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Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Arts & Entertainment

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Mymensingh Museum in a derelict state

Many items like earthenware, ancient coins and calligraphy on paper and palm leaves cannot be displayed due to space constraint. Photo: Star

Once a popular draw for the public, the Mymensingh museum is fast losing its appeal. Due to the sheer apathy of the concerned authorities, the museum manages to get just 10-20 visitors a day.

Many rare and unique relics collected from various parts of Mymensingh region are now displayed in three damp rooms of the museum, putting them at risk of ruination. The museum has no proper preservation system, or adequate space for some 200 items collected from the zamindars' (landlords) palaces, mainly from the Muktagacha Zamindars.

To preserve the relics, including sculptures, metal and wooden works and different objects collected from zaminders' palaces, the then Deputy Commissioner of Mymensingh established the museum at the garden house of Zamindar Madan Babu on Amrita Babu Road in the district town in 1969. Since the establishment of the museum, it was run by Mymensingh Municipality. The Department of Archaeology took over charge in 1995.

Office Assistant Mohammad Saiful Islam, now also Assistant Custodian-in-Charge, said that due to space constraints, it was not possible to display ancient coins and manuscripts. When the renovation started in 1999, some 150 coins of the Victorian era were handed over for safe custody to Department of Archaeology but these coins are yet to be put on display due to space constraints, he added.

To compound matters, the post of Assistant Custodian has been lying vacant since February 2008.

The valuable collections from the palaces of Muktagacha, Gouripur, Atharabari include showpieces, skulls of elephants (the only collection among all the museums of the country), heads of deer, flower vase, candle stands, a sofa set made of wood and, statues made of white and black stone by Italian sculptors, among others.

Many items like earthenware, a stuffed peacock, coins of different eras, a big umbrella used for hunting, ancient bricks with artistic designs and calligraphy on paper and palm leaves found here earlier are now missing from the museum, for reasons best known to the concerned authority, lamented Ashit Chakrabarty, a retired bank official. There is not even a list of all the relics displayed at the museum, he added.

According to museum insiders, the museum has no plan of action to collect more relics to enrich the collection. Meanwhile, the Regional Director of the Department of Archaeology Mohammad Abdul Khaleque told The Daily Star that the problem of space constraint could be minimised after shifting the museum to Shashi Lodge, another building formerly owned by the Muktagacha landlords, now being used as Teachers Training College (Female) office.

Following an inter-ministerial meeting between the Ministry for Cultural Affairs and Education Ministry in 1995, it was decided that after completion of the alternative buildings for the training college, Shashi Lodge would be handed over to Cultural Affairs Ministry so that the lodge and the rare relics could be preserved. However, there are no indications that it will be handed over soon, said museum sources.

There is a definite lack of political will to improve the situation. Though the museum is under the Cultural Affairs Ministry, the State Minister for Cultural Affairs Advocate Promod Mankin, MP, from Mymensingh has not yet visited the museum. The minister was unavailable for comment, despite repeated attempts by this correspondent.

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