Museum – a series of artifacts arranged in rows with placards describing each of them. This has been the idea of a museum for most of the people. Over the years, like all other things, museums have also evolved.
Today museums are not just a display of artifacts. It comes in with audio visual effects creating a movie theatre like atmosphere. The visitor gets a real life feel of the artifacts as he moves from one gallery to the other.
Sadly Kolkata, the cultural capital of India, lacks such new age innovative museums. But in the recent past things have changed.
There have been a few addition to the list in recent times. The Reserve Bank of India Museum and the Theatre Museum are latest addition in the list of new age museums of the city.
All the major cities of the world have a city museum, a museum entirely dedicated to the history and evolution of the city.
During the turn of the millenium one such museum was set up in the Town Hall, sadly it has been under lock and key for the last several years.
The Victoria Memorial Hall houses a Calcutta Gallery but a entire museum dedicated to the city was lacking.
Recently opened I am Calcutta or Ami Kolkata (আমি কলকাতা) Museum in the Metcalfe Hall is an entire city based museum and comes in with all modern features, complete with audio visual effects.
Although the museum is new but Metcalfe Hall housing the museum dates back to 1844.
It was named after Charles Metcalfe, who was the Governor General of India from 1835 to 1836.
The architect of the building was C K Robison and is an exact replica of Tower of Winds in Athens, Greece.
Metcalfe Hall stands at the crossing of Hare Street and Strand Road. The building stands on a 10 feet high elevated platform.
A total of 30 Corinthian Pillars support the extended roof on all sides. The entrance is from both both the east and west side via a flight of stairs. Each of the entrance is through six pillars.
Today the entrance is through the western side and the traditional floor painting of alpana greets visitors to the Ami Kolkata or I am Calcutta Museum. The path leads to a open space used for temporary exhibitions.
Next there are two rooms on the right and one on the left. The left room houses a decorated hand pulled rickshaw. Circular disc of white and red paper are available and one can leave a comment on the city. Several of these commented papers are scattered round the rickshaw.
One of the rooms on the right houses a few old black and white photos of Kolkata and the other houses photographs of the restoration of the Metcalfe Hall.
Next on the graound floor is a open space with a beautiful overhead decoration and the space is used for a hand shadowgraphy video depicting the amazing city. This gallery is known as the City of Surprises.
Next a flight of stairs leads to the first floor. The stairs is lined with old cinema photos bringing back sweet old memories and is called City of Memories.
The first room on the first floor houses a wooden boat with a pair of ores. The boat is fitted with a digital touch screen display depicting different stories of Kolkata and is known as the City of Stories. Vintage photos of the city are displayed on the wall and the overhead paperwork depicts the waves.
The next room displays a short documentary on the city and focuses on some of its well known citizens, including Rabindranath Tagore, Amartya Sen, Satyan Bose and also includes Dr Subhash Mukhopadhyay,the creator of India’s first test tube baby. This gallery is known as the City of Influence.
Next is the City of Confluence focusing on the multi cultural diversity of Kolkata. This is basically a photo gallery showing photos of Kolkata Chinese, Jews, Armenians, Anglo Indianas and other comunities.
The arches are also fitted with photos and a unplastered wall adds to the antiques look of the gallery.
Next is the gallery of City of Culture. This is the largest of the gallery and housses a two large installation.
The first one is a semi finished clay durga idol and the second is a topor, a male headgear fro the bridegroom in a Bengali Hindu weeding.
The first room in the City of Culture gallery houses several paintings drawn in patachitra style depicting the life of Kolkata.
They cover a wide range of topics from fish market to mishti and from coffee house to street food. The larger room focuses on topics like drama, poetry, art, theatre and movie.
Apart from big pictorial display there are artifacts like typewriters, writing desk and even a bioscope machine. There are even small touch screen displays for each section.
Finally the grand tour of Kolkata’s very own museum ends with a walk through the sound corridor. The sound corridor is a audio visual display focusing on the sounds of Kolkata. It includes the bel of tram and rickshaw the sound of boiling and pouring tea and every possible sound the city can witness.
The Ami Kolkata or I am Calcutta Museum is open every day 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, except Monday and national holidays
There is no entry fee and photography is allowed inside