The Geological Survey of India (GSI), a storehouse of meteorites, fossils, bones of prehistoric animals and gems collected over 150 years, is planning its first museum in Salt Lake to showcase its treasure trove to the public. It will be the first geological museum in the country.
GSI has a few lakh specimens, including meteorites collected from across the world, rocks, minerals, gems and even dinosaur bones and fossils of prehistoric plants. At present, however, people can see only a miniscule percentage of this treasure which are on display at four galleries of the Indian Museum in the city.
“Only a fraction of our collection is showcased in the Indian Museum. The rest is under lock and key waiting to be revealed to the public. Displaying the entire collection would require huge space like an exclusive museum,” said S Sen, director (curatorial division) of the GSI.
The GSI maintains four galleries in the Indian Museum --- Siwalik Gallery, Invertebrate Fossil Gallery, Rock and Mineral Gallery and Earth and Meteorite Gallery. But the collection is so huge that even these four galleries are inadequate.
The Siwalik Gallery houses around 6,000 fossils, the Meteorite Gallery has around 700 meteorites, rocks and the Mineral Gallery has around 67,000 rocks and 21,000 minerals. The Invertebrate Gallery has around 28,000 invertebrate and microfossils. But this is just a fraction of the GSI’s possession.
“The collection has been built up over more than 150 years and fossils have been procured through purchases, gifts and exchanges besides excavations by both GSI officials and researchers outside the organisation. The fossil collection alone has 2.5 lakh specimens,” said a senior official of GSI.
Sources said that proposals to set up the first geological museum of the country would be soon sent to the ministry of mines. It is exploring a few plots at Salt Lake. The detailed project report would be prepared soon.
The museum would comprise at least a dozen galleries, an auditorium and a vault-like repository where collections could be stored for researchers.
While GSI is the guardian of all meteorites that have fallen on Indian soil, it also have a good collection of meteorites which have been gathered both from countries such as Italy, Croatia, France, Brazil among others. Some had hit the earth in the 18th century and are nearly 300 years old. “No one knows for sure what’s lying in the closets. A proper research could lead to the discovery of a new species of dinosaur or solve a puzzle,” Sen said.
In 2013, after relocating a lost fossil bone that was lying in the GSI vault in Kolkata, scientists found that the first dinosaur fossils to be discovered in India was about 185 years ago.