Tejshvi Jain, the Founding Director of ReReeti looks back on the year that just passed by and shares her reflections journey of the ambitious project White Pepper Black Pepper – India in the WW1 undertaken in 2018.
Our blog celebrated its 4th year in December 2018. It seems ideal then, to share our reflections on the year gone by. I would like to thank our readers for showing continued interest. A big thank you to all our readers from across the globe. I would also like to thank the museums, schools, partner organizations, children and families who have availed and enjoyed our services.
2018 has been a fabulous year. We started a huge project called White Pepper Black Pepper – India in the WW1. As part of this one-year project, we launched a mobile app-based heritage hunt game that explores Bangalore city’s connection to the Great War. We had a great student engagement programme in our partner schools. Our travelling exhibition Entrenched (currently touring different schools in Bangalore) was extremely well received by the students and adults alike. Hear what the visitors had to say about the exhibition.
Our work was also internationally recognized and featured in a book New Age Practices in Museums in Asia. It’s very gratifying to finally see one’s work appreciated and acknowledged for the impact it creates. Our work, as a platform connecting museum professionals to share, learn and network, has inspired many students to study us and in turn study the museum sector in India. Inquiries from final year graduate students come in almost every two weeks. And our work with museums to increase their visitor engagement has also seen results after a patient investment in the community. Our Volunteer programme at the Indian Music Experience is one such example. We will be expanding our services to heritage sites in 2019.
We also passed the 3-year survival test for a start-up. The journey so far has been quite a roller coaster. Being the Founding Director of a Not-for-profit in the museum sector in India with no capital or funding and a woman (balancing work and a joint family) has been quite challenging. There were times when I was surrounded by self-doubt, fear and feeling of inadequacy. However, this long and difficult journey has been very rewarding. From being wary of online financial transactions to being confident about fundraising, from being an Asst. Curator focusing on certain select aspects to being the Director and having to be involved in all the aspects of running an organization. From a full-fledged team to one-person team mustering up the courage to get up and rise had made me stronger and the organization more process driven.
This journey along with its success has had its share of failures and challenges. Right from being overambitious to measuring every little impact created, from poor publicity to plagiarism by schools, from design challenges to delay from vendors we have grown immensely. I truly believe that failure teaches one much more than success, provided one is willing to see and learn from it.
The learnings from just this one project have been many. To mention a few:
– Design keeping in mind, not just the site or space but also the logistics of bringing them into space. E.g. Our frames are 6 1/2 feet high and wide making it impossible to take it to schools with small and narrow doors.
– Estimate staff time keeping in mind some extra time for work that is dependent on external vendors. E.g. At the peak of our project, we were 6 of us. 3 part-time and 3 full-time. However, due to delays from external people/ vendors all 6 of us were working full time and sometimes even more. Resulting in one of the key members leaving to give time to her toddler. Also, being an all women team juggling work and managing house chores and family requirements were very stressful.
– To secure funds before the curatorial research begins. E.g. Initially two people were allocated- one to head the research while the other to head fundraising. However, due to unexpected circumstances, everything came on one person – me. Therefore, my time was divided between research and fundraising and due to my love for research I got sucked in it and the fundraising took a back seat. Not a good idea!
– Plan B may not be enough. Sometimes we need to have plan C and D too. We experienced this at every turn – research, content creation, school’s engagement, exhibition design, exhibition touring, marketing and fundraising. This taught us that things always do not go as per your plan and such opportunities make us extremely creative.
– Believe in your self – I have heard this many time but until 2015 they were empty words. It is only when I truly started believing in myself, looking at and within myself that I was able to tap my potential. Now thinking big does not scare me anymore.
While failures teach you a lot, roadblocks make the journey interesting and exciting. We had a whole lot of them, in fact, before the launch of the travelling exhibition, each day felt like a dramatic Indian movie – the first half of the day all problems arise and almost magically by afternoon they get solved. Sometime my brain would freeze and sometimes my hands. The roadblocks came in all sizes from a printing challenge to problems at the venue. But as the saying goes all’s well that ends well.
Learning from our mistakes and past experiences we move into this New Year feeling a little wiser and with hope and optimism. We would like to hear from you some of your challenges of 2018 and how you overcame them.
Wishing you a very Happy New Year.
Tejshvi Jain is the Founder-Director of ReReeti. Over the last 15 years, she has curated shows, taught at colleges and published articles in several media. Her expertise lies in visitor engagement and audience development. She holds the Art Think South Asia Fellowship 2013-14 and the NTICVA UK Visiting Fellowship 2017-18.
ReReeti works with museums, galleries and heritage sites across India to plan strategies, design systems and implement programmes to increase audience engagement and institutional/ company visibility. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation or to collaborate on an upcoming exhibition.