Museums are fascinating because they hide within their walls, not one but many stories. This month, we take you through the corridors of the Visakha Museum.
‘Real museums are places where time is transformed into space.’ Orhan Pamuk seemed to have wrapped the essence of the Visakha Museum in those ten words. With relics ranging from the Palaeolithic Era to World War II, this is where time stops, rewinds and tells you stories that are scary, strange and true. But while its walls hold so much, did you actually know that the museum has its very own story to tell? Well, here it is.
It all began 200 years ago. The building that houses the Maritime Museum didn’t look exactly like this back then. But it stood regal and proud as an office for the Dutch. Those were the years when Indigo plantation was at a high and this building served as a warehouse. Then came the British who converted it into the residence of civil servants. As India attained freedom, the ownership was again passed on and in the 1940s, it came into the hands of the Raja of Daspalla, one of Vizag’s powerful families. But that wasn’t the end of the chain. The housing development was growing, and soon VUDA purchased the land for the purpose. This is the point where the story pauses to catch its breath. In all probability, the building would have gone for housing (all you have to do is look at the buildings around it). But a few motivated citizens and officers decided to change its fate. The idea for a residential construction was scrapped, and a museum was planned here instead.
Efforts soon began in that direction and artefacts were brought in from various royal families. In 1991, the Visakha Museum opened to public with its small yet growing collection. But around 2004, the Indian Navy requested for an Indian Maritime Museum to be set up in the Dutch building.
Today the Visakha Museum houses the Indian Maritime Museum and also two blocks of the Archaeology Museum. The ancient Dutch building showcases various souvenirs from the 1971 war, including the bomb that was dropped in Vizag. Models of warships, submarines and planes can be seen too. A relatively new building from 2004 holds varied archaeological artefacts including the ancient armoury, coins, paintings and stuffed animals. The archaeological wing, which was revamped in February 2016, has a vivid collection of artefacts from the Kalingandhra region, that includes historical treasures of old crockery, silk costumes, jewellery, manuscripts, maps and tools.
Owing to its strategic location, the museum is well-visited by tourists and residents alike. On an average 400 people come in every day with the numbers going up to even 800 people on holidays. But more can still be done says Museum Curator Patrudu. With June to January being peak season for visitors, it is open through the week except on Mondays. Regular art camps and various activities are held here too.
Home to many stories that talk about the rich past of our city and region, we at Yo! hope that the Visakha Museum only gets richer with time and that tomorrow’s citizens talk about it with the same zeal as we do.