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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.