Heritage enthusiasts get a feel of Mumbai’s seafaring journey

Golden past: Artefacts on display at the Maritime Mechanical Museum at Mumbai Port Trust workshop.

Golden past: Artefacts on display at the Maritime Mechanical Museum at Mumbai Port Trust workshop.  

Mumbai: A curated walk at the Maritime Mechanical Museum at Mumbai Port Trust workshop, Mazgaon, saw participation from 30 heritage enthusiasts, who explored the MbPT’s collection of nautical and mechanical instruments used in ships.

Organised by Yes Culture in partnership with the Mumbai chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), the walk aimed at creating awareness of the museum. The INTACH has, for some time, been trying to get the government to declare the museum a heritage structure and make it a tourist attraction.

Formerly known as the Bombay Port Trust, the MbPT set up the museum in 2013 under the leadership of the then deputy chief mechanical engineer, Dilip Vishwanathan. It features memorabilia collected from various vessels that would come to the MbPT workshop for repairs and items from defunct vessels and lighthouses.

The artefacts, which have been gathered over the years, include a sextant used in 1910, a foghorn from 1950 which is still functional, an ‘eight-day’ clock — one which needs to be rewound every eight days — used by mariners to tell the time based on latitude and longitude, and a flameproof telephone. All the artefacts have been collected from defunct vessels or lighthouses.

The museum is based on the architecture of a bygone era, with plenty of windows and holes in the ceiling to let the light in, in the absence of electricity. Even the furniture is in keeping with earlier times, heavy teak wood chairs. A large bell, used by mariners to signal their location to nearby smaller boats, has been placed at the entrance. A separate room has only photographs of various vessels, docks, sailors and equipment used by the MbPT over the years.

Anita Yewale, a resource person at INTACH, said the museum is currently not open to the public, and that efforts are being taken to change the situation. While it was in good hands till Mr. Vishwanathan was there, it started getting neglected after his retirement in November 2016.

“The museum was opened to the public in June 2014, and then it abruptly shut down. It is still maintained, although poorly, and no one seems to know why this is the case. I am trying to get this museum transformed from an unorganised collection of artefacts to a proper curatorial museum,” Ms. Yewale said.

The participants of the walk expressed concern about the state of the museum and the port. “The government needs to pay attention on commercialising the museum by opening it to the public. It might be a good idea to let private companies take over the maintenance, the way it happened with the Red Fort,” Preeti Bhatnagar, one of the participants, said.

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Printable version | Apr 4, 2020 2:31:14 AM |

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