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Need for new home to display artefacts

- Utkal anthropology department plans for independent cultural museum

Bhubaneswar, March 30: The cultural museum at the department of anthropology in Utkal University aims to have a separate building in future, as its unique collection now boasts of around 2,000 artefacts.

The museum came into existence in 1958 following an initiative of the department professor A. Aiyappan with collections of tribal, rural and urban subjects relating to anthropological studies, as the subject deals with the study of the humankind.

Later, when L.K. Mohapatra took over as the professor and head, the establishment got a major boost during 1995-1997, as the University Grants Commission had given an assistance of Rs 75,000 to enrich the collection.

“During that period, many things were collected relating to various tribes in south Odisha. A huge collection of artefacts including combs and handicrafts made of horn were collected from Gajapati region,’’ said curator of the museum S.K. Mohanty.

At present, there are 1,200 objects on display and 800 are in the storeroom. The major collections include ornaments, clothes, accessories and weapons of tribes such as Saura, Juang, Dongria Kondh, Gadaba, Kondh, Kutia Kondh, Kela (snake charmers), Bonda all from Odisha and Garo, Khasi, Mizo and Naga from the northeast.

In another major collection fishing implements from the community at Parikud island in Chilika lake, objects used by snake charmers of Patia in Bhubaneswar, violin like instrument used by Paraja tribe, measuring pots used by inhabitants of Hindol in Dhenkanal district, bangles and ankle rings used by inhabitants of Angul, hairpins used by Penga Kondh of Kashipur and earthen horses used by tribals of Gujarat find prominent display at the museum.

Previously, only students and researchers used the museum, but now it remains open for public view between 11am and 3pm on all working days of the university. “So far we have registered more than 3,000 visitors. It includes foreign researchers and visitors, tourists and general public. The foreign tourists are mainly coming from USA, Germany and Italy,’’ Mohanty said.

Interestingly, the museum has a rich collection of gold and silver filigree jewellery from Cuttack, but due to security reasons they are still lying in the storeroom.

“We have a collection of 10 silver punch mark coins between the fourth and second century BC, which were collected from Badkulaibiri in Mayurbhanj district,’’ said the curator.

Besides, a rich collection of handicrafts including beautiful masks, the museum has art objects made of bell metal, terracotta, dokra art and tribal weapons.

Liza Sahoo, a second-year postgraduate student termed the collection as a “great help towards studying the tribal art forms right inside the department.”

The curator added that there was a plan to have an independent building for the museum, as it would be of immense help for scholars and the general public. “We have received a grant of Rs 20 lakh from the state government. If the university provides us land, we can go for a separate building to house the collection,’’ he added.

Another senior faculty member suggested that if a separate building was constructed to house the collection of the museum, diploma courses in museum management and conservation could also be launched.