Gauhati University Museum to receive Rs 50 lakh facelift
One of the oldest museums in Northeast India Madhab Chandra Goswami Anthropological (MCGA) Museum at Gauhati University (GU) which turned 70 this year, is set to undergo renovation soon.
Established in 1948, it is home to a rich collection of ethnographic (relating to different cultures) as well as archaeological materials. It is currently located in the department of Anthropology at GU.
However, authorities maintain that the current space at the department is not sufficient for the museum. For this reason, some of the artefacts have also been displayed in the corridor at present.
But now the Anthropology department has finalised the extension and renovation work for the museum.
“The process has already begun and the vice-chancellor has taken a keen interest in extending the museum and displaying it in its proper and scientific form. Our architects and planning managers have already surveyed the area for the eastern extension of the museum,” informed head of the Anthropology department at GU, Dr Abdullah Ali Ashraf.
He added that post renovation, the present MCGA museum will be converted into a double-story building and the artefacts will be classified and properly displayed.
For this, university sources informed that at least 50 lakhs would be required. The officials said that the new complex would include several facilities including a conference centre, display room, treatment room, museum library, audio-visual and photographic display room.
The museum has been documenting cultural materials from different parts of the Northeast region since its establishments. It is home toornaments, textiles, masks, wood items, iron objects, musical instruments, earthen objects and head gear belonging to different tribes and indigenous groups of the region.
Besides these materials, it also comprises archaeologicalprehistoric and historic stone tools and potteries.
Officials informed that by 1960, the department had become full-fledged teaching and researching museum. The museum artefacts were first kept at Don Bosco High School, which were then shifted to Law College compound before being finally moved to the Anthropology department.
“Want of space has been a constant headache for this department since 1948 when we had a tiny museum in a corner of Don Bosco High School where the department was temporarily located,” mentions the museum’s newsletter quoting the former head of Anthropology department, MC Goswami.
Talking to G Plus, Dr Ashraf said that the museum houses close to 10000 stone artefacts, 1200 ethnographic artefacts and the unique feature is that they are all original.
“This is the beauty of this museum. In most Indian museums, one does not find original things and many of the ethnographic artefacts are now extinct but this museum houses some very rare ethnographic materials that too in a good condition,” he said.
Emphasis on meticulous preservation of artefacts
Officials from the Anthropology department informed that they have been laying special emphasis on careful preservation of museum materials.
“We have preserved all museum materials very meticulously and scientifically. Since we had a shortage of technical hands, we have now trained our students to carry out the work,” said Dr Ashraf.
He added that the department has a course specially designed for this called the museum methods course. Under this, the students are taught various ways which are used to preserve wooden, stone, iron and bone artefacts- each of which require different treatment for preservation.
The department makes up for the shortage of technical manpower by involving students in the conservation work.
Experts say that artefacts are usually easy to collect but very tough to preserve given the climatic condition of the region.
“Since we are living in a sub- tropical region where the climate is very humid, it becomes difficult to preserve the artefacts,” said another professor of the anthropology department at GU.
The faculty of the department takes pride in the fact that they have been conserving museum materials since 1948 and have fortunately not damaged a single piece.
They also attribute this feat to the attitude of the students, teachers as well as staff members.
“There is a sense of belonging here which is a necessary trait to be imbibed in all students and staff everywhere. They are aware about and very careful of the museum materials and this is one of the major reasons that we have been able to preserve the museum materials for a long period of time.”
Their efforts over the years has also been appreciated from far and wide. During his visit to the museum, the famous anthropologist and scholar C Von-FurerHaimendorf had written in the visitor’s book:
“I am greatly impressed by the rich and the valuable ethnographic collection contained in the departmental museum. If space were available it could easily fill two or three large halls and could become the nucleus of an ethnographic museum for the whole of Northeast India. Within the limitations imposed by the available space, it is carefully reported and displayed by the department of Anthropology. The responsible members of the staff can be congratulated having to assemble this excellent collection.”
IGRMS offers support for museum
GU officials informed that they have agreed to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sanghralaya (IGRMS), Bhopal to conduct a certificate course on preservation of museum materials.
“For this course, the IGRMS will provide the resource persons,” said head of the Anthropology department at GU, Dr Abdullah Ali Ashraf.
The IGRMS officials have also proposed that we should conduct workshops on preservation of museum materials which will be a 15-day programme, he added.
Officials said that these projects are in the pipeline and the department will soon finalise them.