Sitting atop a hill overlooking the beach line near East Hill is a 200-year-old bungalow, which has been witness to quite a few historical happenings — from the writing of the Malabar manual to the killing of the British Collector R. Canolly.
The building, which housed the Collectorate and jails during the British era has been home to the Pazhassi Raja Archaeological Museum since 1976. No one at the Kerala State Archaeology Department that manages the museum seems to be aware of the building’s double-century mark.
A visitor can doubt it for an abandoned structure, considering the thick shrubs that cover the landscape at the entrance.
The gardener, who is part of the staff of eight, is now working in a museum in Ernakulam as part of a ‘work arrangement’ of the government. So, for the past one year, there has been no. But his salary is being drawn from here. Since the post is not technically vacant, a replacement is also not possible, says one of the workers here.
The museum has a vast collection of rare artefacts from as far as back a 1000 B.C. Rare terracotta sculptures from the Indus valley; hero stones, and burial jars from 200 B.C. are part of the collection. But the lack of modernisation is visible in the way these are displayed. There is no temperature-control system or proper glass cases to preserve some of the artefacts that can get damaged in a hot and humid environment. The rather plain lighting — using compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) — gives an ordinary drawing-room feel to the halls.
In 2010, renovation work was carried out at the building at a cost of Rs.76 lakh. A proposal of Rs.7 crore was submitted at the same time to the Department of Cultural Affairs to upgrade the exhibition facilities and to beautify the compound. However, this is yet to be approved.
“We submitted two proposals, one to the Department of Culture for the Pazhassi Raja museum and the other, to the Museum Department for the adjacent Krishna Menon museum. The funds have not been sanctioned yet. But there are chances that a decision will be taken at a meeting of the departments to be held on Friday,” says A. Pradeep Kumar, MLA.