HERITAGEThe government museum in Puducherry gets a facelift with help from French experts.SRUTHISAGAR YAMUNANreports

Museums providing information about British rule are common in the country. But in Puducherry, museums are unique because they provide fascinating glimpses of how the French ruled the few territories they held in India, and the cultural differences this created between these territories and the rest of the country.

While the government museum here has a wide range of exhibits, they are not attractively displayed for want of space.

Now, the Department of Tourism has almost completed work on the new museum building with modern facilities. Visitors can look forward to getting more information on entering the complex.

A. S. Sivakumar, Director of Tourism, says experts from the French city of La Rochelle had been roped in to ensure that the renovation of the existing museum in Rue Saint Louis and its expansion to the old Public Library, were done in accordance with the latest techniques in museology. The agreement between the department and the experts was facilitated by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).

The team of experts consisted of archaeologists , art historians and museologists, who studied the existing methods of display in the museum and suggested significant changes, based on their experience of working with museums in Europe.

At the moment, the museum has over 600 artefacts, including stone sculptures, paintings from the French period, bronze and terracotta objects from the Chola and Pallava periods, and exquisitely carved furniture used by the French during their stay here.

The newly-expanded building will have separate galleries for artefacts excavated from the Arikamedu site in Puducherry. The displays are expected to be arranged in a chronological order, making it easy for the visitor to understand the evolution of this part of the country.

Further, the experts have suggested special lighting in the building and around the objects to ensure that every exhibit is highlighted in the best way possible.

This apart, the exhibits will carry panels explaining their significance in English, French and Tamil, keeping in mind the diversity of the tourists visiting this coastal town. Officials are also planning to instal interactive multimedia facilities.

Banumathi, Officer on Special Duty at the museum, says the expansion has been carried out at a cost of Rs. 80 lakh and the museum is expected to open in June.