Historical trove: Red fort to have cluster of museums
Expected by June end, National Museum will be developing two museums at British era barracks while another is being done by Dalmia Bharat group
NEW DELHI: The Red Fort is set to become a centre for historical research and learning with the opening of three new museums focusing on the period starting from early medieval era to advent of Mughal rule by end of June. Archaeological Museum, Indian War Memorial Museum, Subhash Chandra Bose museum, Yaad-e-Jallian, Museum of 1857, Drishyakala, and Azadi Ke Deewane (earlier known as Swatantara Sangram Sangrahalaya) are the seven existing museums inside the Red Fort complex.
A senior official of the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) said five barracks, vacated recently, are being appropriated for the purpose. “In one of the barracks, ASI was running its archeology institution and three barracks — A1, A2, and A3 — were accommodation for security personnel. Till recently, the fifth barrack, which is called RR (Rest and Recuperation) barrack, was ASI site office,” said the official.
Delhi’s National Museum will develop twin centres at the two barracks, including the one where ASI office existed, with dedicated galleries to display medieval period sculptures and Mughal era paintings.
In RR barrack, an information centre-cum-tourist facilitation centre is being set up by Dalmia Bharat group, which adopted the 17th century fort for five years under the Centre’s ‘Adopt A Heritage’ scheme.
“These barracks were inaccessible to general public until now. The decision for their conservation and transformation into museums was taken after the Army vacated the premises in 2003. This was an initiate of the ministry of culture. New museums are likely to be opened by June end,” said the ASI official.
The state-run National Building Construction Corporation (NBCC) is carrying out the restoration of these five British barracks.“With these three new museums, the Red Fort will become a centre for learning history, where visitors will get to learn about medieval years, Mughal period, British Rule and our freedom struggle. It will certainly help students and research scholars,” said the ASI official.
Every day around 6,000-7,000 visitors come to Red Fort. On Sundays, the number goes up to as much as 14,000. Ticket price to enter the Red Fort and museums is `80 while foreigners are charged `950.
The galleries to be created by the National Museum will exhibit sculptures and Mughal era paintings. However, initially replica of paintings will be placed. After a proper environmental impact assessment, the decision to put original art work will be taken.
“The process of selection of antiquities to be displayed is on. We will conduct an audit of security and environment condition at Red Fort complex before putting antiquities there. In the beginning, we are going to display only reprints of the paintings. If the conditions are not suitable, it may damage the paintings,” said Sanjib Kumar Singh, spokesperson and security officer in-charge of National Museum.
Instead, the National Museum will send well-preserved antiquities first.”Sculpture belonging to early medieval to mid-medieval period will be taken to the new museums,” Singh said.
British barracks inside Red Fort
Soon after Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar was exiled to Burma, the British forces converted the fort into a garrison. Till 1857, there were 360 structures, including small palaces, residential quarters, mosques, and space for royal administrative personnel. The exquisite palaces and other Mughal buildings were plundered, their architecture desecrated, and several buildings and pavilions were razed to the ground. In place of Mughal structures, the British constructed double-storey barracks housing museums, quarters, and godowns. These barracks with high ceiling, arched corridors, and large staircases are made of yellow and red bricks. Their exterior walls are lined with quartzite stones. After the Army took over the Red Fort in 1947, it built as many as 400 structures, which were removed by ASI.