Museum on erstwhile Central Prison

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ANTIQUE VALUE: A carpentry machine made in 1910 by Cooksley & Co Ltd, London, is among the jail equipment to be preserved.
ANTIQUE VALUE: A carpentry machine made in 1910 by Cooksley & Co Ltd, London, is among the jail equipment to be preserved.

Vidya Venkat

CHENNAI: The paraphernalia from the erstwhile Central Prison will be preserved for posterity, though the building itself is up for demolition to make way, mainly, for the proposed Metro rail project.

Work would soon be commissioned on a museum in the Puzhal prison, where old equipment used by past prisoners would be kept for public display.

The idea, mooted by Director General of Police (Prisons) R.Natraj, is an attempt to preserve jail equipment of historical importance. Mr.Natraj told The Hindu that a similar initiative earlier of converting into a museum the cell where Poet Bharathi was imprisoned in Cuddalore Central prison was well received. The museum will interest antique-lovers and history buffs alike, he said.

Among the items on display would be old photographs of famous prisoners such as Veer Savarkar, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and C.N.Annadurai. The equipment used in the prison industry, earthenware and aluminium vessels used by prisoners and entry registers with signatures of well-known prisoners would also be kept on display. Some of the machines used for carpentry have their made-in-London seals intact.

“The study of these prison equipment in contrast to the ones used now show how prison life itself has transformed over time,” Mr.Natraj said. “The Prison department is also making arrangements to display photocopies of famous diaries written in prison, including Arignar Anna’s book 6342,” he said.

Heritage conservationist P.T.Krishnan suggested that the memory of the prison be preserved where it stands now by turning a small portion of the prison complex into a museum. “The old prison and the new Metro station can co-exist thus,” he suggested. “Not many may venture as far as Puzhal to see the museum, he added.

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