Monday 6 February 2012

Shimla Heritage Museum

History can be interesting as well as inspiring and when coupled with life-size images it adds colour to ones imagination. And rather than leaving things to imagination the state tourism department has given shape to it in form of the recently inaugurated ‘Shimla Heritage Museum’ based on the concept of ‘har ghar kuch kehta hai’. Taking a step further this museum is housed in the 120 year old building which is prevalently known as the US Club dating back to almost 1860s, which has been renovated on similar line to the original structure to preserve its wholesomeness. 

As you enter the building you are reminded of Shimla down the years and a brief write up on the history of the United Service Club is good for enlightenment. The not so huge room inside, though just an attempt to capture the history of Shimla, holds nearly 50 huge portraits and sketches of Shimla dating to the Colonial period. Old timers can definitely associate with all the old building but the young and those visiting for the first time will be left mesmerizing with the beauty and legacy of Shimla. Some of the rare photographs adorning the walls include pictures of magnificent buildings such as the Viceregal Lodge, Rippon Hospital, Post Office, Town Hall, Gaiety Theatre, Combermere Bridge, Vidhan Sabha, Gorton Castle, Railway Board, Central Telegraph Office, the ARTRAC Complex and Barnes Court to name a few. Below the black and white sketches you can see the originals in coloured to give you a feel of the present day. 

Dr Arun Sharma, Director Tourism and Civil Aviation says “Though at present we have very limited space, expansion plans are on anvil as and when we are provided with more space. An attempt has been made to re-discover Shimla's soul and through this museum we wish to fulfill the curiosity of the visitors. Heritage walks, timely tours, a training centre for tourists guides as well as related tourist activities would be taken up simultaneously”. He adds it is time that the heritage status of Shimla is used to maximize economical gains as well as use innovative methods to attract more and more tourist to the states and also prolong their stay. Sharma said, “The department has started the Shimla City Tour in association with the Tourism Industry Stakeholders Welfare Society, Shimla through which heritage walks would begin in the city”. Taking this concept further he says, “We are planning on adopting one village in each district which will be promoted as a tourist destination by opening similar kinds of museums everywhere”.

Surender Justa, District Tourism Development Officer, added that this is just a beginning of better things to come. “Initiatives are being taken to promote this museum as well as Shimla City as a heritage destination. Banners and signage’s are being put up on the streets to inform the tourist about this place. At the same time guides are being given training to help tourists. Despite the fact that it is just a one room museum, expansion plans are on”.
In spite of the fact that this museum is a one room show but perceptions and insights will definitely change once you walk around. You may have heard stories about the old ‘tongas’, the ‘rikshaw’ or the styles and glory in which the Britishers lived, which you can easily picturize through the portraits and sketches placed here. A must stop over to complete your visit to Shimla and take some amazing memories.

As published in TOI


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