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International Museum Day

Unique museums from Kolkata and India for your weekend visit

A visit to these museums, with its fascinating and fun curios from history, is time spent well

My Kolkata Web Desk | Published 18.05.22, 06:43 PM
(L-R) A wooden box with a portrait of Mumtaz Begum from Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai; A walking stick at Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad; An exhibit at Sulabh International Museum of Toilets, Delhi

(L-R) A wooden box with a portrait of Mumtaz Begum from Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai; A walking stick at Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad; An exhibit at Sulabh International Museum of Toilets, Delhi

Wikimedia Commons, Rumela Basu, Facebook

There’s something about a repository of old, iconic artefacts that can make you take a pause. The earliest museums were private collections — ‘wonder rooms’ only sometimes displayed to the regular public — and can be traced back to ancient civilisations. Modern public museums, as we know them today, sprung up around the 18th century.

No matter how they came to be, these collections of the history of our lives are always worth a visit. A day at the museum can make you introspect, sigh, reflect and fascinate. On International Museum Day, we’re taking a look at some unique museums from Kolkata and other cities.


Smaranika Tram Museum, Kolkata

Smaranika Tram Museum/Facebook

The Smaranika Tram Museum, established at the Esplanade Tram Depot in 2014, is a museum-on-wheels set up in a vintage 1938 tram car. The mission behind this unique initiative is to highlight Kolkata’s tram cars as a heritage symbol. The interiors of the tram car have been refurbished and house items that are an ode to the tramway’s vast history — rare photographs of old Calcutta streets, replicas of the earliest trams such as horse-drawn tram cars, flat-wagon trams and watering trams, a coin-exchanger machine, conductors’ uniforms and caps, and several tram parts like the red lamp, the governor switch and pull-off springs.

Visitors can explore the vintage tram reminiscing about Kolkata trams’ rich history — from the electric trams of the early 1900s to the establishment of 38 functioning tram routes across the city to Kolkata Streetfood — the street food restaurant established in a tram car in 2021.

Location: 6, Sido Kanhu Dahar, Maidan, Esplanade, Bow Barracks

Sulabh International Museum of Toilets, Delhi

Courtesy Sulabh International Museum of Toilets

Delhi’s Sulabh International Museum of Toilets is a fascinating visit. The museum chronicles the history of sanitisation and toilets, and comprises exhibits that document the pooping culture across 50 countries! The museum is especially interesting for how it depicts the passage of time through toilets, and some of it's exhibits include a model commode in the form of a treasure chest of the British medieval period, a reproduction of the supposed toilet of King Louis XIV and a toilet camouflaged in the form of a bookcase!

Location: Sulabh Bhawan, RZ-83, Palam - Dabri Marg, Mahavir Enclave, New Delhi

Boat Museum, Kolkata

Wikimedia Commons

Inaugurated in 2014, Kolkata’s Boat Museum is housed at the Institute of Cultural Research (Ambedkar Bhawan) in Kankurgachi. The exhibit encapsulates Bengal’s naval history through the centuries, with 46 model boats ranging from humble fishing boats to cargo boats. Also on display are commercial passenger boats, racing boats and even luxury boats that were once found in Bengal. All the vessels spotlight the expert craftsmanship of the artists of Rajbanshis who are woodcraft artists from Dakshin Dinajpur district of West Bengal. One of the most special boat models include the Padma Boat, which is one of Rabindranath Tagore’s five boats on which he composed a number of his literary works.

Location: P1, 4, BRS 10, Kankurgachi

Indian Music Experience Museum, Bengaluru

India’s first interactive museum, Bengaluru’s Indian Music Experience Museum (IME) is a must-visit for music lovers and the curious alike. An institutional affiliate of the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles, this sprawling space has a range of captivating exhibits from little-known Indian musical instruments to a gallery documenting the role of music in socio-political struggles. While connoisseurs of classical music will find a wealth of information, pop-culture lovers can tour The Stars and The Stories Through Song galleries for tales of Bollywood greats.

The highlights include a snake-shaped ‘nagphani’, Bismillah Khan’s ‘shehnai’, MS Subbulakshmi’s ‘tambura’, all the opportunities to hear what you’re reading about, and the Sound Garden. The interactive outdoor garden has a collection of innovative instruments where you can make your own music. Currently, the museum is showing an exhibit on birdsong.

Location: Brigade Millennium Avenue, Opp.Wood Rose Club, JP Nagar 7th phase, Bengaluru

Kolkata Port Maritime Heritage Trust Centre, Kolkata


The Maritime Archives and Heritage Centre of Kolkata Port Trust is a standout effort to preserve the history of one of India's most significant ports. The port of Kolkata played a major role in the city's urban development. The Maritime Archives are a rich retelling of the port’s inception, and its journey to the present day with a repository of documents, maps, charts, photographs, memorabilia and audio visual recordings of its organisational development. The heritage building is over a century old and is located on Strand Road.

Location: 6, Strand Rd, Fairley Warehouse, Place, B.B.D. Bagh

Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai

Mumbai’s oldest museum, celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum (fondly called BDL) is a fascinating repository on the history of the port city. The award-winning museum itself has an interesting history, opening in 1872 as the Victoria and Albert Museum, Bombay, the city’s first. In a landmark collaboration between the municipal corporation and INTACH, it was restored and reopened to the public in 2008. Collections include old photographs, historical maps and rare books that showcase Bombay and the lives of its inhabitants from the late 18th to early-20th centuries, to miniatures, models and other artefacts. It also hosts many travelling exhibits. Among the notable permanent exhibits are a 17th-century manuscript of Arabian prince Hatim Tai, the iconic Kala Ghoda statue and a monolithic basalt elephant sculpture fished from the sea, originally from Elephanta Island.

Location: Veer Mata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan (Rani Baug), 91/A, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Road Byculla East, Mumbai

Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad

Rumela Basu

Salar Jung Museum is located in a riverside palatial home of the Salar Jung family, a prominent family in Nizam-era Hyderabad, whose private collection was given to the nation to begin this depository in 1951. Now one of India’s most notable art museums, it houses over 46,000 art curios, over 8,000 manuscripts and over 60,000 printed books from around the world. Divided according to geography, between more than 38 galleries, the artefacts date between the second-century BC to the early-20th century. The Indian galleries have a veritable collection of jade, ivory and folk art artefacts. Among the most interesting exhibits are a collection of walking sticks with carved handles in wood, ivory and jade. The clock exhibit, housing an array of timepieces — grandfather clocks, birdcage clocks, skeleton clocks, watches — is another. The star attraction is a British Bracket clock, over 200 years old. Quite like a cuckoo clock, it has a miniature toy figurine that emerges minutes before every hour and strikes a gong to sound the time at the stroke of the hour.

Location: Salar Jung Rd, near Minar Function Hall, Darulshifa, Hyderabad

Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata

Pooja Mitra

Built in memory of Queen Victoria, the iconic Victoria Memorial in Kolkata is a prime example of British architecture. It was envisaged by Lord Curzon and in 1921, its main hall — Victoria Memorial Hall — was turned into a museum. Victoria Memorial Hall’s pristine marble walls house an array of historical collectibles — from rare artworks and paintings to original manuscripts. You’ll spot unseen photographs of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, several volumes of Buddhist and Sanskrit texts in their original form and the finest collections of paintings by the likes of Tilly Kettle, Johan Zofanny, Nandalal Bose and Abanindranath Tagore.

Also experience the 3D Projection Mapping Show on Netaji and the Indian Freedom Fighting Movement, and take a walk through the gardens that are dotted with beautiful seasonal blooms.

Location: 1, Queens Way, Maidan

Last updated on 18.05.22, 06:48 PM

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