National Museum cant expand, faces space crunch

August 29th, 2008 - 12:08 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 29 (IANS) Strange as it may sound, the National Museum - the country’s largest museum - is able to display only a tenth of its 200,000 artefacts as a large part of its premises is being occupied by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).The museum’s expansion plans are being held up for the same reason. The remaining artefacts are lying in the museum storehouse.

Culture Minister Ambika Soni has said that the ASI would soon be vacating the premises to give way for a massive expansion plan for the landmark museum that was originally conceived by India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

“We need more space to display the artefacts. The ASI will soon vacate the premises and then we will go for a massive expansion of the museum,” Soni told IANS.

She said the ASI would be shifting their offices, which are at the moment housed at the museum premises, to Tilak Marg in New Delhi.

The minister said due to space constraints the museum is unable to display important collections like the Indus valley civilisation sculptures and the Central Asian monuments.

Soni, who is also tourism minister, said the museum expansion is not being planned to coincide with the Commonwealth Games in 2010, as it would take at least five years for their plans to take final shape.

“We want the museum to be comparable to any other museum internationally,” she added.

ASI headquarters now function from sheds built on the same plot as the National Museum building.

ASI Director-General Anshu Vaish said they could not vacate the premises earlier as they had to get permission from the urban development ministry for constructing their offices in the Tilak Marg area as it falls under Lutyens’ zone of New Delhi where every construction needs special permission.

“We have now got one permission from the ministry and are waiting for another one after that we would start construction,” Vaish told IANS.

“We know the national museum has been waiting for long for us to move. We will move after the building is completed. It will take at least two years,” she added.

According to the R.R.S. Chauhan, director of exhibition and public relations at the National Museum, they have drawn up plans for the modernisation and expansion of the museum, which was opened in 1960 and is the largest in the country, holding artefacts from over 5,000 years of Indian history.

One plan includes constructing a special section for children and foreigners, which will give a glimpse of how the villagers live in India.

The plan is also to provide as much space for exhibitions, cafeteria, parking and administrative blocks as possible, Chauhan said.

“We have a collection of 200,000 objects, but we are able to display only 10 percent of them. We want to have construction under the ground. This will allow us to have more space and would ensure that there would not be any structural changes that would mar the original design,” he added.

“We have many important collections and are eager to show them. This would be possible when we are able to modernise the museum,” he said.

Chauhan said the expansion would also mean they would get more storage area for the artefacts.

On an average, 700 people visit the museum daily. The charges for Indians is Rs.10 and for foreigners Rs.300, which include an audio guide that explains the displays in five languages - German, French, Spanish, Hindi and English.

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