration
Tashi Phuntsok, Director, The Tibet Museum, Department of Information and International Relations and Coordinator of the project

Consultants

Deborah Frieden, Deborah Frieden & Associates, California, US
Nicole M. Crawford, Curator, UW Art Museum; Associate Lecturer, Museum Studies, Wyoming, US
Dr. Isadora Helfgott, PhD, Associate Professor, History & Museum Studies; Curator of Academic Engagement, UW Art Museum, Wyoming, US

Curator

Dr. Emma Martin, Curator of Liverpool Museums and Professor at Manchester University, UK

Graphic Designer

Markus Strümpel, Berlin, Germany
Alexandra Grandjacques, Berlin, Germany

App and Sound walk Director

Jacques Lemordant

Interior Designer

Sonal Kulushetra, Mumbai, India

Content Developers

Tibet Introduction: Tsewang Topla
Tibet’s History: Tsewang Topla
Occupation: Tashi Phuntsok, Sonam Dorjee, Lobsang Yonten, Kunga Tashi
Contemporary Tibet & Torture: Kate Saunders, Ganden Tashi
Resistance & Resilience: Kate Saunders, Ganden Tashi
Environment: Dhardon Sharling, Tempa Gyaltsen
Escape: Tashi Phuntsok Barling
Exile: Topgyal, Tenzin Topdhen
H.H. the Dalai Lama: Kaydor Aukatsang, Tenzin Dechen, Kunga Sara
Hope and Success: Dhardon Sharling & Kate Saunders

Partners

USAID, US
National Endowment for Democracy, US
University of Wyoming, US
Liverpool Museums, UK
University of Manchester, UK

Potential Partners

Meridian Trust, US
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, US
The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, US
Library of Tibetan Work and Archives, Dharamshala
Pitts River Museum, Oxford University, London, UK
Rubin Museum of Art, NY, US
Newark Museum, New Jersey, US
Jacque Marqias Museum of Tibetan Art, Staten Island, US

Prospective Artifact and Object Donors/Lenders

Office of His Holiness the Dalai LamaCTA Departments
Monasteries in India, Nepal and Bhutan
High Tibetan lamas
Tibet cultural centers including Tibet House
Dromo Labrang Museum in Kalimpong
Tibetan settlements and institutes in India, Nepal and Bhutan
Tibetan Reception Centers in Dharamshala and Nepal
Tibet House, New Delhi
Private collectors