Basic World Class

Mark Walhimer Exhibition Reviews, History Museum, Interactive Exhibit Philosophy

Khokana Museum Exterior

Khokana Museum, Khokana, Nepal

I am in Nepal, visiting the village of Khokana a small village listed on the Unesco list of world heritage sites. The village is in the Kathmandu Valley, Kathmandu is known as the home of the Kumari Devi.

I came for Durga Puja, an annual Hindu festival that celebrates worship of Hindu goddess Durga.   Here in Khokana they sacrifice three Water Buffalo on the first day of the holiday.  While waiting for the start of the celebration I visited the Khokana Museum.

Visiting the museum got my head spinning, here I am in one of the poorest countries in the world, at a museum with no money, and I am having one of the richest experiences I have ever had at any museum.  The visit got me thinking of so many questions, “What is a Museum”? “What is World Class”?, “Who is your museum staff”, “How far do the “walls” of the museum extend”.  At first they seem to be simple questions, yet here I am in a Museum, this is living history, the celebration going on outside of the doors of the museum is real.  Can a museum be collection of the objects of a culture while the culture is currently active?  My answer is yes, the Directors of the museum a husband and wife who live in the museum, are able to interpret, preserve and collect the artifacts and customs as they participate in the culture.

“World Class”.  I can’t count how many meetings I have gone to, where “World Class” is used as a goal for a museum project.  This museum is lived in by the museum directors and this is a world class experience.  I am fully immersed in this culture, I have learned of their customs and objects, but the house only has four working lights and three working electrical outlets.

Khokana Museum Directors Khokana Museum Directors

“Museum Staff”

Outside of the Museum is the village square where the sacrifice will happen.  I am surrounded by kids all telling me of the happenings of the festival.  The boys are telling me the importance of the blood as an offering and that no one can touch the man that will transport the blood to the temple.

“It’s about the story”

Most importantly the Khokana Museum has reminded me that the exhibits of a museum are there to tell the story of the museum.  Too often we display the objects as if the objects are the story, instead of placing the emphasis on the story being told.