RBA Director Roger Beeston and Architectural Historian Anthony Hemingway recently travelled to Los Angeles, USA, to deliver a paper at a conference titled ‘The Artifact, Its Context and Their Narrative’ at the Getty Center.

The paper examined a recent joint project between RBA and AusHeritage in relation to the Kamarajar Memorial House in Virudhunagar, southern India. Roger is Deputy Chair of AusHeritage – a network of Australian cultural heritage management organisations, established by the Australian Government in 1996 which aims to facilitate the engagement of practitioners and organisations for the Australian heritage industry in the overseas arena.

The project, approached from an Australian cultural heritage management perspective, involved the preparation of a Conservation Management Plan.

The impetus for the CMP came about after a visit to some Australian Museums by a current member of the Indian parliament, Mr Manickam Tagore. Mr Tagore was interested in how a similar visitor experience might be created in a museum in India.

The Kamarajar Memorial House is the birthplace of K. Kamaraj (1903-1975), a highly revered politician of his generation. Kamaraj spent much of his early life in the house and his family continued to live there until it was purchased by the Tamil Nadu State government soon after his death. However, since this State acquisition, the house has been substantially modified and now poorly reflects Kamaraj’s critical formative years which is the phase of his life most directly connected with it.

Kamarajar Memorial House, Virudhunagar, India

The process of preparing the CMP has provided guidance to rationalise the presentation of the house and has recommended a different conservation approach to the constituent fabric of the building and the collection, in combination with an improved and more authentic interpretation based on what has been determined to be the cultural significance of the place.

22 January 2013

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