Treasure house of a rich past

Panchaloha idols and bronze Gallery at the Egmore Museum. Photo: S. Thanthoni  

Children and youth love to visit a museum that is a repository of culture and heritage. Generally museum houses ancient artefacts which captures the interest of the visitors.

The Government Museum, Chennai, established in 1851, is the second oldest museum in India, the first being the Indian Museum in Kolkata, started in 1814.

It is also one of the largest museums in South Asia and rich in archaeological and numismatic collections.

The one and only Government museum in the city boasts of largest collection of Roman antiquities outside Europe. Many of the buildings within the museum campus are over 100 years old.

Among them, the colossal Museum Theatre is certainly the most impressive.


The proposal for a museum was mooted by the Madras Literary Society in 1846 AD and Sir Henry Pottinger, the then Governor, obtained the sanction of the Court of Directors of the East India Company in London.

In January 1851 AD, Dr. Edward Balfour, Medical Officer of the Governor's Bodyguard was appointed First Officer in charge of the museum. The notification in the Fort St. George Gazetteer dated April 29, 1851 A.D. contained the first announcement regarding the opening of the museum.

Museum authorities said the artefacts institution aimed at offering unparalleled opportunities to the visitors for exploration and learning on diverse fields of Arts and Science. Students and scholars can benefit from the good collection of reserve materials available in addition to the exhibited materials for research and study, they added.


The museum complex consisting of six buildings and 46 galleries covers an area of around 16.25 acres. The objects displayed in the museum cover a variety of artefacts and objects covering diverse fields including archaeology, numismatics, zoology, history, sculptures, palm-leaf manuscripts and Amravati paintings.

Archaeology section

The archaeology section is well- known for its collection of arts from various periods of south Indian history which is irresistible to scholars and laymen alike for their variety and artistic merit. Exhibits include sculptures in stone and metal inscriptions, copper plate grants, wood carvings, metal ware, etc.

For art lovers, the museum has a good collection of contemporary and modern paintings and sculptures, besides Tanjore Rajput, Moghul, Kangra, and Deccani paintings.

Another feature is the works of Raja Ravi Verma, displayed under fibre optic lighting.

In addition, portraits of British Governors of the Madras Presidency are also there.

The zoology section is one of the largest in the museum. It has 12 galleries showcasing models of animals, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, cord, invertebrate, and fish galleries.

Although its scope is limited to south India fauna, a few specimens native to other countries, such as mandarin duck, mackaw parrot, tragopan, monal and the golden pheasant have been added to enhance the interest of the visitors. The gigantic skeleton of the great Indian baleen whale in the general zoology hall is a must see exhibit.

Wonder for children

Children's Museum is a place for both entertainment and education. The display reveals the world in which they lived, arouses intellectual curiosity and opens the door to the world of wonder.

A fountain operated by solar power and water pumping unit operated by windmill, life size tyrannosaurus and stegosaurus fibre glass models are major attractions in the museum.

A website with a virtual tour has been launched. The website — and contains information on the history of the museum, galleries with photos and descriptions of important objects in the museum. It has also brief details of the museums in each and every district.

The institution has been organising, ‘Exhibit of the Week,' to highlight rare specimens of various sections in the museum.

The museum is located on Pantheon Road and the nearest railway station is Egmore.

It is open for visitors from 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on all days except Fridays and three national holidays — Republic Day, Independence Day and Gandhi Jayanthi.

For more details about the museum call 2819 3238.

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Printable version | May 4, 2021 1:09:49 PM |

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