The museum as a dating venue: Couples in the Madhya Pradesh Tribal Museum in Bhopal, India

Ina Ross


Using the example of the Madhya Pradesh tribal Museum in Bhopal, India, the following article deals with a romantic user interest in museums: as a meeting place for unmarried (mixed-sex) couples; in short, as a venue for dates. The article contextualizes this phenomenon by taking into account the relationship of the museum as an institution with its Indian visitors from a historical perspective, and by outlining the social context within which public intimacy is situated in present-day India. It interprets the utilisation of museums by dating couples as a process of appropriation which acquires special significance in view of the frequently cited inadequate entrenchment of museums in India.

As requirements of the couples from the museum as a dating venue, the essay identifies the ambience and the discreet behaviour of personnel, a lack of surveillance by family or neighbours, the positive (since it contributes to education – including moral education) social image of the museum as an institution and, finally, economic reasons. However, what emerges as the central motive, as a prerequisite for the safety and sense of comfort of the couples, is the disciplining effect of the museum as an institution on other visitors.

The discussion of the museum as a venue for dating is part of a research project about the user interests of visitors to the Madhya Pradesh Tribal Museum in Bhopal, India. In the study, about eight different categories of utilisation were worked out including the museum as a picnic spot and hang-out place, as arts and leisure centre, as a space of collective nostalgia and personal memories and as a backdrop for photos and selfies.


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Copyright (c) 2018 Ina Ross

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360