Fresh reuse initiative for Old Mint - GOVERNOR PILOTS REUTILISATION PROPOSAL

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By Staff Reporter
  • Published 19.07.05

Way back in 1990, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) had submitted a proposal for the reuse and restoration of the Old Mint, on Strand Road, lying neglected for years after its closure.

The Old Mint, constructed in the likeness of a Grecian temple on more than 10 acres, has a very impressive panoply of Doric columns holding aloft a pediment, but the structure has developed cracks all over and parasitical plants have struck root in it.

Although it has nothing of value inside, a lone CRPF jawan stands guard outside and throws a fit if anybody tries to take photographs ? as if national security was at stake. Although Intach has been chasing the project for years, till now the authorities have never responded positively to the proposal.

Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi, however, has been an exception. He has taken much personal interest in it. On July 7, he, along with representatives of INTACH, the inspector-general of the CrPF and the superintending engineer of the Central Public Works Department visited the Old Mint.

The Intach proposal was basically for the reutilisation of five major spaces ? two vast halls on either side and three large spaces in the foreground.

The Old Mint is ideal for opening a museum of the city of Calcutta as an urban area and metropolis. The proposal is for opening an archive in the Old Mint to collect, on a permanent loan basis, first-generation photographic prints, still available in limited numbers, glass plate and celluloid negatives, printed material containing photographic reproductions, and photographs of aesthetic merit to serve as source material for the history, evolution and development of the performing arts.

The nucleus of the photographic gallery could be portraits of Indian personalities and images of major events.

Old equipment, interiors of old studios and items such as old lamps could also be displayed for shows relating to the evolution of the technique of photography.

The vast halls of the Old Mint could serve as auditoriums for theatre and cinema, as well as for music recitals, conferences, seminars and exhibitions. One of the halls could display machinery and other artefacts associated with old coinage in India to commemorate the Calcutta Mint, where medals and plaques were also produced.

A museum of the book in eastern India is also proposed, where the focus will be on the first age of printing and publishing in Bengali, English, Sanskrit, Hindi (various regional variations), Persian, Arabic, Urdu, Oriya, Tamil, Telegu, Assamese and Santhali. Books, early typefaces and punches dating back to the 18th Century and other paraphernalia associated with book production and binding from 18th Century onwards.

Even in this age of computerisation, there is a vast demand for fonts and classic and well-designed typefaces. Steve Jobs of Apple has admitted in a speech how his training in calligraphy had helped him create graceful fonts for the Mac.

The central courtyard, it has been proposed, will be suitable for experimental jatras.

The governor has already communicated with G.M. Kapoor, convener, Calcutta and West Bengal regional chapter, Intach, saying he is going to take up the matter with the Union finance minister, as the Old Mint is under his jurisdiction.