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How safe are India’s famed museums: A quick status check

The incident highlights the importance of taking utmost care of such treasure troves. Here’s a quick status check of the major museums in the country.

india Updated: Apr 28, 2016 16:13 IST
HT Correspondent
National Museum of Natural History

A fire broke out early on April 26 morning at the National Museum of Natural History, next to the Ficci, KK Birla Auditorium at Mandi House in New Delhi.(Ashok Nigam/Hindustan Times)

A massive fire destroyed the 40-year-old National Museum of Natural History, which housed several taxidermied animals and a life-size model of a dinosaur, leaving several nature lovers in shock.

Many experts say the mishap could mean losing a “vital” piece of history.

“It is indeed a tragic accident. Loss of collection is losing a vital piece of history. Natural history collections are invaluable pieces of scientific knowledge,” director of Bombay Natural History Society, Deepak Apte told PTI.

Also Read | History and heritage: What we may have lost in museum fire

The incident highlights the importance of taking care of such treasure troves. Here’s a quick status check of the major museums in the country:

Prince of Wales Museum, Mumbai

  • Established: 1922
  • Total Exhibits: Over 60,000
  • Prized collection: Emperor Akbar’s armour, rare textiles and Italian paintings
  • Estimated value: No estimates, but museum insured for Rs 68 crore
  • Annual visitors: 10 lakh
  • Fire safety: All electrical wirings tested every two months
  • Security: 32 in-house and 35 private security guards; monthly security drill; safety checks every six months
  • Past Mishap: Nothing major so far

Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad

  • Established: 1951
  • Total Exhibits: 46,000
  • Prized collection: 19th century musical clock from England; life-size marble statue of Veiled Rebecca; double statue from single block of wood
  • Estimated value: Priceless, say museum officials
  • Annual visitors: 10 lakh
  • Fire safety: Latest fire-fighting system, including smoke alarm systems; dedicated fire station on museum premises.
  • Security: Two-tier security by 100-odd CISF personnel; CCTVs at all corners of museum
  • Past Mishap: In 2006, museum auditorium gutted due to short-circuit. No damage to artefacts.

Government Museum, Chennai

  • Established: 1851
  • Total Exhibits: 45,000
  • Prized collection: Rare south Indian bronzes and Amaravati sculptures
  • Estimated value: Priceless
  • Annual visitors: 3.6 lakh
  • Fire safety: Periodic fire safety drills and annual training of staff in emergency procedures
  • Security: Four-tier security system; 24X7 CCTV across the museum
  • Past Mishap: Inundated during December 2015 floods, but no damage exhibits. No fire accidents so far

Patna Museum, Patna

  • Established: 1929
  • Total Exhibits: 50, 000; only 10, 000 on display
  • Prized collection: Didarganj Yakshini; figures of Buddha and stuccos from Bamiyan and Swat Valley; Harrapan terracotta & seals; rare bronzes of Pala age; dagger of Mughal emperor Humayun
  • Estimated value: Over Rs 100 crores
  • Annual visitors: 2 lakh
  • Fire safety: Fire-fighting systems in all galleries; Trained museum staff
  • Security: Museum officials and guards
  • Past Mishap: In 2014, fire in the painting gallery due to short circuit, but no damage to art work

Indian Museum, Kolkata

  • Established: 1814 at the Asiatic Society building on Park Street; shifted to current location in 1878
  • Total Exhibits: 8,000 (only 40% exhibited)
  • Prized collection: Egyptian Mummy, miniature paintings by Mughal court painter Ustad Mansur
  • Estimated value: No estimates
  • Annual visitors: 11 lakh
  • Fire safety: Fire extinguishers, but no fire alarms
  • Security: Three-tier security--museum staff, Kolkata Police and pvt security
  • Past Mishap: Theft of 5th-century half-bust of Buddha, 2,000-yr-old lion statute (Rampura Lion Capital) damaged

Also Read | Neglect damaged Delhi’s Natural History museum over past 20 years