Museums are the windows into the history. It might sound like a boring quiet place where all you see is artefacts from the earlier times. However, when you look closely each one has its story and importance. Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum is not a huge museum when you look at the building, but it stores around 3,500 objects revolving around Mumbai’s history. The museum has photographs, books, textiles, maps, lacquer ware, manuscripts, and weaponry and exquisite pottery which engulfs you into its beauty and craftsmanship. In the first part of this three-part series, we read about the history of Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, once known as the Victoria and Albert Museum. In this part, we focus on its revival and the renaming of the museum to its current name.
A Unique Public-Private Partnership
After India’s independence in 1947, the Victoria and Albert Museum never received the kind of attention it deserved. On November 1, 1975, the museum was renamed as Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum. Dr Bhau Daji Lad was the first secretary of the Museum Committee. He was also a philanthropist, physician, surgeon and a historian. It was his efforts and dedication to urge the citizens to donate freely to the museum. He was at the fore of raising funds for the museum and making this project a success.
In 1997, Indian National Trust for Art and Culture Heritage (INTACH), a non-profit charitable organisation were looking for a place to set up their conservation lab and it was then that the officers of INTACH visited the museum. On seeing the sad state of this historic building they decided to work on it. They convinced the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) to team up and raise funds to restore the museum.
Two years later (1999), INTACH approached the Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation to contribute to the project financially. In 2003, the MCGM, INTACH and the Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation signed a unique public-private partnership along with the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum Trust to restore the museum.
The museum building was in desperate need of architectural restoration because the exterior façade and the interior walls were in the dismal state. The presence of algae and plant growth were ruining the core of the building.
Many of the iron columns were detached from the walls and the etched glass panes were broken. The lighting wasn’t enough to let visitors appreciate the beauty of the artefacts and the intricate designs on the wall were fading away. A lot of gilding and stencil work has gone into the restoration of the museum.
Restoration of the Artefacts
Most of the objects in the museum were in damaged and neglected condition. Many of them had fungus due to poor handling of the objects. INTACH decided to step forward and brought their expert conservators to restore around four thousand artefacts now showcased at the museum. INTACH also brought in some of the skilled craftsmen from Kashmir to restore the carpets.
Museum Organisation Plan
One of the primary changes brought into effect during the restoration of the museum was to bring in a unified theme. Earlier, the placement of the objects in the museum had no sense of storyline. However, during the restoration, the Museum Trust decided to present the objects in a completely new light. There are two main themes that emerge clearly in the museum. First is the evolution of Bombay from seven different islands into a cosmopolitan city. Second is the development of trade and industrial arts and the lifestyle of the citizens.
In 2008, Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum was opened to the public after five years of dedicated restoration work. The combined effort of the MCGM, INTACH, Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation and Museum Trust has transformed this museum into Mumbai’s finest. The museum is exceptionally clean. The staff is friendly and courteous and the interiors are insanely spectacular. The Museum Restoration Project won the 2005 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Award of Excellence for Conservation.
Enjoy the photographic tour of the Museum’s first floor:
I’m sure you guys must have enjoyed the tour of the first floor of the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum. This was just a fraction of the items that are on display so make sure you do visit the museum and take a tour personally if you’re in Mumbai. Also, this is the second part of the three-part series, so coming up next is the tour of open areas of the museum. So stay tuned.
I would also request my readers to please checkout this 10-minute YouTube video by the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum authorities showcasing the restoration work done on the museum and the before and after shots of the museum. The video showcases 5-years of hard work done by INTACH, MCGM, the Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation and the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum authorities.