Poor maintenance of sculptures, lack of literature at Pondicherry Museum

The Pondicherry Museum, which records evidence of diverse influences in the Union Territory from early Romans, to Cholas, Dutch, English and French presence, figures in many a tour website, blog and review on the internet. A common sentiment echoed in these posts, however, is that the treasure house of artefacts falls short of showcasing its glory.

Glance through the visitor’s book at the museum and it is evident that many tourists have expressed appreciation mingled with regret for what could be. In the yard, some sculptures lie exposed to the vagaries of the weather and on entering the museum, there are a number of old paintings propped up against the wall.

“These look wonderful, but I wish someone could tell me who painted it,” exclaims Marie, a visitor. Visitors hungry for more knowledge on some pieces return with their thirst for information unquenched.

While tourists drop in every now and then to view the exhibits, local patronage could be augmented, say museum officials. Few schools in Puducherry encourage students to visit the museum or organise school tours to the centrally-located museum housed in a heritage building.

A visit can prove to be an interesting history lesson as it can throw light on various time periods— the museum has Chola sculptures from Karaikal, Roman coins, jewellery and artefacts excavated at Arikamedu, furniture, marble busts and objects from French aristocratic households in colonial period. A coin museum and transport gallery are other attractions.

Though renovations have been carried out periodically, the presentation of the artefacts is uninspiring, writes a visitor, echoing a common sentiment. The bronze gallery, reputedly one of the biggest in India, can do with better lighting and raised pedestals which can make for better viewing, feels an official.

While staff at the museum are willing to provide rudimentary information, they are unable to elaborate and give insights into the subject. Curio lovers and history enthusiasts often go back with just a little knowledge. The Tourism Department can also put up signposts about the museum and other attractions at important junctions in the town including bus-stands and railway stations, suggests a staffer

While some artefacts are unlabelled, there are no catalogues or explanatory pamphlets. A brochure in English has been planned for long, but never saw the light of day.