Travelling to various parts of Maharashtra, a bus ensures that a museum-like experience is available to those who cannot make it to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya in Mumbai.
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The Museum on Wheels, a dedicated museum carrying different exhibitions of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya to distant places, is a customised air-conditioned bus.
The museum, which started in October 2015, is an initiative of the Ministry of Culture and Citibank. “The themes of the travelling exhibitions change periodically. The bus is designed to reach mainly schools, colleges, NGOs within the city of Mumbai and into the interiors of Maharashtra,” said Aparna Bhogal, a curator at the CSMVS Museum. Usually replicas of the original exhibits are kept on display in the bus to prevent any damage to the original art works. The latest exhibition in this museum, which is always on the move, is “The big Indian toy story.” This bus has travelled to Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane, Nashik and Ratnagiri so far and has multi-touch screens for making the experience more fun.
While the bus might be a great outreach programme, the museum located in South Mumbai still continues to be a great attraction for those seeking an insight sense into cultures of India through various exhibits in 22 different galleries. The museum sees 3,000 visitors every day during the week days which increases to 5,000 during the weekend.
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The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, formerly known as the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India was founded in the early 1900s. The museum has different galleries like Natural History, sculptures, textiles, pre-proto history, decorative art, European paintings, etc. Right now, panels are informing people about a Mummy’s exhibition seems to be the latest attraction. “Sometimes when people visit the museum from the interiors of Maharashtra, they tend to pray and bow before the sculptures and statues of Shiva, Vishnu and other Gods and Goddesses on display here at the museum. For us it is a mere work of art but for them it takes a higher meaning,” said Bhogal.
According to her, depending on the age group of the person visiting the museum, they are attracted to different galleries. “For instance, children like to go to the Natural History gallery,” she explained.
New exhibitions are always being planned every few months depending on the artifacts procured by the museum. “People sometimes ask us what we do as curators since everything is already on display with explanations,” said Bhogal smiling. “We have to justify our job and tell them we have to plan and organise new exhibitions, come up with new initiatives to keep it interesting,” she added.
According to the museum website, on August 14, 1905, a number of prominent people of Bombay gathered at the Town Hall and resolved to erect a memorial for the visit of the Prince of Wales (later King George V) in the form of a public museum, which would be named after him. The foundation stone of the museum was laid by the Prince of Wales on 11th November 1905 and the museum was named Prince of Wales Museum of Western India.
“For a long time people had felt the need for a good museum in the city and finally the museum was established by the public contribution aided by the then Government of the Bombay Presidency. This memorial in the form of a museum was to be erected on the plot of land known as the Crescent Site on the southern tip of the island. The building was completed in 1914 but it opened to the public much later on 10th January, 1922. Until then it was used by the military as a hospital and for Children’s Welfare Exhibitions,” states the museum website.
Much of the original beauty of the building has been retained. The artifacts collected during the British Era and thereafter has been exhibited in various galleries. During 2008-2015, over 1,500 art objects were registered at the CSMVS for varying levels of analysis, documentation or treatment. The museum also offers PG Diploma in Museuology and Conservation and a course in heritage studies and conservation to fill the gap of lack of such courses in Maharashtra. Supported by donors and sponsors, the museum is always trying to make the past relevant in the present times.