Bahadur Shah Zafar's achkan to be restored

The centuries-old knee-length coat of last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar will soon be aesthetically restored to its old sartorial grandeur.

New Delhi: The centuries-old knee-length coat of last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar will soon be aesthetically restored to its old sartorial grandeur.

The historic achkan displayed in the 17th century Mumtaz Mahal Museum in Red Fort is among the prized possessions belonging to the Bahadur Shah Zafar gallery.

"The achkan has developed wear and tear over time and very soon we will undertake its restoration. The process involves a lot of chemical treatment, among other attending processes.

"Since, our lab has limited space, we have displayed the achkan in the gallery itself till we begin the work," Deputy Superintending Archaeological Chemist of ASI's Delhi Zone, Ved Prakash told PTI.

He said restoration of artifacts and garments is an ongoing process and work is carried out as per the requirement and the urgency involved.

"Among the restored items include the 'ghaghra' (petticoat) belonging to Zafar's wife Zeenat Mahal, which has been brought back to its old glory," he said.

Among other rare items on display at the museum are stone objects-like Islamic marble grave stone, impression of pair of feet on marble and sandstone (already chemically treated).

One manuscript, Taimur Nama, (already chemically treated), is one of the rarest collections of the museum, Prakash said.

A 5-feet-long canvas painting panel captioned 'Old City of Delhi' (also chemically treated), metal objects like arms and armours such as sword, sabre, helmet, scimitar, pistol, silverwares, carpet weights, metal plates (Akitoosha-i-ukba) are part of another museum located inside the world heritage site, which have been chemically treated, he said.

The Mumtaz Mahal museum has among others Jahangir, Akbar and Shah Jahan galleries too.

The objects of Mumtaz Mahal and other Red Fort museums, both in storage and displayed, are being regularly chemically treated by this office, Archaeological Survey of India said.

The nature of material of the artifacts, their present physical condition, rate of decay of the material of these artifacts and a few other factors form the basis of identification of these artifacts before actually subjecting these to any chemical treatment and preservation process, Prakash said.

The Delhi Science Branch of the ASI which will carry out the restoration of the achkan, has already treated 295 museum objects of different nature, viz. Textile, lithographs, oil paintings, paper calligraphy, metal objects.

The objects requiring immediate attention due to any reason are prioritised.

"Paper objects received are in the form of letter, farman, sanad, specimen of calligraphy, ink sketches on paper, lithograph on paper miniature paintings on paper, manuscript (Taimur Nama).

And, even now, a few more of these are also undergoing through different stages of chemical treatment processes," Prakash said.

On the treatment process, he said, care is taken to maintain the "aesthetic character of the object".

"The initialisation of chemical treatment of museum objects is done in the office laboratory after preparing a status report of these objects. Their physical condition forms the basis of course of action that is taken for doing their chemical treatment.

"Relative humidity, temperature, nature of material, insect activities etc. In and around the museum objects are monitored. In fact, textile, lithographs, oil paintings, paper calligraphy, metal objects are subjected to different types of chemical treatments," he said.

But, in all these cases, it is ensured that the aesthetic character of the object is maintained, and these are stored in a proper storage conditions, and, or are displayed in optimum museum conditions, he added.

Textile objects are cleaned with organic solvents like ethanol, acetone, ethoxyethanol, white spirit, petroleum ether depending upon the type of texture, whiled oil paintings are cleaned with chemicals like ethanol, acetone, cellosolve (ethoxyethanol), toluene, among other chemicals.

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