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20 April, 2017 00:00 00 AM
Modern Museums
Modern Museums

Sheikh Iraj

Museums are places that preserve our culture and history. Museums have been part of society for a long time, but they were not always like the ones we get to see today. The traditional role of museums is to collect, preserve, do research and display objects and materials of cultural and national importance so new generations can learn about a particular country or society. Today’s museums provide both knowledge and entertainment.
As to how many museums there are in our country, there is no exact number available as many are run privately, according to Hashem Khan, an eminent artist who is also chairperson of the trustee board of Bangladesh National Museum.
“Under the Bangladesh National Museum, there are six museums. Osmany Museum, Zia Memorial Museum, Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin Sangrahashala and Ahsan Manzil are among them. I believe we need more thematic museums in our country. Some museums could not grow due to negligence. It is better to employ experts in such fields rather than bureaucrats.Then there are some private museums that are becoming very popular among the people. Genocide-Torture Archive and Museum (in Khulna), Bangabandhu Memorial Museum and Liberation War Museum are some examples. By visiting these museums the new generation can learn a lot about our nation and our struggles for freedom,” said Khan, who is also associated with some other museums of our country.
Among all the museums, there are some which have rich collections, but due to lack of publicity, many do not know about them. This week, Y&I takes a look at some little-known public and private museums of our country.

Taka Museum
Taka Museum is located on the second floor of Bangladesh Bank’s training academy in Mirpur. The museum officially opened on April 27, 2013. According to a brochure, the museum’s goal is to showcase ancient coinage and currencies of Bengal and the Indian subcontinent, and promote the history of currencies of Bangladesh and the rest of the world.
Khondokar Anwar Shahdat, joint director of the museum, told Y&I: “We have a rich collection of coinage and currencies. We even have some coins dating back before the birth of Prophet Jesus, from 4 BC. We have displayed our collections in such a way that visitors can easily understand which items are from which period of time. Every day, over 200 people visit our museum and it’s free for all. Many schools contact us and their students come to visit us. We are expanding our museum. Right now, the museum is on the second floor, but we have also allocated the third floor, which will add another 6,000 square feet. We have trained guides who brief the visitors about the museum. We also have arrangements for audio guides. We give visitors a digital audio player and they can listen to a recorded commentary through headphones. We have a special photo booth, where visitors can take pictures and have their portraits printed on a paper designed to look like paper money.”
“We have a souvenir shop. Different types of souvenir coins, paper notes, etc, are sold there. We are also in the process of setting up a small movie theatre, where students will be able to watch different types of art films based on our history and culture,” Shahdat added.
Omar Tipu, a visitor, told this correspondent: “This is the first time I have come here. It’s really wonderful. I recently completed my graduation and when I was a student, I used to visit different museums with my friends. I live in Mirpur, but I had no idea about this museum. I am thinking of revisiting this place with my family.” The museum is open every day from 11am to 5pm, except on Thursdays and public holidays.

Postal Museum
Many of us don’t know that there is a postal museum in Dhaka. And it doesn’t help that in the age of the internet, there is little information about the museum online. The Postal Museum started its journey in the mid-sixties on a small scale. Then in 1985, under the supervision of former chairman Farid Uddin Ahmed, the museum got a solid structure. Today, the museum is situated on the third floor of the General Post Office (GPO). There are two rooms at the museum. One room consists of different types of old post office memorabilia _ from a life-size statue of a runner with spear, lantern, and bugle in hand, to weapons, including guns, swords and other equipment used by the runners, who were the first postmen of the region. Some of the other collections at the museum include post boxes from British colonial times and franking machines used for stamping letters or packages. There are also age-old scales that were used to weigh mail, post office seals, and old, rusted badges, uniforms, bags etc in the room. The other room of the museum is filled with around 3,000 stamps from almost 200 countries, displayed in glass cases.
SM Kamruzzaman, assistant postal director, who is also working as the museum’s keeper, told Y&I: “We don’t get many visitors nowadays. We don’t have much information about the museum online and we hope to work on that. We will soon shift the museum to the ground floor. We believe then more people will come to know about our museum. We get funds from the government and the museum is open for all. Sometimes, students from nearby schools and colleges come to visit. Those who are enthusiastic about collecting stamps also come to visit us. On the occasion of different national observances, the postal department brings out unique postcards and stamps. Those who have a passion for such things, come and collect them.”  The museum is open from Sunday to Thursday, from 9 AM to 4 PM.  

Dhaka City Museum
The Dhaka City Museum opened on July 20, 1996. The museum is situated on the 5th floor of Nagar Bhaban, now the head office of Dhaka South City Corporation. The idea behind the museum is to preserve the past history and heritage of the 400-year-old city. The museum has only a single display room, with a rich collection of different artifacts from the 18th and 19th centuries. Different artworks depicting Eid and Muharram processions during those times are also there. Photographs of different historical places, incidents, people, mosques, temples, paper clippings and antiques can also be seen at the museum. Many of the antiques have been donated by Dhaka’s former nawab family.
As there was no official available to talk to, the receptionist at the museum told this correspondent: “We don’t get many visitors. It costs Taka 2 to buy a ticket and enter the museum.”

Sheikh Russel Children Museum
The Sheikh Russel Children’s Museum is situated inside the Bangladesh Shishu Academy in Dhaka. The museum started its journey in 1991 as Children’s Museum.  Farzana Akhter, a museum officer, told Y&I: “It was renamed as Sheikh Russel Children Museum two years ago. We have three hall rooms. On the ground floor, different pictures of Sheikh Russel, the youngest son of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, are on display. The second and third floors are under renovation. We hope both those halls will be open to the public soon. Students, parents, and visitors who come to Bangladesh Shishu Academy programmes visit our museum as well. We are going to opening a theatre on the third floor. One hundred students will be able to watch short animated films on our culture there. A gallery on ‘Bangladesh through ages’ is on the second floor. In this hall room, visitors can watch three-dimensional artworks that portray the social, cultural and economic history of Bengal, from prehistoric ages to the emergence of Bangladesh. Every month, about 800 visitors come to our museum, but I don’t know why many don’t know about our museum. Our museum website is under construction.”
“We contact different countries and ask them to give us some cultural items that represent their country. So far, 23 countries have responded to our call. We have put them on display on the third floor,” Akhter added. The museum is open every day from 10 AM to 5 AM.   
Meanwhile, Dhaka also has a toy museum. Moshiur Rahman, manager of the privately-owned Toy Museum said: “We are moving to a bigger space in Bangla Motor. We are hopeful that within two months, we will be able to reopen the museum.”

Rocks Museum
The Rocks Museum in Pachagarh, the first in Bangladesh, was established in 1997. The museum is located at Panchagarh Women’s College. It was a former principal of the college, Nazmul Haque, who came up with the idea of the museum.
Mohammad Tahidul Bari Babu, supervisor of the museum, said: “We have different kinds of artifacts like old stones and archaeological objects in our museum. We have 200 different types of rocks in our collection, some of them are over a million years old. We also have two ancient wooden boats, which we think are over 500 years old. A few years back, a teacher from Indiana University’s archeology department in the USA, came to visit our museum, and based on his expertise, he said those boats are over a thousand years old. We have asked the National Museum to verify this fact by conducting a radiocarbon test. So far, they have not replied to our request. Every day, we get around 50 visitors. The museum is open for everyone. When there are exams going on in our college, we ask visitors not to come, except that, we always keep the museum open. We do not receive any funding from the government. When students take admission in our college, we take Taka 20 from each student as donation and from that, we pay maintaining cost.”

Varendra Research Museum
Varendra Museum, maintained by Rajshahi University, is a research centre and popular attraction at Hatem Kha in the heart of Rajshahi city. The museum, founded in 1910 with the support of Maharaja of Dighapatia, was the first of its kind in then East Bengal. The institution was established by Varendra Anushandhan Samiti (investigation society) for its own collection. The rajahs of Rajshahi and Natore donated their personal collections to the museum, and in 1964, it became part of Rajshahi University. The museum is divided into seven exhibition halls, displaying artifacts from ancient Bengal, which were mostly found at nearby archaeological sites. It is a treasure house for students, researchers and tourists seeking to know the identity and history of Bangladesh. Humayun Kabir, a student of Rajshahi University, said: “Many people from different parts of the country come to visit our museum. It costs Taka 20 to visit the museum. My friends and I visit the museum from time to time and we always find something new to learn.”

Photos: Internet

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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