The Indian Museum is considering shifting its own library, which has a priceless collection of over 50,000 books and journals languishing in a corner of the archaeological section, to a separate building beside the Asutosh Centenary Hall.
The library will be moved out of the museum so people can access it independently through the gate on Kyd Street. “We need to move the library out of the museum so that it can function independently of the museum hours,” said Indian Museum director Arijit Dutta Choudhury.
The building beside the Asutosh Centenary Hall will need to be prepared before the library is shifted there.
The library has a priceless collection that includes old issues of foreign journals like journals from the Smithsonian Institution, the Illustrated London News, the Journal of the American Oriental Society, Anthropologist, the Journal of Archaeological Science and many others.
The journals, housed in a dark, dank corner, are languishing in neglect.
Among books are Mohenjodaro and Indus Valley Civilisation by J. Marshall, Akbarnama and Baburnama, A Personal Narrative of a Visit to Ghazni, Kabul and Afghanistan and of a Residence at the Court of Dost Mohamed by G.T. Vigne, Humayunnama by Annette S. Beveridge, Historical Development of Jaina Iconography by A.K. Bhattacharya, Census of India 1931, Complete Survey of Tribal Life System by J.H. Hutton, A Topographical List of the Inscriptions of Madras Presidency.
“The library is now used by various research scholars of museology, archaeology, history and other interdisciplinary studies. The scholars need to bring a letter of introduction signed by a gazetted officer,” said a library worker. A library card is issued for an annual fee of Rs 50 that allows scholars to access the books and study them at the library.
“Books are not let out of the library,” said the worker.
Books are donated as also acquired. A library committee decides on what books to acquire, said the worker.
Most of the scholars access old annual reports of the Indian Museum that start from April 1865 reports, and annual reports of the Archaeological Survey of India.
Old issues of the Journal of the American Institute for Conservation, books on mummies, and Egyptology are also in demand, said the worker.
After the pandemic, as the Indian Museum re-opened, the education officer Sayan Bhattacharya took charge of the library.
“We have plans to upgrade and modernise the library. The first move will be to shift it to a more accessible location,” said Bhattacharya.
“After we shift the library, we will be doing a thorough conservation of the books and digitising the old priceless journals, annual reports and bulletins. Budget will not be a constraint. We will do it over time,” said Dutta Choudhury, the director.
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