The Indian Museum (Bengali: ভারতীয় যাদুঘর) is the largest and oldest museum in India and has rare collections of antiques, armour and ornaments, fossils, skeletons, mummies, and Mughal paintings. It was founded by the Asiatic Society of Bengal in Kolkata (Calcutta), India, in 1814. The founder curator was Dr Nathaniel Wallich, a Danish botanist.
It has six sections comprising thirty five galleries of cultural and scientific artifacts namely Art, Archaeology, Anthropology, Geology, Zoology and Economic Botany. At present, it includes six cultural and scientific sections, viz. Art, Archaeology, Anthropology, geology, zoology and economic botany, with a number of galleries under each section. Many rare and unique specimens, both Indian and trans-Indian, relating to humanities and natural sciences, are preserved and displayed in the galleries of these sections. the administrative control of the Cultural sections, viz. Art, Archaeology and Anthropology rests with the Board of Trustees under its Directorate, and that of the three other science sections is with the geological survey of India, the zoological survey of India and the Botanical survey of India. The museum Directorate has eight co-ordinating service units: Education, Preservation, publication, presentation, photography, medical, modelling and library. This multipurpose Institution with multidisciplinary activities is being included as an Institute of national importance in the seventh schedule of the Constitution of India. It is one of oldest museums in the world. This is an autonomous organization under Ministry of Culture, Government of India. The present Director of the Indian Museum is Dr. B. Venugopal. The museum was closed to visitors due to massive restoration and upgrades from 1 September 2013 to 3 February 2014. This great museum is relentlessly exploring the sea of knowledge seeking a new configuration of the vast meeting ground of the people coming from various cultural and social backgrounds.
The Indian Museum originated from the Asiatic Society of Bengal which was created by Sir William Jones in 1784. The concept of having a museum arose in 1796 from members of the Asiatic Society as a place where man-made and natural objects could be collected, cared for and displayed. The objective began to look achievable in 1808 when the Society was offered suitable accommodation by the Government of India in the Chowringhee-Park Street area.
In February 2, 1814, Dr Nathaniel Wallich, a Danish botanist, who had been captured in the siege of Serampore but later released, wrote a letter supporting the formation of a museum in Calcutta which he said should have two sections - an archaeological, ethnological and technical section and a geological and zoological one. The Museum was created, with Wallich named the Honorary Curator and then Superintendent of the Oriental Museum of the Asiatic Society. Wallich also donated a number of botanical specimens to the museum from his personal collection.
After the resignation of Dr Wallich, curators were paid salaries ranging from Rs 50 to Rs 200 a month. Until 1836 this salary was paid by the Asiatic Society but in that year its bankers, Palmer and Company became insolvent and the Government began to pay from its public funds. A temporary grant of Rs 200 per month was sanctioned for maintenance of the museum and library, and Dr J. T. Pearson of the Bengal Medical Service was appointed curator followed shortly by Dr John McClelland and after his resignation by Edward Blyth. In 1840, the Government took a keen interest in the geology and mineral resources and this led to an additional grant of Rs 250 per month for the geological section alone. A new building became a need and this was designed by Walter R Granville and completed in 1875 for the cost of Rs 1,40,000. In 1879 it received a portion of the collection from the India Museum (South Kensington) when that collection was dispersed.
It currently (2009) occupies a resplendent mansion, and exhibits among others: an Egyptian mummy, The organs are taken out of the mummy's body through nostrils,except heart. The heart is placed in special chambers. The body was then massaged with salt and oil. The covering was done by thin cotton cloth the Buddhist stupa from Bharhut, the Buddha's ashes, the Ashoka pillar, whose four-lion symbol became the official emblem of the Republic of India, fossil skeletons of prehistoric animals, an art collection, rare antiques, and a collection of meteorites.