India’s heritage is under threat. Priceless treasures are at risk of irreparable damage at Delhi’s premier National Museum because of poor upkeep and official apathy.
Disregard for history and its preservation means a virtual Aladdin’s cave of art, ranging from iconic Harappan seals to exquisite Mughal paintings, being left at the mercy of time.
Unimaginative display apart — proper lighting and additional information are non-existent — six of the 26 galleries have remained shut for years on end, ostensibly for renovation.
The manuscripts gallery, home to rare scripts and documents, has not been seen by visitors since 2003, when it was closed for a makeover. Work is apparently still on, raising questions about the efficiency of the agencies involved. The official excuses for the state of affairs vary from prosaic to downright flimsy.
According to one official, the decorative arts gallery-1, closed to host the Nizam’s jewellery exhibition in 2006, has not been opened as civil and electrical work is being carried out.
The Central Asian antiquity gallery, which, according to the museum authorities, is the richest, both qualitatively and quantitatively among the non-Indian collections, has been shut since 2004, when the roof began to leak. The collection comprises outstanding wall paintings, painted silk banners, wooden sculptures, coins, pottery and documents.