Museum conservation needs a push 
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For more than two years, visitors could view only a section of the exhibits because of the prolonged delay in completion of the work

September 16, 2022 12:34 am | Updated 08:04 am IST

Ancient metal wares on display at the Government Museum in Pudukottai.

Ancient metal wares on display at the Government Museum in Pudukottai. | Photo Credit: M. Srinath

A repository of prized antique items, the more than 100-year-old Pudukottai Government Museum is deemed the second largest in Tamil Nadu, next only to the Chennai Egmore Museum. Established by the Thondaiman rulers of the Pudukottai Samasthanam in 1910 at Thirugokarnam in Pudukottai town, the museum was handed over to the government consequent to the merger of the former Pudukottai princely state with the union in 1948.

Mini-palace 

The museum is in need of speedy conservation. For more than two years now, visitors have been deprived of a wholesome experience as they could view only a section of exhibits at the main building because of the prolonged delay in the execution of the conservation work.

“The museum building by itself is a heritage structure as it had served as a mini- palace for the Pudukottai royal family for temporary sojourns while attending local temple festivals,” says J. Raja Mohamed, former curator of the museum.

The museum has varied collections depicting the history and culture of Pudukottai that is well known for its ancient monuments. To mark the centenary celebrations held a few years ago, the museum got a facelift with the establishment of a modernised gallery and a new metal ware gallery.

9,000 exhibits

The museum has over 9,000 exhibits in nine sections. These include archaeology, anthropology, numismatics, arts, botany, zoology, geology and the industrial arts of Pudukottai. The oldest collections are in the archaeology and anthropology sections, according to T. Packirisamy, curator, Sivagangai Government Museum, who holds the additional charge of the Pudukottai museum.

A sculpture garden at the rear showcases nearly 50 ancient stone idols of deities, belonging to the period from the 10th Century AD to the 14th Century AD recovered from various places in the district. A working model of tyrannosaurus is the centre of attraction, especially among children.

Huge portraits of the Thondaiman rulers and artefacts of the megalithic period are exhibited as one enters the main building. Inside the main building are the other exhibits including crafts of Pudukottai, ancient Thanjavur paintings, historical records, ornaments of Mohammedan and Naattukottai Chettiars and wind instruments such as Tuntuna and flute made of the forearm bone of a man, the metal ware of Pudukottai, besides old records displayed in glass cases.

Ever since the conservation work was taken up on the eastern portion of the museum, only 30% of the exhibits are on display, rues Mr. Raja Mohamed, who is now president of the Pudukottai Historical and Cultural Research Centre. The work was suspended for want of funds and because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dumped in a room 

Many exhibits have been covered with pieces of cloth in a dusty environment inside. “We worry that any further delay in completion of the work will affect the prized exhibits which have been dumped in a room. It is high time the government paid attention to this second largest museum in Tamil Nadu by mobilising resources to expedite the pending civil work. This will pave the way for reopening of the museum fully...,” Mr. Raja Mohamed said.

Mr. Packirisamy attributed the delay to the pandemic and said the work would be finished in due course of time.

“The authorities should take steps to speed up the work so that the museum is restored to its original shape... The prized exhibits should be back on display at the earliest,” said Sarubala R. Tondaiman, former Tiruchi Mayor and a member of the Pudukottai royal family.

R. Sampath Kumar, secretary of the Pudukottai Kamban Kazhagam, said the government should ensure that the suspended work is completed at the earliest.

When contacted, Sandeep Nanduri, Director of Tourism and Managing Director, Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation, who holds additional charge as Director of Museums, said the work was taken up in two stages. The civil work has been completed and funds are awaited from the Centre for the rest of the work.

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