In her Budget speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a series of steps to set up and renovate museums across the country to promote tourism. As part of this, she announced an allocation of Rs 3,150 crore for the Maritime Museum coming up at Lothal in Gujarat. Also, it was announced that on-site museums would be developed at five archaeological sites — Rakhigarhi (Haryana), Hastinapur (Uttar Pradesh) Shivsagar (Assam), Dholavira (Gujarat) and Adichanallur (Tamil Nadu), besides setting up a tribal museum in Ranchi, Jharkhand. We look at some of the new museums that will open their doors to the public this year:
Antiquities Museum, Purana Qila, Delhi
A new museum at the Purana Qila complex, where antiquities discovered from across the country during various excavations will be displayed, opens in April 2020. The facility will be set up in the arched cells that are currently under renovation, and will cost Rs 2 crore. An Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) official said that over a thousand rare relics from the prehistoric period to the post-independence era, recovered from different sites, will be displayed at the museum. These include tools, pottery, terracotta items, semi-precious stones, sculptures and architectural fragments stored at the Central Antiquity Collection (CAC) section in Purana Qila. “There are over two lakh excavated antiquities in the CAC, which have never been seen by the public. Of these, we will display around 1,000 items at the new museum,” says an ASI official.
Three galleries have been planned for the new museum: the first will include objects from the lower Paleolithic to Neolithic period; the second will have objects from the Harappan period till 1000 BC; and the third will include antiquities from the 6th century BC to the medieval era.
Museum of Natural History, Bhairon Marg, Delhi
It was in 2016 that the National Museum of Natural History lost its address at Delhi’s Tansen Marg to a blaze, which also destroyed many of its rare artefacts. The museum was established in 1972, and is known for its collection of stuffed big cats and a fossil from a 160-million-year old sauropod dinosaur. Large collections of mammals and birds were lost, but some important exhibits on the first floor of the museum, which include the museum’s most valuable specimens, were spared. A few months ago, the government awarded the Rs 500 crore project to NBCC (India) to rebuild the museum at a new address: opposite National Science Museum and Pragati Maidan and adjacent to Old Fort and National Zoo. The museum is slated to open later this year.
Maritime Museum, Lothal, Gujarat
The Prime Minister had laid the foundation stone for the maritime museum at Lothal in March 2019. The project is being implemented by the Ministry of Shipping through its Sagarmala programme, with help from the ASI, Indian Navy and Gujarat government. India has partnered with Portugal for the project and the Portuguese Navy will provide assistance, having executed a similar project in Lisbon recently. Lothal had one of the oldest ports in India, dating back to the Bronze Age. The Museum will display salvaged material from shipwreck sites in the Indian Ocean waters. According to UNESCO, an estimated three million undiscovered shipwrecks are still lying on the ocean floor.
Reportedly, many of the shipwrecks between 1824-1962 were in the Indian coastal waters. The museum is expected to have a soft launch by the end of 2020.
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