National Museum set for complete facelift

Last Updated: Apr 19, 2011, 09:42 AM IST

New Delhi: The National Museum is preparing for a makeover with a massive structural renovation of the built facade and interiors, the process of which has been set in motion.

"The museum has to be renovated completely and it is a long-term measure. We want to upgrade it as one of the best museums internationally," administrator of the museum C.V. Ananda Bose told IANS on the sidelines of a World Heritage Day function at the National Museum here.

Work on refurbishing the building`s exterior is already underway at the main entrance.

The museum Monday highlighted its achievements at a modest World Heritage Day function that was graced by union Minister of Food and Public Distribution K.V. Thomas, who is also a writer and a culture activist.

In his address, Thomas said that "the museum played a very important role in preserving heritage and transmitting knowledge".

He outlined the initiatives launched by the National Museum to raise people`s awareness about heritage - both national and local - through a unique people`s museum project that aims to build 1,000 micro archives in the rural areas of the country to conserve local heritage and promote arts.

"The heritage of the world would have been much poorer had it not been for the heritage contributed by this country," Bose said.

"We want to bring the best of the talent in museology, architecture and interior decoration under one roof through a global search for the renovation of the National Museum," he said.

A hunt for requisite talent has been launched by the museum administration.

"Twenty galleries are currently open to people," Bose said.

One of the galleries, the music instrument gallery, which had been shut down for more than decade, reopened in December 2010.

"The bronze gallery is under renovation, after which the central Asian gallery will be renovated and the exhibits restored," the museum administrator said.

The museum, which had been rudderless for years, had to close down seven galleries because of poor maintenance and deterioration of the exhibits.

"There is a proposal for a third phase of the museum building. Work is expected to begin in six months," the administrator said.

Berlin-based silk route historian and research scholar Chhaya Bhattacharya-Haesner, who is on a two-year Tagore National Cultural Fellowship in India, will guide the museum administration in restoring the central Asian gallery.

"It will be a challenging assignment as the central Asian gallery is home to many paintings which are fragile and require treatment and preservation. Only 10 percent of the central Asian exhibits owned by the museum are on display," she told IANS.

The National Museum has more than 11,000 artifacts and art works from central Asia that include Buddhist paintings, funerary furniture, banners, tablets and third and fourth century wooden plaques known as `Niya`, with Brahmi and Kharosti inscriptions collected from the southern silk routes in ancient Asia.

Bulk of the central Asian artifacts at the National Museum was collected by European archaeologist and silk road historian of Hungarian descent Marc Aurel Stein during three expeditions to central Asia. The Stein acquisitions were divided between Britain and India, Haesner said.