In absence of natural light, visitors are given torches when there are power cuts
Srinagar: When the Shri Pratap Singh (SPS) Museum was shifted to a new building in 2015, it cheered up history lovers who were concerned about the condition of artefacts kept in the old building. However, five years on, the state of the new museum doesn’t look any better.
The SPS Museum was established in 1898 by Dogra ruler Maharaja Pratap Singh in his guest house. Large collections were transferred here from the State Toshkhana. The museum housed more than 80,000 ancient and rare artefacts.
Suhail Ahmad, who recently visited the SPS Museum, said, “I found many rare and antique objects in the museum like some handwritten books in Persian, Arabic, and Kashmiri languages. These made me curious to know more about history. But due to lack of facilities in the museum, I face many problems when I visit the Archaeology section. The electricity goes off and the staff give me a torch to look through the collection, but I can’t see clearly in that light,” he said.
A Victorian-era boat lies under the open sky without any cover in the parking lot of the SPS Museum. The boat was a gift from Queen Victoria to the Dogra ruler. Now the entire boat is covered with rust and there are several big and small holes in it.
The museum is divided into many separate sections, including manuscripts, archaeology, enamelware, decorative art, armour, etc. The museum has 1,992 sculptures, 680 paintings, 900 geology and mineral items, 28 jewellery items, 333 textile items, 2,399 manuscripts, 356 weapons, 60 anthropology items, 620 natural history items, 1,096 decorative art items, 71,131 numismatic items, and new things are constantly added.
A staff member of the museum said, “In the old museum we had natural light, which is important for any museum, but in the new museum we don’t have natural light. We staff members also face problems due to this. The artificial lighting does not create that impression on visitors which natural light does. In winters, there are frequent power cuts every day and we give torches to the visitors to manage. We do not even have sufficient budget to run the generator, which is why we use torches.”
He added, “Currently we are 22 staff members in total, which is not enough for such a big museum.”
The devastating floods in 2014 destroyed or damaged almost 20% of the objects in the museum. Only about a fifth of them have been restored. In November 2015, some objects were transferred to the new museum building and later more objects were transferred. The new museum’s foundation stone was laid by Ghulam Nabi Azad on March 19, 2008.
Director of Archives, Archaeology and Museums, Kashmir, Munir ul Islam said that the department was trying its best. “We have some problems like lack of staff and the problem of no natural light. However, we will try to solve all such problems in the coming days,” he said.