If National Museum (NM) has emerged to become India’s premier repository of artefacts over its 65 years of growth, equally fascinating will be a broad glimpse at its initial struggles to acquire objects which now total over 2.06 lakh. An exhibition of archival photographs of that phase is now on at the very venue.
Down Memory Lane, a month-long exhibition of 57 images, got off to a start in the famed rotunda of NM on its foundation day today. It features visuals from 1945, which was the year that saw the first move to establish the institution, to momentous occasions up till 1970.
NM Director-General Venu V said the exhibition has been mounted on the special occasion of the foundation day of the 1949-started institution. ‘It throws light on its many of its inception-related and growth stories - through archival and rare photographs’, he noted. ‘We gathered from government institutions and private donors’.
The exhibition opened hours after writer-historian-curator William Dalrymple addressed a gathering at the museum. In his hour-long talk on Princes and Painters in Mughal Delhi 1707-1857 at the NM monthly lecture series on Sunday evening, the 49-year-old British Indologist explained with pictorial examples the paradox of art flourishing amid a weakening economy and polity that was typical of Northern India during the decline of the dynasty tracing its roots to Central Asia.
As for the Down Memory Lane exhibition, Venu noted it ‘portrays a very interesting history’ of National Museum, which typically unveils stories through its exquisite collection of paintings, sculptures, manuscripts and ethnographic objects spanning over 5,000 years of heritage.
For instance, in 1946, the idea of building a national museum for India was proposed by a committee headed by Sir Mourice Gwyer, the First Chief Justice of the then Federal Court.
NM was designed by the architect Ganesh Bikaji Deolalikar and the foundation stone was laid by Pandit Nehru on May 12, 1955. Once the building was ready, the new museum was inaugurated by Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Vice-President of India, on 18 December, 1960. The ongoing exhibition has photos of all such historic occasions and more.
Today, NM has ten important collections including pre-historic archaeology, archaeology, numismatics and epigraphy, miniature paintings, manuscripts, decorative arts and textiles, anthropology and so much more.
WHERE: National Museum
WHEN: On till 12 June