Calcutta is an old city, boasting of a lot of ‘oldest’s and ‘first’s. The Indian Museum(also referred to as the Imperial Museum in the texts of the British-India era) is one such. It is the largest and oldest museum in India and houses rare collections of antiques, armour and ornaments, fossils, skeletons, mummies, and Mughal paintings. It was founded by the Asiatic Society of Bengal in Calcutta in 1814. The founder curator was Nathaniel Wallich, a Danish botanist. History tells us that the the concept of having a museum arose in 1796 by members of the Asiatic Society as a place where man-made and natural objects could be collected, cared for and displayed. The objective began to look achievable in 1808 when the Society was offered suitable accommodation by the Government of India in the Chowringhee-Park Street area where it still stands.
Today there are many galleries and exhibits, among them, the Egyptian collection, the Indian artefacts (which include a Buddhist stupa, the ashes of the Buddha, the Ashoka pillar etc) are notable. Also, there are four galleries dedicated to natural history.
Now I am not a museum person. I do not enjoy museums, no matter where in the world it is and generally avoid them, barring a few where I take my children while on vacation. It’s hardly surprising that I have not visited the Indian museum in a while (translated, 30+ years!) but I have heard that it has been nicely restored and attracts visitors from all over the globe. We used to be forced to visit the museum in our school days, usually at an age when we were unable to appreciate either the history or the significance of the displays. I recall running about the halls, getting thoroughly bored and getting yelled at by the teachers! One year apparently our section was so naughty that the school decided we should be punished. So while all the other sections went to the zoo and the Botanical gardens and stuff, we were taken only to the Planetarium. And that was even more boring than the museum. We used to take off our shoes and socks and promptly fall asleep!
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