Restoration & Revitalisation 

Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum

The Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai's oldest museum, is an institution of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM). Formerly known as the Victoria & Albert Museum, Bombay, the building first opened to public in 1872. The Museum collection showcases the history and culture of the city. By 1997, the Museum had fallen into a state of disrepair. In 2003, a tripartite, public-private partnership between the MCGM, the Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation and INTACH established the 'Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum Trust' to restore, administer and manage the Museum. After five years of intensive restoration by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), supported by the Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation, it was re-opened to the public on January 4, 2008. The project won the 2005 UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Conservation Award of Excellence, the highest international award in this field. 

The Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City 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. The Museum building, with its Palladian exterior and high Victorian interior, is one of the most important historical sites of the city. Planned at the same time as the Museum and linked to it by name - the Victoria Gardens and Zoo - each was intended to complement the other through scholarship and research to provide a comprehensive understanding of the city and its environs. 
The building required comprehensive restoration. Algae were visible in the exterior façade and plant growth had penetrated deep into the building’s core. The building suffered from a history of leakage and had to be secured against the onslaught of monsoons. The plant growth on the external facade had to be removed - a delicate operation that involved dismantling different parts of the building, numbering each piece, and after removing the plant growth, re-fixing the pieces. The broken terracotta details of the capitals and cornices, and the balustrades were repaired. 

It was not easy to ascertain the original colours of the Museum as the chemical constituents in the paint could have changed the colour over the years. In the end, 'Celadon Green' was decided upon, a colour widely used in the 19th century buildings around the world.

The choice of Celadon green as the colour for the building was later confirmed by the restorers at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Henry Cole, the architect of the Great Exhibition of 1851, and the first director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, considered the colour to be the most appropriate colour for the contemplation of art objects.
The interior is a rare example of High Victorian design in India. The grand wrought iron palisades, staircase railings and arched supports, as well as the Corinthian capitals and columns which are the defining features of the building were imported from England. The richly coloured details, the intricate woodcarving, the Minton tiled floors, the etched glass and gold gilding make it a unique example of 19th century architecture in the country.
Internally the deterioration had led to separation of several of the cast iron columns from the walls and many of the etched glass panes were broken. Poor lighting created a dull and gloomy atmosphere. It’s richly coloured interiors and exquisite details had also worn out. A yellowing off-white paint had brushed away the gold gilding, the refined design details and with it the vision and intentions of its founding fathers. The beautiful etched glass windows with specially designed grills and wooden louvres to protect the objects from the sun are a dominant feature of the building.

The squares and circles in the arched ceiling of the lofty central vestibule had lost their gilding and become dark and discoloured. The tympanum earlier had delicate fresco paintings which had been erased with paint and were not possible to retrieve.

Electrical cables were conspicuous all over the building. The Victorian iron pillars had separated from the walls.

The original design was conceptualized by George Birdwood. The design included all the basic features of the building visible today- a long hall, Doric pillars, galleries on either side of the building and large windows for light and ventilation.

Master gilders from a family of artists in Vasai were employed to restore the original 24 carat gold gilding on the columns. The craftsmen had been gilding church statues for generations. In this way, the restoration project supported a dying art.

The checkerboard design basalt floor had sustained much wear and damage. It had to be ground an inch to remove the scarring and pitting.

The polishing took weeks to accomplish but the effort has put the sheen and colour back into the floor, and the design which was obscured is now visible.

One of the unique features of the building is the flooring with Minton tiles on the stairwell and the upper floor. These tiles were shipped from England.

Poor lighting created a dull and gloomy atmosphere. The Museum's richly coloured interiors and exquisite details had also been effaced.

Perhaps the most daunting task before the team was to incorporate new lighting and electrical requirements which was substantial. It was important to consider not only the ambient lighting but also lighting the objects effectively. As the building was under restoration and the objects were in storage in their cases, this became a hugely challenging task. The stone walls made embedding the wires difficult, if near impossible. Fortunately the roof was more amenable and the wires were able to be concealed.

There were debates as to whether the lighting should be period or modern. In the end the view prevailed that in a building which such ornate embellishment modern lighting would be inappropriate. The time period of the establishment of the Museum was researched carefully and lighting designs were created.

Restoration of Objects
Most of the museum objects were in an extremely neglected and terrible condition. They had fungus and were damaged from poor handling and incorrect conservation work.  Each object was assessed for damage and carefully documented before, during and after the conservation process. Approximately four thousand objects have been conserved to date by INTACH’s expert conservators.

The objects made of horn were in a particularly dismal condition, covered in fungus and micro-insects, with their details entirely obscured.

The extensive range of fragile terracotta models was found covered with dirt, dust, fungus and other accretions. The fungus attack had caused general staining and discolouration of the models; many were also broken, with their metal-wire armatures exposed to humidity and corroded as a result. After the written and photographic documentation was completed, the material and colours used in the models were tested and ascertained.

The superficial layer of dust and fungus was dry-brushed and removed. Stains were eliminated using a mixture of solvents, and a sharp surgical knife was employed to scrape off all hardened and stubborn accretions. Broken parts were reattached and paint losses integrated using pigments especially created for restoration.

The manuscripts and lithographs in the collections lay warped and damaged on account of their improper storage, with no protection provided against water seepage or insect attack. Poor prior restoration involving the use of cellotape had resulted in their further degeneration.

Suitable solvents were used to clean the folios of the manuscripts after which they were put through a process of de-acidification. The earlier repairs were reversed and the pages then lined with Japanese Lens tissue using gluten-free starch paste.

Ivory objects were also damaged. Being organic material, they had rapidly deteriorated by micro-organism infestations.

The ivory display was cleaned using a mixture of solvents, the objects were treated for fungus and their broken parts integrated.

The Yerwada jail carpet that hangs with pride in the central staircase was in such a bad condition that the former curator considered deaccessioning the carpet.

Skilled craftsmen were brought from Kashmir to restore the carpet. They worked with amazing care, for six months, to bring the carpet back to life. Special yarn was also ordered from Iran to match the original yarn in the carpet.

Curatorial Strategy
Post restoration, a new curatorial strategy was evolved for the display to enable a better understanding of the collection. The display cases were reorganized and the collection represented in light of new research. Detailed planning for each case involved understanding the storyline being presented and optimising its visual character. 
Industrial Arts Gallery
Indian design and craftsmanship were highly prized in the international markets of the 19th century. With the success of the great exhibitions, Indian objets d’art became fashionable in European cities and this provided a stimulus to the development of the decorative arts known as industrial arts at the time. Local traditions were modified to European tastes, which is evident in many of the objects on display in the Museum’s decorative arts collection.
The Founders' Gallery 
The Founders' Gallery showcases the story of the extraordinary citizens of the Bombay Presidency, who dedicated their lives to establish this Museum for the city of Mumbai and its people. Portraits of these great men are exhibited in the Founders' Gallery as a tribute. They include George Buist, Juggonath Sunkersett, Dr. Bhau Daji Lad, Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy and George Birdwood.
The Kamalnayan Bajaj Mumbai Gallery
The Kamalnayan Bajaj Mumbai Gallery tells the story of Mumbai’s origins and development in the 18th, 19th and early 20th century through dioramas and models. Pride of place has been given to Mumbai’s many communities who migrated to the city during this period. The lifestyle of the people, their occupations, their games they played, their leisure activities such as music, dance and their religious traditions are documented alongside dioramas that showcase 19th century town planning, agricultural practices and village life. The many Indian regiments of the period are also beautifully displayed.
Origins of Mumbai Gallery
The gallery showcases the evolution of Mumbai from a swampy group of islands, known as Heptanesia during Roman times, into a gracious and elegant 19th century city. Maps, lithographs, water colours and photographs from the Museum’s rare glass negative collection take you on a journey of discovery back to the 19th century when the city was built to demonstrate Mumbai’s importance as Urbs Prima in Indis. Beautiful old bungalows, unobstructed views of the sea, wide tree lined roads and grand institutional buildings highlight the importance of Mumbai’s urban architecture.

After five years of intensive restoration by INTACH, the Museum was reopened to the public on January 4, 2008. The Museum was inaugurated by Mr. Uddhav Thackeray and attended by several city leaders and citizens.

After five years of intensive restoration by INTACH, the Museum was reopened to the public on January 4, 2008. The Museum was inaugurated by Mr. Uddhav Thackeray and attended by several city leaders and citizens.

East Lawn
The Museum’s east garden is a lush and tranquil outdoor venue that is lined with statues of former colonial officials.It also houses the stately Gas Lamp, which used to stand at the Metro cinema cross section; and the 6th century Elephanta elephant, one of the city’s most important artefacts. The Museum's east garden was earlier nicknamed 'the graveyard'. Broken statues of former colonial governors were kept here. The garden stands today as testimony of how good design and conservation can transform environements. The garden was redesigned and repaved. New lighting systems and festive banners were installed. All the objects were cleaned and restored. New plinths and signage were made for all the statues and urban artifacts. 

Displayed in the open air, the marble statues of Queen Victoria and other dignitaries had severely deteriorated on account of dirt, dust, bird droppings and salts in the environment. The presence of micro-organisms further threatened the statues. After cleaning with a mixture of water and solvents the paper pulp poultice method was used to treat the salts, and algaecides employed to attack the algae deeply ingrained in the marble. The statues are now displayed with a protective coating to prevent such algal growth in future and minimize the consequences of dust and atmospheric pollution.

This unique Gas Lamp with four fountains, which once stood at the Metro Cinema cross section, was non- functional. It was repaired and restored.

The Museum Restoration Project won the 2005 UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Award of Excellence for Conservation.

Museum Plaza 
The area behind the Museum was in a derelict condition until 2012. In December 2012, the Museum opened a unique new cultural hub, the Museum Plaza, which offers people a much needed green and artistic recreation space. The Museum has restored and adapted old spaces to accommodate new exhibition galleries called Special Project Space, SPS, a large open area for the performing arts as well as public sculpture, a Museum Café, a Museum Shop and an Education Centre.

In the early twentieth century, the cottage housing the Special Project Space was used as a workshop for the making of Museum objects.

The structure, which has a half timber construction with 25ft high ceilings, has been restored keeping the original architectural elements intact. The refurbished space has state-of-the-art lighting facilities, air-conditioning, security and safety features.

A dilapidated cottage that served as a storage room has been painstakingly restored to function as the Museum’s Education Centre while retaining its exposed brick façade and Victorian sensibility. The building functions as an intimate space for lectures, seminars and audio visual interactions with state of the art equipment.

Credits: Story

The Restoration and Revitilisation of the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum was made possible through a unique partnership between the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) and the Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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