Voices from India: The Challenges Science Museums Face

Here’s my second post from Kolkata, India, featuring the observations of National Council of Science Museums students–some staff and some Fellows–on the challenges of science museums in India today.  Notice that many of the challenges are faced by science museums everywhere.

Back row, L to R: Anuj and Bikash; Front row, L to R: Neelu, Dipa, Dinesh, and Kailash 

Kailash Chandra is Education Officer at the National Science Center in New Delhi

India is a huge country in terms of area and has a population of 1.3 billion which is 17% of the world population. Indian science museums have a mandate to incorporate the India Science Policy laid by the Government of India. The main features of the policy are to portray the growth of science and technology, collect, restore and preserve important historical objects, popularize science and technology in cities, urban and rural areas and develop scientific temper in the country. Hence in the vast country around 90 science museums are working hard to design their activities and programmes as per the India Science Policy.

In this context I think these following are the challenges which Indian Science Museums need to address.

Reach to Millions: There are 33 states to which around 90 science museums offer their services which appears to be a daunting task. In the view of latest advancement in the technological applications, especially with internet penetration in the country, science centres may use social media e.g. Facebook, Twitter, web-presence etc. to reach millions at low cost. Vernacular modes of presentation such as folklore, science drama etc may be used to reach people in the rural area, even without making  formal science museum buildings.

In the urban areas the use of hi-tech may cater to the growing demands of varied visitors, replacing the traditional Linear & Central display with Multi-layered, Participatory, Interactive, Hands-on, Minds-on exhibits. Science museum and public relations have a unique relationship with the mass-media too. So mutual understanding between museum and mass-media is essential.

Science Museums-Transformations and Relevance to the Society: In the 21st century, science centres  need to strategize for their short and long-term future so as they meet the social challenges such as health awareness, female-fueticide, cancer, nuclear energy, biotechnology etc. Science museums will have to engage the society and make them aware. It will result in saving millions of rupees of the Government of India (as it is better to care than cure). Science museums thus, across the country need to transform themselves at the same time be relevant, to cater to the needs of present generation of the society.

Museums and Digital Domain –Science museums need to use Augmented Reality, Immersive Visualisation techniques, Animatronics, Virtual reality, Holography, to attract visitors and serve individual needs. These all steps are directed towards Digitization, Digital Access and Digital Heritage Management.

Museums and Human Resource Development: A science museum’s ability to fulfill its purpose depends to a large degree on the professionalism and capabilities of its staff.  This way science museums will be better able to meet their mandate and carry out their activities by recruiting qualified staff and providing ongoing training opportunities to the motivated people working for them.


Anuj Dandona is an MS Fellow at the National Science Centre in New Delhi

In the Modern era of Science Popularization, it is usually acknowledged that quality study of science education plays a critical role in building a dynamic workforce  with the tools to learn, evaluate, evolve and embrace the future progress of the nation. Science Museums/Centres of India are yet prone to several challenges that lie before them in order to achieve  the expected acquisition of scientific temper. There are a lot of responses to these problems, and they all count. But, together they are not enough.

  • Informal Education is yet not fully defined, promoted and rooted in the heart of Indian arenas of Urban and Rural population. Informal Science Media is being propagated through various other means of Television and Internet. Yet the Science Museums are on  the back burner  in achieving their role and becoming the emblems of Informal Education.
  • Though Indian Science Museums/Centres are playing their role efficiently in propagating Scientific knowledge to people , yet somehow their importance ceases to impact their Branding as one of the biggest places of replenishing the quest of Science against other sources of getting knowledge. The desire for more edutainment overshadows Science Centres.
  • The quest for the desired scientific knowledge base for the Indian public cannot be achieved without the contribution of enthusiastic staff and colleagues pouring their skills into the exhaustive work. And Science Museums/Centres are unable to get the required response from the undergraduate and postgraduate level career seekers. The ones who are comfortable with Science Concepts are unable to communicate them to local environments.
  • Science Museums/Centres of India have still to find their ways through the modern Marketing, Branding and Popularising  of Science as well as fully utilize the tools of  the digital era such as Social Networking and Internet awareness.

Understanding the challenges to the core and taking initiative steps in the right direction will prompt us only to raise the critical role of National Science Museums/Centres and will help them in reaching their goals and objectives.


Dipa Mahato is an MS Fellow at the National Science Centre in New Delhi.

In context of India the main challenge of the science center is to popularize science among the general public. Science centers are moving forward in this field.  But sometimes they divert from their original goal because they rush towards how many visitors they have, and fail to observe that visitors do not learn anything from the museum.

In crowded conditions some visitors are not able to interact with the exhibits; some visit the museum in very few minutes because they are afraid of  the crowds. It also happens that some visitors cannot access the exhibits because most of them are out of order due to so much usage. There is no proper crowd control or crowd handling system in  many science centers. If you can see the statistics of Delhi science center, some days the number of visitors reaches nearly 16,000. Of these 15,000 visitors visit the centre during three hours, between 10am and 1pm.

The Delhi Science Center has 600-700 exhibits in all 7 galleries. If a visitor walks straight through all the galleries with the intention of  just reaching the exit point, not visiting the exhibits, it takes at least 30 minutes. So you can imagine with 15,000 visitors during three hours, how many people gather in at one time. How can visitors learn anything in that great a crowd? To overcome these challenges, science centers should not only pay attention to quantity but also quality.

Dinesh Kumar is an MS Fellow at the National Science Centre in New Delhi


In context of Indian science museums the biggest challenge is competition with amusement parks, shopping malls, and so on. Visitors like to go to the amusement park to spend their leisure time.

Even though ticket price of amusement park is higher than the museums, they prefer park to museums . They spend their holidays in amusement parks and enjoy with their family.

Change in Technology:

Indian Science museums are behind when the implications of technology are considered. Today people are technologically advanced, they don’t want to go museums to learn science and old Technology. In science museums some of the exhibits are outdated and they need to be upgraded. Why do visitors visit science centres if they can understand science method, principles  on youtube, websites  etc.

Lack of Knowledge of Science museums

Visitors have some  misconceptions  that science museums or science centres are only for those who study science.  Due to lack of education in India some people don’t know about the mission and vision of science centres. They  consider the  museum as a tourist place and they are unaware of science . Hence it is a big challenge for museums  to remove such misconceptions.


Science Centres in India are not getting adequate funds; the main source of income is the revenue generated from the visitors. As a result it is not possible for the science centres to incorporate new and advanced technology. So people are not getting that much of interest to visit science museums.

Lack of Technically  advanced  staff:

The number of staff like trainees, technical staff and so on are not at all sufficient across all the museums in India, and it is one of the major challenges today’s science museums.


Bikash Jyoti Pathak is an MS Fellow at the Regional Science Centre in Guwahati Assam

Museums are considered as institutions for non formal learning. In the goal of spreading science across the globe museums face some challenges. New technologies are coming day by day, such as smart phones, video cameras, digital cam etc. Sometimes these technologies become a challenge for museums. No doubt these are also used for museum purposes but often visitors use these cameras for taking photographs of the exhibit rather than reading the labels and understanding the basics of the exhibit.. Thus I found it one of the challenges for the museum’s vision and mission. In the meanwhile I can point out another most important challenge for the museum is the Shopping Malls and other amusement parks. Malls are likely to be most popular destination for passing time. People prefer an A.C controlled room.  Again the closing time of the museum is also worth mentioning. As most people remain busy in day time doing their work they don’t get time to visit the museum. They get a little time to spend in the evening but at the same time our museum also closes. So we are unable to get that visitor. There is no fund for advertisement so we lose some of the tourists.  Ticket prices are not that big an issue but when people enter the museum and they don’t get the value of their money it appears that we are unable to meet their needs. Thus we don’t get them back again for few years.

Neelu Rajani is Technical Officer at the National Science Centre in New Delhi

The National Council of Science Museums (NCSM) is the largest network of science centres and museums in the world. It manages 25 science museums/centres spread across the country. It has developed 23 Science Centres which have been handed over to different States and Union Territories of India. Science Centres provide an experiment based learning environment to inculcate a spirit of inquiry, foster creative talent, and create scientific temper in the community.  It is characterized by its two-way channel of communication – interactive exhibits and fully participatory demonstrations and training programmes which help children and adults alike to learn the basics of science through fun and enjoyment. Museums act as bridges between fast moving and slow moving people in this fast changing society. Museums are ideal places for safeguarding tangible and intangible heritage through reanimating or bringing to life their historical collections by making connections and facilitating experiential learning. In the educational programming such contextual valorisations of collections create a space for meaningful intergenerational dialogue and transmission.

Museums in India have experienced mission shift from exclusive to inclusive, internal to external (visitor’s voices have been added). The traditional static approach is now being replaced by attractive architecture, inviting displays, visitor’ friendly communication tools and visitor centric planning. Use of modern technology,engaging activities, special and attractive design of spaces to provide fun filled and immersive learning experiences for all, effective interpretation etc. are transforming museums all over the world . Need for transformation is also posing challenges to museums both in terms of technology & resources. About 70% of population in India is settled in rural areas and only 30% are settled in Urban areas. Negative attitude/ hesitation towards the use of modern technology, rigid systems, poor policies or legislation, other priorities in life, lack of trained individuals, poor transportation facilities, conservative approach of people, illiteracy in rural and remote  areas, poverty, lack of resources, diversity of cultures, diversity of local needs are few challenges being observed by the science museums in India which have to be kept in mind while moving ahead towards 21st century.

Despite all the challenges mentioned above NCSM is moving ahead towards its mission of ‘Taking science to people and making people for science.



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