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The two-day XXth Congress of the International Association of Agricultural Museums (CIMA), in collaboration with the Heritage Foundation, commenced with great enthusiasm at the Punjab Agricultural University’s Pal Auditorium. In honor of PAU’s Diamond Jubilee year, this inaugural session, coinciding with World Food Day, featured the distinguished presence of the renowned scientist and World Food Prize Winner, Dr Gurdev Singh Khush, as Chief Guest.

Dr Khush praised the university for hosting Asia’s first agricultural museums conference in his address. He emphasized the tireless efforts of Punjab’s farmers and scientists in ensuring food security and reviving agriculture. Dr Khush highlighted PAU’s museums as tributes to Punjab’s agricultural heritage and culture, encapsulating the wisdom and toil of the farming community. He traced the transformative impact of agriculture on human history, connecting societies and fostering civilization’s growth.” Museums, he pointed out, serve as ideal platforms for preserving and showcasing diverse agricultural practices, tools, irrigation techniques, and crop cultivation methods through generations. Additionally, they facilitate research and collaboration, paving the way for revolutionary farming practices in the future.” Dr. Khush expressed his hope for fruitful deliberations during the conference, fostering mutual learning among attendees.

PAU’s Vice Chancellor, Dr Satbir Singh Gosal, lauded the event as a significant milestone in promoting the cultural fabric of agriculture and acknowledged Dr Khush’s presence as a testament to the nation’s commitment to agriculture. He thanked the organizers for their meticulous planning and described PAU as a beacon of hope for the region’s farmers. Dr. Gosal underscored the vital role of agriculture in Punjab’s culture, emphasizing how the university’s museums encapsulate the intricate relationship between ecosystems, land, water, seeds, fertilizers, and sustainability.

Professor Surjit Sarkar, Vice President of the International Association of Agricultural Museums, praised the unique farming collectables at PAU and expressed his excitement at bringing the congress to the university. He hoped the conference would lead to a more captivating narrative of Punjab’s farmers, shared with the world through immersive technology.

Professor Debra Reid, Curator of Agriculture and the Environment at The Henry Ford Museum, USA, discussed the significance of bringing the congress to India and highlighted the country’s growing importance in agriculture. She also noted the shift in the Congress’ origin, from primarily European to an increasingly Indian perspective on agriculture.

Vaishali Neotia, an Engineer and Entrepreneur from Hyderabad, touched upon “Digital Storytelling with Agricultural Heritage” and urged using AI tools to amplify existing knowledge. She emphasized the power of human interactions in storytelling. She provided examples, such as the role of honey bees in preserving ecosystems that can leave viewers spellbound with the advancing digital technologies.

The inaugural ceremony included insights into the Genesis and Legacy of Agricultural Museums, Art, and Culture at PAU by Prof. Sheetal Thapar and a short film on PAU Museums compiled by Dr Tejinder Singh Riar and Dr Anil Sharma. A book on the Museums of PAU was also released during the event, featuring dignitaries’ felicitation.

The congress began with an invocation and a ceremonial lamp lighting by esteemed dignitaries. Dr M I S Gill, the Convener of CIMA – 2023 and Dean of the College of Horticulture and Forestry at PAU extended a warm welcome to the guests.

The function concluded with a Vote of Thanks by the Dean of Postgraduate Studies, Dr P K Chunneja.

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