World Heritage Day: Only museum of Bengal’s cultural history looks to crowdfunding for survival
A crowdfunding campaign was launched at the Indian Museum in Kolkata on World Heritage Day to save Gurusaday Museum.Updated: Apr 18, 2019, 21:37 IST
Would you like to get your name embroidered on a piece of nakshi kantha -- a type of embroidered quilt that is part of Bengal’s cultural heritage -- that will be showcased among some of the rarest and most exquisite pieces of exhibits in a museum that is the largest storehouse of folk art and crafts of undivided Bengal? If you are keen, contribute to save the museum from closure.
A crowdfunding campaign was launched at the Indian Museum in Kolkata on April 18, celebrated as ‘International Day for Monuments and Sites’ or World Heritage Day, to save Gurusaday Museum located in the southern fringes of Kolkata.
The museum’s 13 employees are working without salary since November 2017, when the Union textile ministry decided to revoke the financial assistance that it had been providing since 1984. The government’s letter argued that it cannot continue funding a private body indefinitely.
The museum is run by a trust. The campaign targets to raise Rs 90 lakh through crowdfunding platform ketto.org within four months. This amount will help the museum sustain for two years, said the organisers.
“The tagline of our campaign is ‘There is ‘us’ in ‘museum’. Make it count’,” said Malavika Banerjee, director of Kolkata Literary Meet, who is part of the team running the ‘Save Gurusaday Museum’ campaign.
The museum’s treasure trove comprises archaeological objects, patachitra and scroll pata paintings, wooden sculptures, clay and wooden items including idols and toys, manuscripts from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, wooden and terracotta masks, musical instruments, puppetry articles, embroidered textile and terracotta works.
Founded in 1961 largely with the collection of Gurusaday Dutta, an Indian Civil Service (ICS) officer who had gathered 2,325 specimens of artworks and crafts, including some heirlooms, while serving as collector in different districts in rural Bengal (during 1929 and 1939), the museum has about 3,300 exhibits. It also houses a library.
According to historian Jayanta Sengupta, secretary and curator of Kolkata’s Victoria Memorial Hall (that draws highest footfall among museums in India), the closure of Gurusaday Museum will be an irreparable loss since there is no other museum that specialises on Bengal’s cultural history.
“The Gurusaday Museum houses an unparalleled repository of the art and cultural history of undivided Bengal. It has the best collection of Kalighat patachitra – a genre of unmediated folk art that influenced Bengal’s modern art – and the most important collection of the nakshi kantha textiles, apart from other specimens of craft and artifacts,” Sengupta said.
Bijan Kumar Mondal, curator and secretary of the museum, said that the monthly requirement for salary and maintenance is nearly Rs 4 lakh.
“Over the past one year and a half, the maintenance expenses have been managed, thanks to some projects awarded to us by different state government departments. However, none of the 10 permanent employees and 3 casual workers got salary since November 2017. It is nothing but labour of love that is drawing them to the museum till date,” Mondal said.
While the primary target is to raise money for the museum’s immediate sustenance, upgrade and modernisation and popularisation are also being planned to find long-term solutions.
To encourage donations, rewards are on offer. Contributors of Rs 1,500 or above will receive a set of postcards, those contributing more than Rs 3,000 will get a set of postcards and a mug and those contributing Rs 6,000 or more will get a tote bag in addition.
Those supporting the initiative with Rs 10,000 or more will get their names embroidered in a special commemorative kantha, besides free passes for a classical music concert to be announced shortly.
“Collection of Bengal’s folk heritage was a covert expression of Dutt’s Swadeshi (nationalistic) fervour,” said Sengupta.
A website dedicated to this purpose, savegurusadaymuseum.com, has been created. Bengalis residing abroad are one of the key targets of this campaign.