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In love with history

Not everybody has a liking for history, especially among students. But history as a subject is a treasure trove and a career goldmine, as Shivangi Naithani Devrani found out. In a fascinating account, Shivangi tells us how she first developed a love for history and later how she fell for it. A must-read for all students who want to think beyond the usual mundane subjects, including BTech!

Life by itself doesn’t handpick options for you, it is ‘you’ who has to determine for oneself. I have never dreamt to be an art historian which still is in a process, rather I was unaware of its existence as a discipline. My parents always believed formal education is part of learning, it doesn’t provide you all - learning as a process begins from home with your parents being the first teacher. One should try and attain knowledge from the things and people surrounding them. My initial interest in history and culture rose from our yearly family trips, travelling through different parts of the country. My parents wanted us to experience and perceive new cultures, people and the land – Diversity of India. During my school days, I was always involved in some of the other kinds of extra-curricular activities such as NCC, sports, dance and choir practice. So, being less academically inclined as a student but I managed both the spheres well enough to never fail a class.

In class XI, I took commerce as my subject way forward. I thought I would excel in this subject, my liking for business studies and economics were the reason for me to take up commerce. Though I aspired to be an IAS officer, but never thought about a strategy for preparing for the exam. In my class XII, I was able to score 86 percent, but it didn’t help me land a college of my interest in Delhi University for courses such as B.COM (Hons) and Economics (Hons). So, it then dawned upon me about which course to take up and why? As it would determine the path for the future. My parents left the ‘verdict’ on me, I was confused between history (Hons) and English (Hons) but there’s always been some love for history and culture. It was not the time to think through my answers, but to ponder upon them to find some appropriate answers to my questions. Being a UPSC aspirant what could be a better choice for me? Which course interests me more? So, after having a lengthy discussion we came to a conclusion, history as a subject was likable to my personality and it could help me better prepare for UPSC exams than any other course.



A step closer to the Real World

Jesus and Mary College in New Delhi is where we step out of our comfort zone and experiment with life. JMC as college was mix bag of all the things and people. My three years in college was a significant turning point in my life. A man is known by the company he or she keeps, my elder sister Saumya helped see things from a novel perspective. Especially my best friend Aditi Singh, because of her I was introduced to the world of theatre – it is one of the forms of performing arts. We use to watch and analyse many plays and performances together, she always encouraged me to question things and reason them.

NCC was something I even continued in college, travelled to different national integration camps. It was a good opportunity to live with people from different states and know them closely. Gyanodaya Express, an educational train journey started by Delhi University in 2012, for the college students to experience and learn while travelling. I got selected to go for the ‘College on wheels’ project because of which, I explored the land of Rajputs – RAJASTHAN. These varied cultural experiences were enriching and made me more interested towards knowing about the art, architecture and culture of India. In 2013, in my second year of college, I enrolled myself into “Volunteer Guide Program” of National Museum (Ministry of Culture). I wanted to have practical and theoretical exposure to the sculpture, painting, textile and other kinds of artifacts which were an example of the rich heritage of India. It was the perfect opportunity for me to learn from the experts themselves – curators of the National Museum, even enhance my communication skills, and have practical training also. Most importantly, understanding the massive history of India from the period of Harappan civilization covering till the Medieval Era. During this program, I came across an Institute dealing with unique courses such as History of Art, Museology and Conservation. The campus is situated inside the National Museum building, working closely with museums to provide students a better exposure.



Artistic Turn of Events

In history there are disciplines such as military history, economic history, political history, diplomatic history, history of science, history of Arts social and cultural history. Art history focuses on the history and the development of visual art forms. In 2014, I took admission in Master's course – History of Art in National Museum Institute. NMI is considered one of the best for this course. Art History in India is offered by very few colleges and universities such as Jawaharlal Nehru University, Maharaja Sayajirao University, Banaras Hindu University, Viswa Bharti University and National Museum Institute. In our first semester, we were taken on an educational trip to Tamil Nadu – city of Chennai, Kanchipuram, Mahabalipuram and Puducherry. In a few months’ time, I got married, that was during my second semester of Masters in 2015, at the age of 21. It was hard to balance my studies and the sudden changes in my personal life. My husband and my family stood by me, and further went on to pursue my studies. In 2015, I volunteered for an International conference on Documentation – CIDOC hosted by our Institute. A platform where we interacted with international scholars, academics and luminous dignitaries. Such opportunities of exposure were provided to us by the institute through organising conferences, workshops and seminars.

In the last semester of my master, I applied for UGC NET/JRF exam for Assistant Professor and Junior Research Fellowship – which I was awarded in 2016. Later in the year 2018, I got admission in combined M.Phil. /Ph.D. program in Jamia Millia Islamia, where I continue to pursue my love for art and culture with my thesis work on Visual representation of the Royal Women in miniature painting of the Mughal world. Before I turn 32 (max age to apply for UPSC), I would definitely give a chance to UPSC exams; it may be delayed but it’s still not late.


What are the career options for a history student?

History, not only as a subject, I feel it is important but for overall development. History is about who we were, what our heritage and culture were? And knowing the past can help us better our future. That aside, there are many options for a history student. Some of them are: Museum/Gallery Curator, Historian, Art Conservation and Restoration, Museum Marketing and Public Relations, Archaeologist, Museology, Civil Services, Anthropologist, Art Law and Law Enforcement, Art Consultant, Artist Management and Representation, Museum Fundraising and Development, Research Analyst, lecturer, Elementary or High School Teacher, Librarian and Archivist.

Tell us a bit more about Masters in History of Art at the National Museum Institute. Why do you think the course is the best?

Masters in History of Art from National Museum Institute is an experience in itself. In our first semester, the subjects we are taught are conservation, museology, art history and research methodology. It prepares the foundation well enough for us to know our subject and its inter-connected discipline well. Conservation as a subject was taught, so we know how the process of conservation and restoration is done on artefacts, architecture, sculptures and textile well enough. Museology teaches us role of the museum in society and to preserve our heritage and disseminate knowledge about them. Institute is situated inside the museum, where as in other universities you are not practically exposed to the objects of art. Exposure is one of the major things that this institute provides you with eminent scholar and experts from varied parts of the world. You being closer to the objects, you are able to gauge a better understanding of the subject with practical experiences of visiting the architectural sites, monuments, and museums.

You have travelled all over India. Tell us one state where you think history is strikingly rich?

Though it is difficult to comment on any one state whose history is strikingly rich. India overall has a diverse and rich historical past. Travelling to various states and cities of India, but Rajasthan is really special and I love to travel there often. The culture is so vibrant and colourful, it has a rich and glorious historical past. It’s from pre-historic era, where Harappan culture has flourished. Being on the border and corridor to north-western region, it has been visited by many foreign travellers and people. Every era has left its deep mark on the traditions, history and culture of Rajasthan.

Finally, tell us some of your habits which you are really proud of.

  • Being patient and being persistent – these two Ps will help you be better at your work
  • Enjoy what you’re doing, it keeps you motivated.
  • Listen to everyone, take advice from everyone but do as you feel like, at the end, it is ‘you’ who has do things.
  • Let things come as they are, don’t plan too much in life. Things may not go as you plan. But do have goals in life – what path you may take, to achieve it may depend how life takes its turn.
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