The Indian Museum Kolkata in West Bengal is an archaeological institution of national importance. The Indian Museum traces its origins to the Asiatic Society of Bengal, which was formed in 1784 by Sir William Jones. The concept of building a museum originated in 1796 from members of the Asiatic Society as a place where man-made and natural objects could be accessed. The scheme was first introduced in 1808 when the Society was offered suitable accommodation by the Government of India in the Chowringhee-Park Street area.
The museum has sixty galleries covering Art, Archaeology, Anthropology, Geology, Zoology and Botany sections. Many rare specimens of Indian and trans-Indian origin relating to human and natural sciences are preserved and displayed in the galleries of these sections.
The Indian Museum Kolkata is structured into six major sections. There are sections on Art, Archaeology, Anthropology, Zoology, Geology, and Botany. The anthropological section displays a number of objects like costumes, ornaments and equipments of different tribes. It tells about the cultural life of both tribal and non-tribals of India. There is also a gallery of rare musical instruments. The Archaeological Section includes the collection of stone-age artefacts from India and abroad, pre-historic antiquities from Mohenjodaro, Harappa etc. Some of the galleries in this section are Egyptian, Coins, Orissan Art and Gandhara. There is also a vase containing the ashes of Buddha. The Gandhara Gallery has one of the best collections of Buddhist sculptures. from the Gandhara region and other stone sculptures.
The Egyptian gallery houses 4000 year old mummies, sculptures, paintings etc. The Coin Gallery has a collection of coins dating back to the 5th century BCE, displaying gold coins issued by Kanishka, Samudragupta, Kumaragupta, Akbar and Jahangir. The Art section has galleries, which include textiles, paintings and decorative art objects. They are from China, Japan, Burma, Nepal and Tibet etc. The painting gallery has a collection of Mughal miniature paintings, Kangra-Kalam paintings, Kalighat Patas from Bengal and a portion of the works of famous Bengal painters. Also, in the Sino-Japanese Art Gallery, there are colorful porcelains, wine cups, articles carved on ivory and rhino horn, paintings, etc.
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The Burmese gallery displays brass and bronze figures, woodcarvings, silverware and lacquer ware with Jataka paintings, scenes from the ‘Ramayana’. The Geological Section houses more than 80,000 specimens, which display a variety of meteorites, precious stones, ornamental building stones. The sections dealing with fossils and taxidermy are noteworthy. There are many unique fossilized skeletons of prehistoric animals and a giant dinosaur skeleton. The most interesting of them are a giant crocodile and an amazingly large tortoise. The Botanical Section has many botanical specimens having a bearing on medicine, forestry, agriculture and cottage industry.
In addition, the Indian Museum also has a vast collection of about 50,000 books and periodicals, including rare publications. Books and periodicals are available on subjects like Museology, Archaeology, Anthropology and Art etc. Mainly this museum reveals the life and culture of all the ancient eras.