Hyderabadis pick their favourite exhibits at the museum and suggest improvements, including a better display and a good cafeteria.

A visit to a reputed museum would entail spending a few hours observing collections displayed across spacious galleries, getting insights into the history of the land, partaking in an ongoing event at the premises and topping it off with a fresh brew and short eats at the cafeteria.

A well-informed guide or an audio guide comes in handy for visitors who do not want to pause and read notes along the museum. While this would be possible in leading museums across the world, how many museums within India can boast of giving such an experience? As Hyderabad’s Salar Jung museum celebrates 125 years this weekend, MetroPlus attempts to gauge the merits of the museum and possible areas of improvement through a few of its visitors.

National treasure

“The Salar Jung museum is a national treasure and is one of the better maintained museums in the country. A hurried visit might take a few hours but someone who keenly observes the exhibits is bound to take two days,” says filmmaker Indraganti Mohanakrishna who last visited the museum a year ago with his daughter. “It’s a great place where children don’t need to be engaged with gadgets. I liked revisiting the statues, the musical clock, arms and ammunitions gallery and was glad my daughter liked the Veiled Rebecca the most, which is my personal favourite too,” he adds.

Art curator and gallery owner Avani Rao Gandra, like many Hyderabadis, visits the museum accompanying guests. She appreciates the collections that showcase India, the Middle East and Far East. “I once spent a day at the museum researching miniature paintings. Apart from hosting fantastic collections, the museum organises travelling exhibitions of interest,” she notes. While Avani feels the museum has an advantage because of its autonomy, she feels there is scope for improvement. “A month ago, I saw the elevation being spruced up. The display needs to improve as well. A gallery hosting jade collections requires a different design compared to a gallery with textile collections. Art management is significant abroad. Recently, I found a sea change at the National Museum, New Delhi, where art students volunteered as guides and the complex also has a cafeteria. Our museum too needs a good cafeteria apart from a better souvenir shop to offer a wholesome experience,” she states.

Indraganti agrees, “While visiting museums, quite often we have children or the elderly and a good cafeteria is a necessity,” he says.

French artist Beatrice de Fays rates the miniature paintings as her favourite for their precision. “I can spend hours there,” she says, also marvelling at the Veiled Rebecca.

The well-travelled draw comparisons between museums abroad and in India, underlining the need for museums here to evolve. Ajay Gandhi of Manthan treasures the memories of visiting the Salar Jung museum on many occasions and talks about the sculptures, costumes, crockery and cutlery of the Nizam era, arms and ammunition, but feels the museum needs something more to engage visitors. “The archaeological museum at Acropolis, Greece, for instance, had recreated an entire excavated city at its basement. We need something more, besides the exhibits,” he says.

Inclusive space

The Salar Jung Museum scores with its accessibility to people from different walks of life. Museologist Anita Shah who has researched extensively on how people react to museums, has in the past given several professional recommendations to make the museum a more inclusive public space. “Several recommendations were implemented. I had suggested organising events to bring in different communities and allowing them to exhibit their art,” she says. Anita lauds the ivory collections, miniature paintings, manuscripts, textile gallery, artillery gallery and the jade gallery and hopes to see the museum grow stronger.