Museums have to be more than just repositories, they need to bring history alive and that’s what conservation and restoration architect Abha Narain Lambah promises for the Nehru Museum in Delhi. As exhibition spaces are primed for a makeover, there is service upgradation planned as well. “We found the wiring to be worn out and old sun mica and plywood giving way. The flooring in some places are linoleum so the plan is to refurbish all that,” says Lambah.
Mumbai-based Lambah has been appointed as design consultant for the museum, which is part of the Teen Murti complex consisting of the museum, the Nehru Memorial Library and the planetarium.
“Our idea is to conserve the heritage and history within the building, keeping the integrity of the space intact. There are basic things that need to be in place, from signages to information counters. The entry and exit and circulation routes will be remapped for a holistic experience,” says the architect.
Lambah’s design firm Abha Narain Lambah Associates has won numerous UNESCO awards for their heritage conservation including the restoration of the Maitreya Temple in Ladakh and the University of Mumbai’s Convocation Hall.
“We want the whole experience at the Nehru Museum to be immersive, as any international house museum will be. Museums are no longer flat places where frames are hung on walls. The visitor will have a sensorial experience after the revamp. There are videos, newspaper clippings and photographs that will be used to enhance the feel of walking through history. Our plan is to present Teen Murti House’s many layered past,” says Lambah.
Designed by Robert Tor Russell in 1930, who also designed Connaught Place and the Eastern and Western Courts on Janpath, it is here at Teen Murti that India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru lived for 16 years. Before 1947, it was called Flagstaff House and was the residence of the Commander-in-Chief of the British Forces in India.
With historians and lighting designers on-board, Lambah hopes to have a good balance between interactive and static exhibits. While the “period rooms” such as Nehru’s bedroom and study will remain intact, simple elements such as lighting within the space will be explored.
“The museum has over 25,000 photographs alone, experts are sifting through each one to ensure we present new, never-seen-before images,” says Lambah.