By the time you read this, news that a New York firm has bagged the open competition to design the new building wing at the Dr Bhau Daji Lad City Museum would have created a flutter among certain circles in Mumbai. For one, it's a step in the right direction - to open up more spaces like these in a city like ours that is starved of museums. We could surely do with more such spaces permanent or mobile to instill and encourage a thirst for knowledge among all age groups and the youth in particular, catering to genres and interests, from its maritime history to textiles, railways to mercantilism.
This news should serve as a wake-up call to our existing spaces that need to be shaken up, largely due to the glacial pace with which we are used to seeing things of this nature take place in the city. For example, sitting treasures like RBI’s Monetary Museum, sections of the Asiatic Society Library, university library, the David Sassoon Library or the State Archives even, can and should be opened up for the public. This goes a long way in experiencing and appreciating sides of a city that remains otherwise unknown or bear the tag of ‘heritage’ which equals to old, scholarly, dusty and derelict. Essentially, not meant for the rest. As a journalist, one has been lucky to have often stumbled upon jaw-dropping treasures tucked into the cauldrons and labyrinthine pathways of these landmarks that most pass by, unaware of the stunning repository that lies within.
Both our city museums are doing a fabulous job of tempting new age groups and visitor profiles into their spaces. From video art installations and children’s festivals to restoration workshops and international exhibits, we’ve experienced quite a few fascinating avenues and ideas take shape and form. What about the rest? So much more information and experiences seems to be lying idle in these gigantic citadels of unimaginable importance.
Many cities across the globe announce certain days of the year when spaces inside public buildings are thrown open to the layman, to give them the opportunity to gauge how these offices function, and the marvels that lie inside zones that are otherwise off-bounds. Apart from Mumbai CST’s heritage walks, one cannot think of any other historic landmark that offers a similar experience.
All of the above could be small, yet critical steps into bringing the city closer to its illustrious heritage, its rich history and unique status as Urbs Primus in Indus (India’s prime city - as written on the crest of the BMC). Let’s bring the museum to the Mumbaikar.
The writer is Features Editor of mid-day