One of the most famous landmarks in Calcutta & the commander of unbridled public & media interest, Indian Museum is referred to as “Jaadughar” (“House of Wonder”) by the masses who throng its gates everyday to witness the massive collection of artifacts & specimens stocked here. The building, completed in the year 1878, was designed by the famous British architect Walter Granville (who also designed the Calcutta High Court & General Post Office). A remnant of Italian architecture in this essentially old city, the museum building has been in news for several past years largely for all the wrong reasons – indecent restoration work, thefts & financial irregularities, failed structural additions, locked galleries & uncooperative staff.
|Description||Funded by the Indian Government, the museum is an autonomous organization enshrined in the Constitution of India as “an institute of national importance”. Despite its reputation as an institution stuck in the thrall of bureaucratic high-handedness & despite the general belief of museums being dull & boring, this museum is a treasure trove of knowledge. The Zoological Survey of India & the Geological Survey of India are offshoots of this museum.|
|History||The oldest & largest museum in the country & one of the first of its kind in all of Asia, it had meager beginnings as a private collection of Danish botanist Nathaniel Wallich who in 1814 convinced the Asiatic Society about the need to start a museum in India & got them to lend him space on their premises for housing his collection which grew as donations from native princes & English officers started to come in, culminating in one of the largest collections of its kind in Asia. The present building was built over 1874-78.|
|Construction||The simplistically designed grand white Neoclassical-style building consists of three floors with colonnaded pavilions & massive halls. The area has been divided into several galleries depending on what they feature. There are six galleries in total – Geological (stone & rock specimens, meteorite fragments, fossils), Archaeological (sculptures belonging to the Gandhara & Mathura styles of art, over 50,000 coins from the reign of several emperors dating far back to 5th century BC & Egyptian antiquities), Anthropological (depicts the life, attire & habitat of the different tribes living in the subcontinent, different phases of human evolution, masks used for rituals by various tribes in the country), Art (textiles, paintings, jewellery, bone art, wood work, pottery), Zoological (flora & fauna specimens), Industrial (botanical specimens bearing upon medicine, agriculture and industry).|
|Protection||Maintained by the Government of India & headed by a Govt.-appointed Director|
|Ownership||Government of India|
|Location||The museum is located next to the Oberoi Calcutta, Park Street & is five minutes walk from Esplanade bus terminal. Buses & taxis are available from different parts of the city to the museum. One can walk from Esplanade too.|
|Remark||Like most government institutions, the upkeep here is far from good. Most of the display cases are covered with a layer of dust & the zoological samples have started showing signs of decay. Thankfully, the museum is headed towards much-needed repair, restoration & conservation work as part of its bicentennial celebrations in 2014. An in-house publication division stocks books, replicas of sculptures & postcard sets. For a detailed write-up on the museum click more!|
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