Hyderabad: It is under shutdown for the last six months and yet it sports a spick-and-span look. Step inside and you find everything in order – sporting a neat and clean appearance. That’s the Salar Jung Museum for you. Though it still remains out of bounds for visitors, but for the 100-odd staff members it is work as usual. They are working tirelessly to ensure that the sprawling museum premises and also its world class objets d’arts retain their spotless shine.

Each day every object in each gallery is dusted and cleaned. The SJM has 39 galleries spread over two floors. The museum workers open every showcase, take out the objects, wipe and clean them before putting them back in position. The galleries are also regularly sprayed with disinfectants. The normally crowded museum now wears a deserted look save for the staff members. The prolong shut down has no doubt cut into the museum revenue but it has also given it the breathing time to carry out much needed repair and renovation work. The museum has seized the free time to speed up the documentation and conservation work.

The SJM draws visitors from across the globe. On an average about 3000 persons visit it and the footfalls see a massive rise during weekends and holidays – giving it a monthly revenue of Rs. 2 lakh. But right from March 15 the museum is shutdown following the lockdown – causing a revenue loss of Rs. 1.5 crore till day. In fact the other five major national museums in the country – National Museum, National Gallery of Modern Art, Delhi, Allahabad Museum, Indian Museum and Victoria Memorial Museum, Kolkata are also shutdown these last few months.

“We are expecting the museum to be thrown open to visitors from October. The Government of India has also issued the SOP. We are awaiting further instructions”, says A. Nagender Reddy, Director, SJM.

On its part the SJM authorities have marked out circles on the floor in all the galleries for visitors to stand maintaining social distancing while viewing the art objects. Thermal screening and hand santizers are also being installed for benefit of visitors as and when the museum opens.

A virtual treasure house, the SJM  has a collection of over 42,000 fascinating art objects, 8,300 manuscripts and 58,000 printed books.  It is also a repository of precious sculptures, paintings, carvings, textiles, ceramics, metal ware and carpets covering diverse subjects, themes and mediums. Among its legendary collections are the veiled Rebecca, the melody in marble, the double statue of Mephistopheles and Margaretta carved out of a single block of wood. And of course the famous musical clock remains the biggest attraction.

During the lockdown period, the museum has been busy organising online exhibitions. So far it has held four exhibitions to mark the International Museum Day, Buddha Poornima festival apart from  exhibition of Bidri ware and display of paintings of the celebrated artist, Raja Ravi Verma. “It is now planned to showcase the works of Abdul Rahman Chughtai, renowned painter artist and intellectual from Pakistan”, Mr. Reddy said.

J.S. Ifthekhar

J.S. Ifthekhar is a senior journalist with nearly four decades of experience. Ifthekhar cut his teeth in journalism at the Indian Express before he moved to The Hindu. He was also associated with the Siasat Daily, Telangana Today, Deccan Chronicle, Onlooker magazine, Newstrack, Detective Digest and a few news agencies. He has written on different subjects and aspects of Hyderabadi life. However, his passion remains literature in general and Urdu poetry in particular. He is equally concerned with culture, heritage, civic affairs and problems confronting the man in the street. As a journalist he has taken up cudgels on behalf of the underprivileged and many of his stories in The Hindu saw the government promptly taking corrective measures. Ifthekhar has authored two books - Hyderabad - The Nawabi City on The Move and Haj - The Spirit Behind it. He has also translated two books from Urdu to English. Currently he is working on his third book - Poets and Writers of Deccan.

Loves to write and writes to live. Can't imagine doing anything else.

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