Grow - Call for Proposals - Season 5 - Archives Exhibition



SEASON 5 | CALL FOR PROPOSALS | Archives at NCBS Gallery Exhibition




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Archives at NCBS | GROW | Exhibition: Season 5
Call for proposals for an exhibition at the intersection of history, design, culture and science
Season 5 focus: MS Swaminathan Papers and Leslie Coleman Papers at the Archives at NCBS

Budget: Up to Rs 5 lakh
Scope, eligibility and evaluation criteria: Read sections below (

Submission platform:
Proposal deadline: Jul 30, 2023
Winning proposal announcement: Sep 15, 2023

Exhibition live: Jan 1 – Dec 1, 2024

First info session: Friday, Jun 30, 2023. 11:00 AM IST (link below)

Looking for collaborators? Share details here: 

Questions? Email us at archives at ncbs dot res dot in

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Information Sessions: GROW: Archives at NCBS Gallery Exhibition: Call for Proposals
Open discussion to answer submission questions

1. Friday, Jun 30, 2023. 11:00 AM Indian Standard Time
2. Sunday, Jul 2, 2023. 11:00 AM Indian Standard Time
3. Friday, Jul 7, 2023. 11:00 AM Indian Standard Time
4. Saturday, Jul 8, 2023. 11:00 AM Indian Standard Time
5. Friday, Jul 14, 2023. 11:00 AM Indian Standard Time
6. Saturday, Jul 15, 2023. 11:00 AM Indian Standard Time
7. Thursday, Jul 27, 2023. 3:00 PM Indian Standard Time

Online meeting location:
Meeting ID: 945 4064 6607
Passcode: 230626

Video from information session on Fri, Jul 14, 2023 (it is a 150 MB file, and your browser may ask you to download it):


Form for Submission:


Gallery Background Information
The Archives at NCBS ( is a public centre for the history of science in contemporary India. As part of its public engagement, the Archives commissions public-facing exhibitions. This year, as we turn five years old, we are delighted to announce a public call for proposals to develop “Grow’’, the working title for Season 5 of the exhibition series in our gallery space.


Document history (any updates on this page after initial call will be summarized here):

Rev 0, original version (Monday, June 26, 2023)
Rev 1, Friday, June 30, 2023 -- added extra information sessions; added a section 'Your team and finding collaborators' 
Rev 2, Thu, Jul 6, 2023 -- added extra information sessions
Rev 3, Fri, Jul 14, 2023 -- added video to the Jul 14 info session within the "Information session" section, and added archives email ID in the first summary section.
Rev 4, current version updated Wed, Jul 26, 2023 -- added final information session to go through checklist for submission

Important dates

Jul 30, 2023 [midnight, IST]: Proposal submission deadline
Sep 1, 2023: Winning team will be informed privately
Sep 15, 2023: Public announcement of winning proposal and start of project
Dec 15, 2023: Completion of exhibition prep (concept, pre-fab design etc)
Dec 15 – Dec 29, 2023: Installation
Jan 1, 2024  – Dec 1, 2024: Exhibition is live
Dec 2 – Dec 6, 2024: Exhibition take-down


Exhibition Theme: Grow

The Archives at NCBS has two incredible collections that pertain to Indian agriculture, related but vastly different in scope and nature. 

One is the Leslie Coleman Papers, a collection of letters, photographs and other documents about the life and work of the Canadian entomologist, plant pathologist and virologist who worked in the erstwhile Mysore State from 1908 to 1933 and was Director of its Agriculture Department for two decades. 

The other is the MS Swaminathan Papers, an expansive collection of over 48,000 objects including letters, photographs, media clippings and administrative documents related to the life and work of the Indian agricultural scientist and plant geneticist known for his involvement in India’s ‘Green Revolution’. The material in this collection is from 1933 to 2020.  

There are several fascinating points of tension, overlap and continuity in the two collections. We would like you to draw on the rich archival material in these two collections to develop an exhibition. This could bring out ideas of growth, but also development, decay, stagnation, innovation, migration, cooperation, diplomacy, geopolitics, and science, all of which are evident in the chosen collections. The idea is to use the archives to curate a story and move beyond explanations of what the collections containYou are at full liberty to explore ways of approaching this theme, and will need to show how you will push the interpretation of archival objects to unexplored domains while pulling and teasing out new narratives from them.

Your proposal does NOT need to be science-y. But it has to tell a good story at the intersections of history, design, culture and science. 


Scope of Project

  • Curation of content for the exhibition, including development of the narrative.
  • Design and production of the exhibition, including production/construction of exhibition material, installation and maintenance over the course of the exhibition.
  • Disassembly of the exhibition after the end date for the exhibition to restore the gallery to its original condition.


Exhibition Location

1.    On-site: The main exhibition should be a physical installation that uses the Archives Gallery space. Other optional physical spaces include the Archives Reception Corridor, Archives Basement Lobby and the adjacent Amphitheatre.
For space dimensions of the gallery and other spaces, here is the Plan view of the Archives at NCBS:
And here is a view of the exhibition space with the current exhibition: Ever Met An Ugly Flower? as of June 2023:

2.    Traveling/Remote:  Some exhibition components should be accessible remotely. This could be a virtual tour and/or a separate exhibition website, which will later be added to the Archives at NCBS website. Or nuggets of the exhibition distributed in other physical locations, all accessible through a common digital portal.



The winning proposal can be supported up to Rs 5 lakh (Rs 5,00,000) inclusive of 18% GST. This includes everything – artist fees, costs toward production, design, printing, travel, installation, dismantling, material use fee (if a submission is using material from a source that requires a use fee), publicity, any other taxes. Any help taken from the campus civil works, electrical works and housekeeping teams will be chargeable.

NCBS will not be covering any costs toward submissions of project proposals for this exhibition, however, we can pay an honorarium to shortlisted candidates if they are asked for additional work before the winning proposal is selected.


Target Audience

Exhibitions at the Archives at NCBS have diverse audiences. We understand that no single exhibition can work for everyone. At the same time, every exhibition can have elements that speak at different levels. Most visitors tend to be between 20-40 years old. School groups and families with little kids also routinely visit the Archives.


Your team and finding collaborators

Your team should have a clearly identified lead (individual or professional organisation) responsible for delivering the project. Where relevant, please provide curriculum vitae. The team should illustrate competence and clearly defined roles – based on experience and work – towards a) curation and archival research, b) space and graphic design and physical installation work, and c) development of a coherent story.

If you'd like to submit a proposal for Grow and are looking to connect with other potential applicants who have different skill sets (for example, if curation and research is your strong suit but space design is not), you can fill out this form with your details. All responses to this form can be viewed here, through which you can directly contact potential applicants to collaborate.

Content/Narrative guidelines

  1. Your proposal for the exhibition should address the theme, Grow. It should also show that you have thought about narrative and the intersections of history, design, culture and science.
  2. The applicant’s proposal should engage substantially with archival material in the Archives at NCBS, particularly from the Coleman and Swaminathan collections. Additional engagement with other archives is also welcome. 

    Researcher’s Guide to using the Archives at NCBS and making requests:
    Full catalogue -
    MS Swaminathan Papers -
    Leslie Coleman Papers -

    Items from the Coleman collection can be viewed online through the catalogue. In the Swaminathan collection, Series 1 (Research Notes, Data and Photographs) is available online, along with Sub-series 2 from Series 6 (Event Coverage Photographs) – this applies to both Accession Group 1 and Accession Group 2. If you require access to items in the catalogue for which there isn’t a digital object available, you can request access using the first link above. More material from the Swaminathan collection can be viewed here:
  3. The applicant is expected to find ways to fit the objects to their narrative. The aim is to show ways in which one can connect objects within the Coleman and Swaminathan collections, and from various archives to each other. There is no maximum number of objects that can be used in the narrative. Applicants can use material from a variety of archives and libraries around the world.
  4. At least 25% of the exhibits will need to be based on material from the Coleman and/or Swaminathan collections. 
  5. The applicant is responsible for gathering content and getting permissions to use archival material or any other material. (At the time of submitting a proposal, you do not need to get permissions). Content can be contemporary or archival records – letters, newspaper clippings, annotated manuscripts, reports, photographs, oral history recordings and video recordings, equipment, specimens, original material created for the exhibition. For the use of material from other sources, the Archives at NCBS will assist the winning proposal in getting permissions and try to convince the material source to allow use of material without a fee. But the Archives will not bear any additional costs toward material use fees.
  6. The Archives at NCBS can provide original records and/or high resolution digital copies of original records from our collections at no cost. It can also help with connecting with archives and libraries to provide high resolution copies of original records. To reiterate, the final responsibility and costs of printing and licensing, if any, is with the applicant.
  7. The primary language for exhibition text is English. It should also include some Kannada translations (such as a curatorial note and captions, if any). 
  8. The winning applicant will need to take the review committee through a virtual mock-up of the exhibition space before installation begins.
  9. Safety standards (in civil and electrical work, for staff involved in installation as well as for visitors to the exhibition) in production must be maintained.



The applicant has control over the editorial choices of their exhibition. The exhibition should be factually accurate and, to the extent possible, opinions should be clearly substantiated in the exhibition. The Archives will facilitate the work and ensure that the applicant’s story gets told in a way that honours their practice and thought. However, as the publisher for the exhibition, it does reserve rights to all final publishing decisions.

Past exhibitions

Season 1: Backstage of Biology
Feb 2019 – Jan 2020. 
Curated by Srajana Kaikini, Naveen Mahantesh and Meera Baindur.
Images from the exhibition:
Curator's note: “The Archives at NCBS carry several stories within. Prominent among them is the story of a science institution representing the growth of biology in the history of science in India. Its institutional history is deeply entangled with the people who made it. This exhibition behaves as a logbook of various thought-notes, annotations and perspectives that the archive enables. We bring to the fore an understanding of biology as a collective endeavour, one which illuminates the situatedness, the socio-cultural contingency and the humane face of science, between lab and the field.”

Season 2: Herbs, Maps & Medicine: An interpretive exhibition of commerce and spice
Feb 2020 – Dec 2021
Curated by Anna Spudich. Designed by Abhishek Ray and Matrika Design Collaborative. Written by Gayathri Vaidyanathan.
Images from the exhibition:
Curator’s note:

Season 3: Bodies at Sea
Mar 2022 – Dec 2022
Curated and designed by Devika Sundar and Kamini Rao/Studio Slip
Images from the exhibition:
Curator’s note: In "Bodies at Sea" we traverse the boundaries between the visible and unknown, examining the hidden complexity of our interior bodies alongside oceanic bodies of the deep sea. Through our explorations, we search and discover an uncanny, affectual and visual synergy between internal bodyscapes, and marine forms and aquatic environments. Responding to a collection of visual, textual, material and audio archives across medical and marine journals and databases, we particularly trace layers that lie invisible, curious, obscure and yet to be unearthed in these mirroring environments.
Original CFP:

Season 4: Ever Seen an ‘Ugly’ Flower?
Feb 2023 – Dec 2023
Curated and designed by Team Phoolwale (Anoushka Mathews, Bhanu Prakash, Komal Jain, Ranjani Prasad, Shafali Jain)
Video from the exhibition:
Curator’s note: The artist, the botanist, the gardener, the florist, the widow, the bride, the lover, the dead. There is a flower for everyone, everywhere, everytime.
We present to you Ever Met an ‘Ugly’ Flower? – an exhibition that reflects on how we look at, feel, touch, see and perceive flowers. 
Are flowers beings or symbols? Are they subjects or objects? Are they divine or mundane?
We begin the journey by unpacking layers of the market and the garden through the lens of colonialism, consumerism, control and beauty. We then move to the androgynous tree to question our gendered gaze around creation. We further explore this gaze that creates and hides identity through language. Beyond this lies the cabinet of curiosities that holds our personal archives of floral memories and ephemera. We then weave together narratives that use flower symbols to depict peace, love, sexuality, resistance, dissent and subversion; and we end this journey with a visual sensory dive into the world of flowers. 
So, have you ever met an ugly flower? 


Provisions and Production Site

Archives at NCBS can provide the following: A Hitachi Portable Projector (Model: CP-X4042WN; anchoring location can be changed), a portable Lenovo Tablet P10 (Model: LTE Data Aurora Black) for table-mounted digital displays, a Samsung Galaxy M12 smartphone (Model: SM-M127GZKHINS) for WiFi projection and other uses, track lighting in gallery space with provisions for directional lights, ceiling white lights, electrical outlets, WiFi, temperature and humidity control, and up to 500 GB of server space for any digital components. Wall and ceiling colours can be modified by the applicant, as long as the gallery can be brought back to original condition at the end of the exhibition. Main production of exhibition should be off-site and components should be brought in for on-site assembly. The exhibition site should not be used for production work that will generate debris (wood or metal chips, for instance). The only exceptions to this will be direct anchoring to the gallery and painting of interior walls.


Copyright and ownership

Repositories that loan use of their original material or reproductions of the same shall retain original rights wherever applicable. All elements created specifically for the physical/digital exhibition should be available in the future under a creative commons license, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.


Review process

The jury consists of the following individuals: four external members with experience in curation and design of physical exhibitions – performer, director and writer, Anuja Ghosalkar; artist and filmmaker, Ayisha Abraham; writer, art historian and curator, Arnika Ahldag; and artist and curator, Jeebesh BagchiUma Ramakrishnan (Archives Review Committee) and a member of the team at the Archives at NCBS. The jury will review the proposals after the submission deadline. Each jury member will evaluate independently. Submissions will be assessed along the evaluation criteria mentioned below. After collating evaluations, a maximum of 3-5 submissions will be short-listed for further interviews, if needed. After this, one submission will be awarded the project, and the work will begin with the Purchasing Department to complete the financial formalities. After a winning proposal is announced, each submission receives a detailed note outlining the process, including the number of submissions received, number of entries in the long list, short list, interview, and final assessment of the winning proposal.


Submission Guidelines

All submissions should ONLY be through our online form: No other mode of submissions will be accepted.

Please upload all proposal documents to a cloud-based folder (e.g. Google Drive or Dropbox) from where the Archives at NCBS can download a folder of files for your submission. 

The proposal can be in any language so long as an English translation is provided. It should address the evaluation criteria listed below.

Proposal submission should be done by Jul 30, 2023 [midnight, IST] 

Please do not submit any financial details at this stage. For your submission, we just need to see the details mentioned in the evaluation criteria.

Campus Visits: Applicants are welcome to schedule visits to the Archives at NCBS if it would help in gauging the available space and surroundings. The Archives at NCBS is open Monday-Friday, 10am-5:30pm, and weekends by appointment. If you’d like to set up time to meet the team here, please send an email to archives at ncbs dot res dot in about three days prior to your planned visit (or call 080-6717-6011). 


Evaluation Criteria

Team and Experience (10%): A clearly identified lead (individual or professional organisation) responsible for delivering the project. Where relevant, please provide curriculum vitae. The team should illustrate competence and clearly defined roles – based on experience and work – towards a) curation and archival research, b) space and graphic design and physical installation work, and c) development of a coherent story. If you are looking for collaborators to build your proposal and exhibition, we have set up a form with publicly viewable responses, through which you can directly contact potential applicants to collaborate.

Work Plan (10%): A project plan with defined timeline and tasks. Keep an eye on dates and budget (you don't need to submit a detailed budget, but funds towards production should constitute at least 50% of the total budget).

References (10%): List of three references (includes at least one from a research institute). We only need contact information and not actual reference letters at this stage.

Design Flow and Portfolio (20%): Share a digital copy of portfolio to show previous work of individuals and/or team. Include details of at least one past project that illustrates the path from conceptual design to being realized for final product. Not all professionals who are part of the proposal team need to be represented in such an example.

Proposed Design (40%): Detailed proposal based on mentioned guidelines. Proposal is evaluated for attention to a)  curation (a clear sense of potential source material), b) storytelling (a clear sense of a potential narrative) and to c) design (a clear sense of how the physical and digital spaces will be used). Your proposal for the exhibition should address the theme, Grow. It should show that you have thought about narrative and the intersections of history, design, culture and science. You illustrate potential use of contemporary or archival records and original material created for the exhibition. At least 25% of the exhibition will need to be based on material from the Coleman and/or Swaminathan collections. Your proposal should also take into consideration the requirements of the exhibition location, target audience, and creative commons license for material created specially for the exhibition. It should follow the guidelines for content/narrative listed on the Grow call website, including Kannada signage. 

Local Collaboration (10%): Demonstration that the team can fulfill the requirements of building the exhibition at NCBS in Bangalore.