Today marks the 102nd founding anniversary of Bangladesh National Museum. Bangladesh National Museum, one of the most important and largest museums in Asia, is dedicated to the collection, preservation, display and study of history, heritage, culture and natural history. 102 years ago on this day (August 7, 1913) Lord Carmichael, the then British governor of Bengal, inaugurated the Dhaka Museum in a room in the secretariat (the present Dhaka Medical College) in Dhaka, the capital of the newly founded province of East Bengal and Assam. The museum was opened for the public on August 25 in 1914. The Dhaka Museum was allotted to the Baraduari and Deuri of the Naib-Nazim of Dhaka in July, 1915 for maintenance. The Dhaka Museum undertook the title Bangladesh National Museum on September 20 and formally inaugurated as the same on November 17, 1983.
Through the passage of time this museum has expanded its sphere of activity and is developing gradually into a multipurpose modern museum. At present it has four branches namely-Osmany Museum, Ahasan Manzil Museum, Zia Memorial Museum and Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin Sangrahashala. Palli Kabi Jasimuddin Sangrahashala will be inaugurated very soon. Projects are underway for the establishment of three more museums. The Natural History Museum is going to be established very soon.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Father of the Nation, contributed enormously to the establishment of Bangladesh National Museum. In 1972 the Dhaka Museum Board of Trustees submitted a scheme to the government for the development of Bangladesh National Museum. Realizing the importance of this institution for the preservation of national heritage, Bangabandhu took the utmost initiative for the expansion of the Museum.
To continue the legacy of this great man by following the vision of his daughter, the present Prime Minister of the country Bangladesh National Museum has already embarked upon a new phase of tremendous development. The programmes designed for this purpose have been kept in line with the current government's mission of digitalising the country. The progrrammes - "Two Thematic Exhibitions at Bangladesh National Museum", "Bangladesh National Museum's Information Communication and Digitalization", and "Modernization, Reform and Development of Security Measures at Bangladesh National Museum" have been completed. The first programme has reinstalled four galleries which focus on subjects involving the struggles of our people for independence in two segments: firstly against colonial British rule in 1947 and secondly against discriminating Pakistani rule in 1971. Digital imaging, touch screens, light and sound have been used in this two-thematic exhibition. Elaborate arrangements have been made for presentation of interactive movies, information and documentary films through multimedia and 52 inch-monitors. The second programme has digitalised the documentation system of the museum so that researchers and interested persons can have easy access to the collection of the museum. To date about 92,000 objects of the museum have been digitalised under this programme. The modernisation of the museum's security system has been carried out through the third programme. Two projects for further development of the museum are also on cards.
The future plan of Bangladesh National Museum includes remodelling of galleries to provide a more aesthetically pleasing and culturally invigorating experience. The modern approach to didactic presentation will be introduced by way of displaying objects in historical sequence and by blending both tangible and intangible cultures into one harmonious concoction for visitors. Modernisation will also be carried out throughout the storage and reserved collections of the museum.
In 2013 the Bangladesh National Museum celebrated its first centenary. As part of the celebrations it has completed a two-year long programme featuring exhibitions, discussions, seminars and special programmes for children. Souvenir currency and stamps were released. Souvenir shop and month long exhibition of artifacts of four curatorial departments were inaugurated. The centenary commemorative volume was published on the centenary day.
In 2014 on the occasion of the birth centenary of Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin, National Museum arranged a special exhibition of Zainul paintings. The month long exhibition was inaugurated by the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina.
The Bangladesh National Museum will implement the following programmes this year: virtual museum based on internet, audio guide for visitors, server backup (Network Attached System), access control and E-ticketing system, E-Booking system for auditorium, E-Tendering system, full-fledged ICT Department and the Digital General Store Management System.
I believe very soon the Bangladesh National Museum will become the first modern digital museum of the country.
The writer is the Keeper of the Department of Contemporary Art and World Civilization, Bangladesh National Museum and Chairperson of ICOM-Bangladesh National Committee.