Port story unfolds in warehouse

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  • Published 16.04.08

The large Cooke & Kelvey clock, installed at the dock on May 17, 1897, is now a prized possession of the upcoming Calcutta Port Trust Heritage Centre, India’s first maritime archive and exhibition centre.

“The clock was in one corner of the dusty store. People were stunned when we got it repaired and working,” said port official S.B. Das. Some other eye-catching items to be displayed at the galleries in the Fairlie warehouse are a 100-feet steel measuring tape, made to order from England in 1936 and used to measure Howrah bridge.

There will be a step-by-step photographic account of the building of the bridge and a Portuguese map of 1681 showing the layout of rivers in “The Rich Kingdom of Bengal” 10 years before Job Charnock’s arrival. There will also be a receipt signed in 1944 by port cashier Arun Kumar Chatterjee (later to become famous as Uttam Kumar).

Among the other items to be displayed in the two galleries are the transfer deed of land on both sides of the Hooghly to the port on March 25, 1874, and Rani Rashmoni’s protest for fishermen’s rights.

The archive was set to be unveiled in October 2006, but the deadline could not be met as Calcutta Port Trust (CPT) depended on its own resources for readying it.

“No professional agency was called in. We all collaborated sifting through documents dating back to the early 17th Century — maritime records, notes, correspondence, engineering drawings and maps that were lying in the dusty corners of CPT stores. More documents were sourced from the national and state archives,” said CPT chairman A.K. Chanda.

“We hope to keep well within the budget of Rs 1 crore, though plans are on to expand the museum and add more popular items. The façade of what was once Import Warehouse will be changed to suit the museum theme,” said Chanda.

“An exhibition on the genesis and development of Calcutta port not only focuses on the commercial parameters but also reflects the story of a river and a metropolis,” said P.K. Chatterjee, the adviser to the CPT Heritage Centre.