Vol. 5 Num 645 Wed. March 22, 2006  

Liberation War Museum celebrates 10th anniversary today

Conventionally, a museum is a building or institution where objects of artistic or historical importance and value are preserved and put on display.

But the Liberation War Museum, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary today, has an experience much different from the conventional idea of the museum.

The museum was established at the initiatives of only eight trustees on March 22 in 1996 to meet a historical requirement for preserving the memory and relics of the War of Liberation.

"The key success of this museum is that it has become an institution of all -- participation of the people is its lifeline," says Dr Sarwar Ali, one of the museum's trustees. "People have started thinking that it is their own institution."

Not only all the mayors of Chittagong, Khulna, Rajshahi and Sylhet handed over the soil of the killing grounds for the museum but also the common people have come forward spontaneously to donate mementoes as well as provide other supports.

"A freedom fighter of Khulna whose three-year-old daughter was killed by the Pakistani army when he was in the battlefield donated his daughter's clothing," Dr Sawar, also the member-secretary of the museum, told The Daily Star yesterday.

Generosity of those who were directly or indirectly involved in the liberation war has made the institution more credible to people, he said. "And today, teachers of different schools and colleges are helping us in a big way by allowing us to go to their institutions to exhibit the mementoes."

A number of people, particularly school and college students, come to visit the museum everyday, but its activities are not limited just to entertaining the visitors. The museum located at the heart of the city at Segunbagicha has a number of programmes and projects to reach out to the young generation through mobile museums and interactive sessions.

The Liberation War Museum, through its projects, is trying to focus on the multi-faceted aspects of the liberation war and link its relevance to the present realities of the country.

During its outreach programme, which started in 1997, the museum provides transports and other support to the students of educational institutions to visit it, arranges documentary show and a quiz contest and finally holds an interactive session. More than 75,000 students of 288 city schools have so far been brought under this programme.

For the students in rural areas, the museum authorities arrange mobile museums in the districts so that they can learn the history of the liberation war. More than four lakh students of 55 districts have been brought under this project.

"Now we are trying to reach out to the students at Upazila level," said Dr Sarwar.

Under the project 'Human rights and peace education in the light of history of liberation war', mobile museum on a car reaches the Upazila-level schools where the students are shown illustrations with briefing on the history of independence.

Besides, under an oral history project, the students listen to the stories of liberation war from their elderly relatives and then write and submit those to the museum.

"This is an activity in which young boys and girls are involved emotionally. Through this, we also come to know about the contribution of the common people to the liberation war," Dr Sarwar says.

The institution is planning to introduce a computer programme 'Touch screen' this year through which the visitors can find and read related history by writing one or two words on the computer.

Through all these programmes, the institution aims to promote the spirit and values of the liberation war. "We don't make any compromise on historical truths, thus keeping the institution away from any controversy," said Dr Sarwar, who had worked with a medical team in a refugee camp in India during the liberation war.

With the contribution of people from all walks of life, the museum has collected nearly 15,000 mementoes, but it can display only 1,305 objects due to space constraints. The rest have been preserved in a special room.

"To exhibit all the mementoes, we urgently need our own building with enough space," he said. "For successful completion of our own building, we need cooperation of all concerned."

To mark the 10th anniversary, the museum has taken up a week-long programme, including discussions and cultural programmes, to be held on its premises. Renowned educationists will take part in the discussions and different cultural groups will also perform.

Students at Mastermind School in the city look at mementoes of the War of Liberation on a mobile museum, a project of the Liberation War Museum. PHOTO: File Photo