Kolkata Soundscapes

Indian Museum

Indian Museum, popularly known as ‘Jadughar’, is the Ninth oldest Museum in the World and the largest and oldest in India and was found in 1814 by the Asiatic Society of Bengal at the present 1, Park Street. With Dr. Nathaniel  Wallich, a famous Botanist as the honorary curator, the museum opened on the 2nd of February at the Asiatic Society Building. Along with the contributions of 49 Indian collectors, 174 items were donated by 27 European collectors by 1816.

Negotiation between the Government of India and the Asiatic Society ultimately led to the realization that the building as planned could not possibly accommodate the ever increasing collectibles and the involvement of Geological Survey of India, the Museum as well as the Asiatic Society. The society also expressed its unwillingness to function in a cramped building. In 1867, the foundation of the present building was laid on the most visible site at Chowringhee and in 1875, the present building, designed by W.L. Grandville in Italian architectural style was completed.  The total cost of the entire structure was a staggering 1 lakh and 40 thousand rupees, considering the period. The Museum was based at The Asiatic Society from 1814 to 1878 as the shifting process took nearly three years and then the present museum building was opened to the public on the 1st of April, 1878 with two functional galleries namely the Archaeology and the Bird gallery of the Zoological Section. In 1879, the museum received a significant collection from the India Museum at South Kensington upon the dispersal of that collection. The Zoological section ultimately gave rise to The Zoological Survey of Indian in 1916, which later became The Anthropological Survey of India in 1945.

The museum was initially known as the Asiatic Society Museum, it later was known as Imperial Museum which evolved into The Indian Museum, which now has evolved into a multipurpose institution with 6 sections dedicated to Art, Archaeology, Anthropology, Geology, Zoology and Economic Botany and a total of 35 galleries. The Museum Directorate and its Board Trustees has three sections under their administrative control, namely, Art, Archaeology, and Anthropology with 8 other coordinating service units such as Preservation, Publication, Photography, Presentation, Modeling, Education, Library and Security & Medical. The other three science sections are under the Geological Survey of India, Zoological Survey of India and The Botanical Survey of India. It exhibits one of the finest collections of immense historical importance ranging from contemporary paintings, to a sacred relic of Buddha and ancient sculptures. Even though there are the skulls of various Indus Valley inhabitants,  probably the biggest attraction is a certain Egyptian Mummy locked in a glass case in the Egyptian Gallery of the Archaeology section. Some rare holdings of the Botanical gallery includes 18 volumes of the 1866 ‘Textile Fabrics of India’, Thomas Wardle’s’  ‘Fabrics dyed with Indian dyes’ and the 8 volumes of the 1886-1889 ‘A Dictionary of Economic products of India’. The museum mansion spans across three floors each of about 930 sq. meters.

The Museum celebrated its Bicentennial in 2014. It occasionally holds exhibitions, memorial lectures, seminars and workshops in collaboration with various institutions as well as independently. It also organizes cultural programs on various occasions. It has a bookshop and a well equipped library that encourages scholars and readers to enrich themselves with the various reference books, catalogues, journals, and other important textual material.

The museum is a pioneer in the Museum Movement as it has been the first of almost 400 museums that adorn India today. Its building is considered to be the end of the medieval era and the beginning of modernity in India. Today, the museum is open from March to November I 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) except on Mondays and public holidays, with a nominal entry fee of 10 rupees for Indians and 150 rupees for foreigners. As of 2004, with 102,646 exhibits, ‘Jadughar’ truly is a house of magic.