To enjoy the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (or Prince of Wales Museum, as it was previously known) you need to spend the whole day there or perhaps even longer.
The well-kept lawns, the space, the artefacts on display with their signage, the magnitude of the place and everything within it, are delightful. Designed by architect George Wittet, the museum was built to commemorate the visit of King George V to India.
I have been to the museum before with my kids. The last time being when the Egyptian Mummy exhibition came to India. Like last time, this time too we headed for the audio-guided tour. Most people with children avoid Mumbai’s biggest museum because they think that there will be nothing of interest for kids.
But much has been done to make every artefact on display riveting not only by the choice of lighting and details in the labelling, but also the information placed next to it. Every section has some element created to pique the interest of a cross section of people.
On the ground floor, in the section for Hindu deities, children can match the god with the vehicle (vahaan) that the gods used as transport. On the first floor, visitors can wear headgear from another era and even click pictures with it. In another section on art and calligraphy, visitors can draw and print pictures, copying old styles of drawing.
The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya offers educational audio guides that engage kids for hours
My kids did all of this and more, while I walked admiring the space, the carvings and the design of architect George Wittet who has, among other works that he has contributed to this city, designed the marvellous Gateway of India, the General Post Office and KEM as well as Wadia Hospital.
The displays are from across India and many are from private collections. We gravitated towards the section on arms and armory, and drifted to look at the artworks made from wood, metal, jade and ivory. There are rare archeological artefacts from the Indus Valley civilization, from the Mauryan as well as Gupta dynasties.
Another section has a range of European oil paintings and in there is a girl with an easel, making a replica of what has been hung. We saunter past works that are in the process of being restored. The museum shop has a finger on the pulse of the exotica that people usually look for at a museum while the outdoor cafeteria adds to the savvy ambiance.
Where: MG Road, Fort.
Getting there: The quickest way to reach is by train. It is easily accessible from Churchgate station and CST. Taxis will take you to the museum in five minutes.
Timings: Open daily, except on three public holidays. Open from 10 am to 6 pm. Ticket counters shut at 5.45 pm.
Charges: Rs 30 per head; separate fee for audio guide or for carrying a camera.
Food & water: Yes
What’s good: Cameras allowed for a fee, alert museum staff, overall ambiance.
What’s not so good: Every exhibit should be a part of the audio guide tour.
>> Malabar Hill (Hanging Gardens)
>> Bombay Natural History Society
>> Gateway of India
>> Jehangir Art Gallery