Malleswaram’s Wood Museum offers a 360-degree view of the humble material

If the signboards are tree-shaped, and the buildings bear slogans like “wood is good”, you’re likely to be at the Institute for Wood Science and Technology, an establishment dedicated to researching all things wood.

Located near Malleswaram 18th Cross, the Institute for Wood Science and Technology (IWST) also houses a Wood Museum and Interpretation Centre, a repository of knowledge about the material.

Walking through a museum devoted to wood might not sound like your idea of a fun afternoon, but this museum has something for everybody.

The first thing that strikes you as you enter the museum is a section of a giant tree trunk. This enormous exhibit is detailed enough to allow you to view — and count — the growth rings that indicate the age of a tree; its age is estimated to be 780 years.

You then notice that the museum has detailed posters that trace the centrality of wood to civilisations. Heat was obtained from wood fires; fields were ploughed with wooden tools; structures were built with wood.

The museum was set up in January 2012, primarily to renew public attention to wood as a material, and to remedy the perception that there’s little to wood beyond being a ‘carpenter’s material’. “We do not value it since it is nature’s gift, but there’s a lot to be learnt about wood,” says Shakti Singh Chauhan, scientist at the IWST.

Trivia and oddities

Plenty of curiosities are on offer, perhaps too many, for the easily distracted: for instance, one particularly alluring section exhibits a visually fascinating variety of seeds of trees. Another section invites you to pick up slabs of wood from different trees — they’re all of the same size, but vary dramatically in weight. (If only I had been taught high school science with such hands-on exercises.)

There are also many stray facts to collect, did-you-know style, should you be so inclined. Take, for instance, the fact that trees can get as short as one to six centimetres, as in the world’s shortest tree species, the dwarf willow.

At the same time, with posters and exhibits that describe the chemistry and biology of wood, there’s enough detailed, specific knowledge for the scientifically inclined.

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