Madras Museum is a treasure trove. Never let the poor display put you off. There is plenty to discover. Bronze and Archaeological galleries in particular are fabulously endowed, and history buffs and aesthetes can have their eyes full. In the Culture Curry section, I would try and share my pleasures of discovery and hope you too would enjoy visiting the museum
Efforts to start a museum in Madras commenced as early as 1828, but it was only after 23 years, in 1851, the Council of Directors of East Indian Company agreed to set it up. Edward Green Balfour, Assistant Surgeon and Medical Officer of the Governor’s Body Guard, was appointed as the first officer in-charge.
The museum was set up in the upper floor of the College of Fort. St George with a small collection of 1,100 objects. It was open to visitors between 6 and 9 in the morning and 2 to half past 6 in the evening. In two years, the museum rapidly increased its collection to 19,830 artefacts and needed a bigger building to exhibit them. In December 1854, the government moved the museum to Pantheon, Egmore - its present location.
The 20 years between 1920 and 1940 was an important period. Under F. H. Gravely’s supervision, the museum collections expanded. The archaeological gallery in particular grew to become the centre of attraction and international attention. Ably assisted by T.N.Ramachandran and C.Sivaramamurti, two eminent scholar-curators, Gravely systematically reorganised the exhibits and published the first set of comprehensive catalogues. In 1939, the new archeological gallery, the present building, was inaugurated.