Museum Musings – The New Indian Express

Express News Service

CHENNAI: The quest into the intricacies of Indo- Saracenic architecture and tales of the old city of Madras on a pleasant Saturday morning filled the hearts of heritage enthusiasts with a sense of awe and wonder. The Museum Trail organized by TN Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC) was a journey through the centuries.

When Thirupurasundari Sevvel, Nam Veedu, Nam Oor, Nam Kadhai, quenched the curiosity, Chitra Devi Muthu, interpreted it in sign language, while Srivatsan Sankaran, travel photographer and founder of Madras Photo Bloggers mentored the group on capturing the frame, and Mohan from Aminjikarai led the autorickshaw trail. After a meet-up with Sandeep Nanduri, director, TTDC, the group continued their pursuit. Here is a glimpse of the journey we embarked on.

1. Directorate of Public Instruction

The Directorate of Public Instruction or DPI is where the first institutional campus in the city from the British era once existed. The remnants of an earlier structure assumed to be the College of Fort St George can be seen here.

The college
In 1820, the land belonged to an Armenian merchant, Moorat. While the Government had the seat of power, the Fort, they needed a seat of education. They picked nunga marangal niranja paakam (a land filled with palm trees). Thomas Throatman, in The College, The Dravidian Understanding and Regional Languages, says that the officers were trained in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam, and geology and anthropology.

Another campus that’s a living legacy is the gateway to the Cooum river. The dominant structure was the ceremonial waterfront entrance to the college.

MLS from Monday-Saturday: 10am-5pm. Sunday is a holiday

Other buildings, one can see from the outside but should get permission to visit inside

The Madras Literary Society
The MLS library flaunts a double-storeyed industrial structure, packing 76,000 books. The unique design of the 29-feet storage was created for the government officers who used to wear big boots at the time. While it was built by the British, the architecture was adapted to a more Indian look to gain public approval. Dull tones and muted colors gave way to Indian elements, such as jharokhas. The architectural details here have ensured the preservation of the books for several years.

2. Government Museum

After having the seat of power at the Fort, the seat of education at the college, the seat of art and culture found its place here. It was built with the intent of storing objects from sections like anthropology and art. A lot of us confuse Victoria Memorial Hall with the Victoria Public Hall in the museum. Among the most precious historical remains lies the ax in the anthropology museum from the palaeolithic age. As we walk further into the roads paved with yanai puliyamaram, you can see hundreds of bats flying around, through the open sculpture gallery, making it a habitat where human art blends with nature’s glory.

Timing Saturday-Thursday: 9.30am-5pm Friday is a holiday

3. Police Museum

Around the world, there are very few police museums and only a few of them are open to the public. D Bharathraj, curator, Tamil Nadu Police Museum explained, “The entire campus was just a paddy field in the 1800s. This two-storeyed building was constructed by Arunagiri Mudaliyar and the construction was completed in 1842, after two years of hard work. He spent Rs 36,000 and the space was given for rent at Rs 165 per month. The roof is called Madras terrace and is leakproof. The pillars have doric columns.

In 1856, the British government passed the Madras Police Act 13, and JC Boulderson became the first commissioner of the Madras Police. He bought the police station from Mudaliyar for `21,000. From 1856-2013, the building served as the office of the Commissioner of Police. After 2013, the office was shifted to Vepery. After that, the condition of the building started worsening. Due to the efforts of former DGP of Tamil Nadu, Jalad Kumar Tripathy, and the current Commissioner of Police, Tambaram, A Amalraj, the building was renovated and within six months it was restored to its original glory. A unique feature is the Commissioner’s chamber, used by the commissioners since 1856. The museum will be celebrating its first anniversary after the renovation on September 28.”

The museum has the copy of the letter that carried the orders to hang Kattabomman for rebelling against the British.

Weekdays: 11am-7pm Weekends: 10am-7pm Tuesday is a holiday

4. Museum of Possibilities

Last year, the state government created the Museum of Possibilities, for `1 crore on about 2,500 sq feet. It is run by Vidya Sagar, an organization that strives to improve the lives of persons with disabilities. It serves as a demonstration center for important living areas of assistive technology for individuals with
impairment. It features various devices from tactile books and tools, appropriate paper-based technology, standing crutches, adjustable backrest, and other adapted kitchen utensils and bathroom utilities. The Museum Café here is a skill development center focusing on training adults with disabilities on managing a quickservice restaurant. The space is designed to be inclusive, accessible and has person-specific adaptations for trainees and customers.

Wednesday to Monday: 11 am-8 pm Tuesday is a holiday

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