Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Dhaka Nagar Jadughar

Most of the city dwellers have no idea that there is a museum exclusively on the history of Dhaka. Even after two decades of its founding, the historical documents and artefacts preserved in the museum have failed to attract visitors.

The museum, Dhaka Nagar Jadughar, was established on the fifth floor of Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) building in 1980s and formally opened on July 20, 1996.

Historical documents and artefacts from the Mughal era to the Liberation War of 1997 preserved at the museum feature the chronological development of Dhaka City.

Because of lack of attention and politicisation, the museum has been in a sorry state for years. Entering the museum, one can easily perceive that the city museum is one of the most neglected departments under the DCC.

Many captions of photographs and paintings portraying historic events and monuments are either destroyed or distorted, or unreadable.

The caretaker of the museum said the main problem in running the museum is fund constraints and manpower shortage. DCC does not allocate any budget or recruit manpower for the museum. As the museum is under Department of Social Welfare and Culture of DCC, three employees of the department take care of the museum.

The museum is run by a trust, which has not held any meeting for many years.

The caretaker said the only income source of the museum is ticket money collected from visitors but the turnover is not satisfactory.

Prof Muntasir Mamoon is the chairman of the trustee board. Prof Mamoon, artist Hashem Khan, architect-poet Rabiul Hossain, Prof Nazrul Islam and others took the initiative to set up the museum in mid 1980s.

When contacted, Prof Mamoon said, "The then mayor of DCC Mohammad Hanif allocated a space for the city museum and we handed over it to DCC in 1996. But the trustees do not have any communication with DCC since 1997.”

"I made an organogram for the museum headed by a curator and asked for a fixed budget. Initially Tk 10 lakh was allocated for the museum. But within a year after the official handover we observed that the mayor and the officials of DCC have no interest in it."

Disappointed at the negligence shown by the DCC, the trustees did not continue communication with the DCC, Prof Mamoon said.

On the genesis of the city museum, Prof Mamoon said, “Dhaka was declared as the capital of Bengal by Islam Khan in 1610. In mid 1980s I thought about celebrating the 400th anniversary of Dhaka City as the capital. I felt that we should establish a museum on Dhaka to celebrate the 400 years of the city.”

He said the idea of setting up the museum was to allow people to have a panoramic view of chronological history of Dhaka and its heritage.

"In fact the museum was the first of its kind in the South-east Asia and could be one of the most attractive sights of the city," said Prof Mamoon.

Initially Prof Mamoon and Hashem Khan donated Tk 50,000 to establish the museum. Besides, architect-poet Rabiul Hossain, urban expert Prof Nazrul Islam and others extended volunteer service to establish a quality city museum.

"Many philanthropists donated their rare collections. I donated the diaries of the British civilians, paintings and drawings by British artists featuring the landscape of Dhaka in 18th and 19th century and other important historical materials," said Prof Mamoon.

Artists through their imaginations have painted many historic moments for the museum.

Artist Hashem Khan said, "Artist Rafiqunnabi painted the historical moments such as the arrival of Subedar Islam Khan in Dhaka in 1610. With the captions Memory of Dhaka Rafiqunnabi and I also painted landscapes of old Dhaka in watercolour. Moreover, artist Abdur Razzaq donated his paintings on the landscape of Dhaka in 1950s."

"We collected a lot traditional craftworks used by the aristocrats during the Nawabi era. We could even collect the first printing machine of Dhaka," Hashem Khan added.

"As part of the museum, we established the Centre for Dhaka Study featuring research, archive and library," said Prof Mamoon.

However, in the last 12 years after the handover of the museum, DCC has collected only 25 portraits of Sardars of old Dhaka and a picture portraying former president Prof Badruddoza Chowdhury celebrating the Eid day with the members of Dhakabashi.

Of the published 13 books featuring the poetry, culture and planning of Dhaka, eight are available at present. And no research work has been done in the last 12 years.

Prof Mamoon said, "What does DCC do with the money collected from sale of the books and entree tickets?"

The Social Welfare and Cultural Officer of DCC, who is the head of Dhaka Nagar Jadugar, could not make any satisfactory answer. "I'm newly appointed. I'll try to give better service consulting with the trust members," he said.
by Ershad Kamol (the Daily Star)

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