Now, take a virtual tour of Mumbai's Dr Bhau Daji Lad museum

Google Cultural Institute allows you to tour city’s oldest museum without visiting it

With controversies fresh in its recent memory, the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum is showing no signs of slowing down.

Google Cultural Institute offers a close-up view of the museum’s resources and architecture.
Google Cultural Institute offers a close-up view of the museum’s resources and architecture.

Starting today, visitors can have a tour of the museum’s restored interiors, its verdant environs and collection, without setting foot at the Byculla address. (Click here to take a virtual tour of Dr Bhau Daji Lad museum)

What’s more, there is a chance to peer into the floral designs in nooks, or carefully observe the brush strokes of a MV Dhurandhar painting. Having digitised its collection, Bhau Daji Lad becomes the first museum in the city to partner with Google Cultural Institute, a non-profit with a virtual presence of more than six million objects from over 1,000 museums and cultural institutes world-over.

Honorary Director of Dr Bhau Daji  Lad Museum, Tasneem Mehta, with Amit Sood, director of Google Cultural Institute, at the launch of the museum’s virtual presence. PIC/BIPIN KOKATE
Honorary Director of Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Tasneem Mehta, with Amit Sood, director of Google Cultural Institute, at the launch of the museum’s virtual presence. Pic/Bipin Kokate

Over the last one year, the museum has been working on building a 3D virtual presence using tools provided by Google. For starters, here are the introductory offerings: a full virtual visit of the museum in panorama and zoom mode; 218 objects which include highlight artefacts, such as its famed dioramas of historical scenes and local life, antiquated Bidri objects, and bronze casts of Cellini’s sculptures; and seven exhibitions, including Atul Dodiya’s 7000 Museums: A Project for the Republic of India, and a before-after narrative of the museum. The museum’s restoration project won the 2005 UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Award of Excellence for Conservation.

“From the street view of the museum to the zooming in of every case of objects, it is like seeing it with the naked eye,” said Tasneem Mehta, the museum’s honorary director. The online repository, she added, will prove to be a boon for academic researchers and students, since it allows aspects of the museum, such as the carvings on the North Door, and its collection to be studied in detail.

“Bhau Daji Lad is the first museum in India to put up its collection [virtually] in a comprehensive way. It is a moment of celebration and achievement to show the world that we can be as good as the best out there,” said Mehta.

She added that the next steps for the online museum are Hindi and Marathi translations. The online launch was one among 100 that took place globally on Google Cultural Institute on Thursday. In India, Google Cultural Institute has already partnered with the Salar Jung Museum, Victoria Memorial Hall Kolkata, Dastkari Haat Samiti, Devi Art Foundation, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, and the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute, among others.

The online presence, they hope, will usher in more footfalls for the museum, from national and international visitors. Amit Sood, director of Google Cultural Institute, pointed to anecdotal information that shows how the non-museum-visitor gets interested in paying an actual visit to a museum after a virtual tour. The Institute has 23 million followers on social media, which will considerably impact Bhau Daji Lad. Sood, who was in the city for the launch, revealed that Google is in talks with more museums in the city. He explained debuting in Mumbai with Bhau Daji Lad thus: “because it is a museum of the city and preserves the cultural history of Mumbai”.

The museum opened to the public at its present site in Byculla in 1872 as the erstwhile Victoria & Albert Museum, Bombay. It is Mumbai’s oldest museum and the third oldest in the country. He hopes that smaller museums in the city will reach out to Google, using a Sign Up option available on the platform.

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