While the National Museum for Natural History, gutted in a major fire early Tuesday, was in a building designed for offices, most other museums in the country have been designed with aesthetics uppermost on the minds of their architects and without any disaster risk management plan. After invaluable exhibits have been irretrievably lost in this fire, experts feel it should act as a wake-up call for better planning of new museums in the future.
Rohit Jigyasu, conservation and risk management consultant and UNESCO Chair Professor at Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan who has been working closely with the National Disaster Management Authority to come up with new guidelines for disaster risk management in museums, points out that architects tend to place aesthetics above disaster risk management.
“Fire safety and disaster management plans are drafted in retrospect, after museums or public spaces have already been designed and constructed – they are not factored in at the design stage thereby making the implementation
difficult. Now when the government thinks of a new museum building for Natural History they should give more weightage to such careful planning and ensure the durability of display cases in the event of a blast or fire, evacuation routes,” Jigyasu explained.
Museum consultant and managing director of Eka Archiving, Pramod Kumar KG said, “The National Museum of Natural History was the first entry of kids into the world of museums as parents and school authorities considered this one of the more interesting museums in comparison to the encyclopedic museums with the flora-fauna exhibits. Such museums around the world are very well maintained but sadly that was not the case here. It is sad that fire systems were not in place– in such museums there should be different fire-fighting systems in different galleries because the libraries and the exhibits can be destroyed as much by water as by fire.”
Most experts in the fields of heritage conservation and museology spoken to by The Indian Express, said that they had not visited the National Museum of Natural History in years as it remained in a state of neglect. The museum was more makeshift in nature with poor visitor facilitation plan for movement from one gallery to another. The museum reportedly did not have fire clearances leave alone different specialized fire-fighting systems for different sections of the museum. It was a disaster waiting to happen.