Mumbai Unseen: A look at Bhau Daji Lad City Museum

Updated: Dec 07, 2016, 15:39 IST | Suprita Mitter

On its Foundation Day today, we revisit Mumbai's oldest museum, built as a treasure house of the decorative and industrial arts


Exterior view of the museum

Circa 1858: Soon after the Crown took over the direct governance of India from the East India Company, a group of spirited citizens decided that the first important public institution to be built in Bombay would be a museum along with a natural history and botanical garden. Dr Bhau Daji Lad and Dr George Birdwood, the two secretaries of the Museum Committee, were in charge of raising funds. "Birdwood said that citizens of then Bombay wanted to be part of the building process.


Former logo of the Museum incorporated into the design of the cast iron railing

"The Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum opened to the public in 1872 as the erstwhile Victoria and Albert Museum, Bombay. It took 15 years, and was an expensive affair. The cast iron railings and Minton tiles were imported from England," says director Tasneem Mehta. "The consignment of tiles was sent on two ships of which the second one sank. This part of the flooring was done using basalt. Birdwood has written extensively about how upset this made him," she adds, referring to the lower floor of the museum.

Once in a derelict condition, the museum underwent a comprehensive five-year restoration by INTACH supported by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai and Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation. "We had to slice off an inch of the floor as it was severly damaged. It took us three weeks. Johny Joseph, the then Municipal Commissioner, suggested encaustic tiles, which were expensive," she recalls. The project went on to win UNESCO’s international Award of Excellence for cultural conservation when it re-opened in 2008.


The Industrial Arts Gallery

At Dr Ambedkar Road, Byculla (E). Call: 23731234

Did You Know?


His excellency Sir H B E Frere laying the chief corner-stone of the museum

Buried under the foundation stone is a box containing copies of newspapers circulated in Mumbai on the date that the chief cornerstone was laid. There is written record of architectural drawings having been in that box too. This was done as a casual ritual for posterity.


The glass Negative collection 

Bytes and bites while in the neighbourhood

Masina Hospital

In the late 1800s, David Sassoon's palatial mansion, Sans Souci, would host some of the city’s biggest social dos. Today, it's home to Masina Hospital, the city's oldest privately run facility, which includes a newly renovated Out Patient Services Department (OPD). at Sant Savta Mali Marg, Byculla (E).

Byculla bakery:

Opened in 1910, the bakery serves bun maska, sweet milky chai, khari biscuits and coconut macarons that are to die for. When the owner first came to India from Iran he started with a small shop and slowly expanded. Later, he had partnerships in five restaurants including the Renault and Rolex. Over the years, he sold them off due to the lack of funds and being unable to manage.
at Dr Ambedkar Road, Byculla (E).
time 6.30 am to 9 pm
call 23727375

Gloria Church

It is one of the oldest churches and the structure dates back to 1912. It was originally built on Mazagaon island. When the Portuguese took over the seven islands, Mazagaon was given to Antonio Pessoa, an army general for perpetuity, whose family built a house and private chapel. That was the original Gloria Church. The church was rebuilt thrice at the first location and later, in 1900s, when the British ruled Bombay, it was moved to its present location.
at Sant Savata Mali Marg, Byculla (E).

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