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PM Modi to re-dedicate three restored colonial structures to Kolkata

Meltcalfe Hall. File

Meltcalfe Hall. File  

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Currency Building, Meltcalfe Hall and Belvedre House turned into ‘vibrant cultural spaces’

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is scheduled to visit Kolkata later this week, will “re-dedicate three recently restored iconic buildings” to the people of Kolkata, a senior official of the Ministry of Culture said on Thursday.

“Currency Building, Meltcalfe Hall and Belvedre House are the heritage buildings that have been restored and made vibrant with the intervention of the Ministry of Culture,” Raghvendra Singh, CEO of Development of Museums and Cultural Spaces, Government of India, and Vice-Chancellor, National Museum Institute, told The Hindu.

Cultural spaces

“This is just the beginning. The people of Kolkata, once they get back these buildings, have to own and make use of these cultural spaces. For instance, if you want to organise an exhibition, a theatre festival or a music festival, these are right places at right locations,” Mr. Singh, former secretary, Ministry of Culture, said. He said that Kolkata, the cultural capital of the country, was in dire need of such cultural spaces.

Located in the heart of the Dalhousie area, the Currency Building was built in 1833, designed in the Italian style with regal Venetian windows and cast iron gates, and housed one of earliest banks in the country. Till 1937, the building was occupied by the Reserve Bank of India, after which it slipped into neglect. In the early years of the millennium, there was a proposal to bring the building down and construct a multi-storey structure in its place. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) took over the Currency Building in 2002 and later declared it a protected monument.

‘Completely restored’

“Much of the restoration work of the building has been done over the last two financial years. It has been completely restored and is now ready to house exhibitions on art and culture,” Shubha Majumder, Superintending Archaeologist, Kolkata Circle of the ASI, said. The Currency Building is all set to host an exhibition titled ‘Ghare Baire’ (‘The World, The Home and Beyond’) on 18th-20th century art in Bengal, which has been commissioned by the Ministry of Culture, and organised and curated by the Delhi-based DAG and the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA).

The Metcalfe Hall, another majestic colonial building located about 200 metres from the Currency Building, was restored by early 2019. “The building, which draws its name from Lord Metcalfe, Governor General of India from March 1835 to March 1836, is housing an exhibition ‘Ami Kolkata’, on the people of Kolkata,” Mr. Majumder said. The building was conceptualised as a public library that was built between 1840-1844, and is a majestic monument with 30 Corinthian pillars.

The third building, Belvedere House, in the campus of the National Library, was also facing neglect, and has been restored. Belvedre House has housed Governors of Bengal and Viceroys of India, and was Mir Jafar’s palace before that.

“The building is housing the paintings of Elizabeth Bruner, and on 100 years of Santiniketan, and also some old photographs of Kolkata by painters like Raja Deen Dayal,” Mr. Singh said. According to officials, the Prime Minister is likely to participate in an event organised by the Ministry of Culture on the evening of January 11 at the Currency Building.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 4:54:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/pm-to-re-dedicate-three-restored-colonial-structures-to-kolkata/article30525333.ece

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