A photograph of the precursor of Howrah bridge, one of a hawker- free Grand arcade and another of Christmas celebrations at Armenian Church on January 6 — the stories behind the pictures on display at the Metcalfe Hall were waiting to be told and on Sunday many of them were shared.
Heritage enthusiasts acted as guides, taking visitors around the recently restored 19th century building and narrating the stories behind the pictures and objects on display.
Open House at Metcalfe Hall was open till 8pm, beyond the hall’s usual 5pm deadline .
The pontoon bridge that stood across the Hooghly connecting Howrah and Calcutta before the Howrah bridge came up was an object of curiosity among many.
A guide explained that the pontoon bridge existed before the Howrah bridge that we see now was built. “Vessels used to pass under the pontoon bridge but when large vessels came, a section of the bridge had to be removed to let them pass,” the guide explained.
The pontoon bridge was commissioned in 1874 for 25 years, but remained in use till 1943, when the current Howrah bridge was commissioned, said an engineer, who studied the history of Howrah bridge when he was involved in the construction of Vidyasagar Setu but was not present at Metcalfe Hall on Sunday.
The increasing traffic load on the pontoon bridge had required stopping surface transport for ships, leading to snarls. The authorities then decided to have a bigger bridge.
Rangan Datta, who has written about heritage in the state and beyond, was one of the guides on Sunday. He showed visitors a photograph of Christmas being celebrated at Armenian Church on January 6. The picture was taken by Subhadip Mukherjee, a fellow guide and blogger.
“Orthodox Christians across the world still consider January 6 as Christmas and the Armenian Church in Calcutta does too,” one of the guides said.
Manjeet Singh Hoonjan, Amitabha Gupta, Soumyadip Roy and Shaikh Sohail were among the other guides.
Built between 1840 and 1844, Metcalfe Hall was restored by the Archaeological Survey of India last year. The restored hall was thrown open to public this March.
Post-restoration, Kritika Malhotra designed a permanent exhibition-cum-museum. “The museum is divided into eight categories like memories of Calcutta or stories of Calcutta. We have a section on book covers and film posters as well,” she said..
Source: Telegraph India