Let’s look back in time as the Government Museum and Art Gallery, Chandigarh, celebrates its 50th anniversary on Sunday that will only be a beginning to a year-long celebration with a series of activities. The museum, designed by Le Corbusier and inaugurated in 1968 by then chief commissioner of Chandigarh M S Randhawa, is known for its collection of Gandhara sculptures, Pahari and Sikh miniature paintings and also contemporary art. Before Partition, the collection of paintings, sculptures and other art objects were part of Central Museum, Lahore.
An extract from the speech of Randhawa at the museum’s inauguration reads: “It is a special day of significance to me personally. The museum presents culmination of efforts in collection of paintings and sculptures, which started in 1952. It is also realisation of a dream, which I long cherished. Now after 16 years, I see this ready in every respect. It is a miracle that this museum is being opened today (May 6, 1968). When I look back and recall the vicissitudes, through which this project has passed, my belief in that Unseen Power, which helps all good work is reinforced”.
Seema Ghera, the deputy curator of the museum, also shared some letters, which show the immense effort, Randhawa had made to collect the precious miniatures from the former royal families of Himachal Pradesh, and how at no cost he wanted the collection to be divided when Himachal and Haryana became separate states.
According to Ghera, a year-long celebration is on cards. “The museum will welcome children and families, with age-appropriate gallery activity sheets and games, which will support open-ended exploration, imaginative learning and deep engagement, all designed to make it a memorable and immersive learning experience. These shall be combined with gallery walks by curators, guides and conservators. There will be a special walk on the ‘Secrets of the Chandigarh Museum.’ Other fun activities will be a potter’s wheel, on which anyone can work. There will also be a painting competition where children can explore the theme, ‘My museum turns 50’. Being a special day for the Museum, people won’t need to buy tickets on Sunday,” said Ghera.
Chandigarh Architecture Museum, located in the same complex, has conceptualised interactive programmes on the occasion of International Museum Day on May 18. Apart from a workshop for government schoolteachers and an audio-visual lecture on Chandigarh, a photography competition, ‘Me and the Museum’ attempts to get people to the museum, look at the collection that brings one closer to the vision, challenges and making of Chandigarh, with some rare documents, letters and photographs.