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Naveen-led trust to run museum on Mahanadi banks

- Equipment, documents and artefacts to bring alive state’s rich maritime history

Cuttack, Dec. 10: The state government has decided to constitute a trust to manage the affairs of the Odisha State Maritime Museum, which is nearing completion at Jobra on the banks of the Mahanadi here.

State water resources department has come up with the museum to showcase Odisha’s maritime heritage, especially during British era. The Indian National Trust for Art and Culture (Intach) has developed the museum at what was once a huge navigation workshop.

Cuttack was made a focal point of maritime activities during the British rule. British engineers had set up the workshop at Jobra in 1869 and made the city the hub of irrigation and inland waterways in the region.

Cuttack owed its importance to this strategic location at the head of the Mahanadi delta – the meeting point of the land route from north, south and west. A senior official said the trust, with state chief minister as the ex-officio chairman, will include as its members top officials from the departments of water resources and tourism and culture, Cuttack MP and the district collector. “The process for formation of the trust will start within the next couple of days with submission of application for registration. Subsequently, the state water resources department will hand over the museum to the trust to run it,” Mahanadi (south division) irrigation executive engineer Subrat Das told The Telegraph today.

“We expect to complete the transfer process and be ready for inauguration of the museum, the first-of-its-kind in the state, by the end of January 2013,” he said. Chief minister Naveen Patnaik had laid the foundation stone of the project in May 2007. “The Rs 10-crore project involved converting the 143-year-old workshop – a testament to British-era maritime engineering — into a museum,” Das said. The museum will exhibit letters, photographs as well as drawings and a large collection of artefacts, including lanterns used for navigation, dating back to the British era. The galleries will also exhibit instruments used for navigation, prototypes of used equipment and also highlight the boat-making techniques.

Water resources department officials said the workshop, which has been converted into a museum, marked the beginning of the irrigation and waterway system in Odisha, Bengal and Bihar. The 85-km long Taladanda canal, which originates from Jobra and meanders till Paradip, formed the backbone of the inland waterways for the British apart from serving irrigation purposes. The museum focuses on the development of navigation in the eastern region under the British. Besides, the museum is expected to become an educational resource for research, an official said.

Apart from showcasing the maritime activities in Odisha, the museum will have a library, a research centre, and an auditorium for audio-visual presentations. Recreation facilities and a cafeteria are also part of the project to attract tourists.

“It’s a commendable venture. We are looking forward to the inauguration of the museum,” said Saumendra Mishra, a resident of Markatnagar.