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Asiatic Society Heritage Museum in Old Dhaka opens for public on Friday

  • Published at 01:08 am January 4th, 2019
Asiatic Society Heritage Museum _Mehedi Hasan
The inside of the Asiatic Society Heritage Museum in Nimtali, Old Dhaka Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Prior to the opening of the museum, a delegation from the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, including its President Dr Mahfuza Khanam, visited the location to celebrate the organization’s 67th foundation day on Thursday

The Asiatic Society Heritage Museum in the Nimtali area of Old Dhaka is set to open for the public today.

Prior to the opening of the museum, a delegation from the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, including its President Dr Mahfuza Khanam, visited the location to celebrate the organization’s 67th foundation day on Thursday.

Addressing the foundation day ceremony, Dr Mahfuza said there was a close relationship between the heritage museum and the Asiatic Society, as the society’s office was originally located in the building where the museum has been set up.

“We took the initiative to set up the museum so the next generation may learn about the culture and heritage of ancient Dhaka,” she added.

The museum’s Chief Coordinator Dr Sharif Ahmed said the museum is a hub for knowledge on social, cultural, and political concepts from the transitional period between Mughal and British rule. “Anyone can use the museum as a research institute, as it holds many artefacts from our history.”

Museum Curator Jahangir Hussain said the area where the museum is located, popularly known as Nimtali Gate, was part of the Nimtali Palace built by the British East India Company for the Nayeb-Nazim family of Dhaka from 1765-66.

Jahangir Hussain, curator of the museum said, Nimtali Deuri also known as Nimtoli Gate which was the part of Nimtali Palace built by the East India Company for the Naib-Nazim family of Dhaka from 1765-66. The main part of the palace fell to ruin due to lack of preservation.

With support from the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, a section of the palace was renovated between 2009 and 20011 as part of Dhaka’s 400 year anniversary celebrations, he added.

The curator further said the museum was renovated at a cost of Tk1.5 crore, and has a maintenance cost of Tk50 lakh per year.

Although funds for the maintenance of the museum are yet to be raised, a letter has already been sent to the Ministry of Cultural Affairs in this regard, Jahangir said.

What is in the museum?

The Asiatic Society Heritage Museum is comprised of five galleries that display around 80 artifacts.

According to the museum’s curator, the artefacts were collected from 15 families of Old Dhaka with long lineages.

“We have also decided to bring in some artefacts from the National Museum and Ahsan Manjhil that are also related to the transitional period,” Jahangir added.

The artefacts on display include forks, knives, dishes, plates, jewellery boxes, muslin cloth, kettles, deer antlers, jars, copper and silver coins, and many other items used by the people of Dhaka in the Mughal and British periods, from 1700 to 1900.

Photographs and digital presentations are also displayed at the museum, the curator said.

Gallery 1 of the museum contains information on the background and history of the Asiatic Socety. The displays include photos of the society’s founding president and first general secretary Dr Ahmed Hasan Dani.

Gallery 2 contains displays on the efforts to renovate and preserve the Nimtali area.

Gallery 3 focuses on the Naib-Nazim family, who were the last of the Mughal dynasty. The displays include descriptions of important establishments and photographs up to 1843.

Gallery 4 contains a list of the members of the Naib-Nazim family along with photographs. The gallery also contains accounts of memorable events, as well as information on British East India Company representative at the time Captain Archibald Swinton.

Gallery 5 primarily contains artwork, as well as a number of artefacts and photographs of various events.

One of the most eye-catching displays at the museum is a diorama, or 3D presentation, of the court of Nawab Nusrat Jung. The ruler can be seen seated with hookah pipe in hand, while guards stand near by.

Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid inaugurated the construction of the museum on January 23, 2017, and Cultural Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Noor formally inaugurated the museum on October 11, 2018. 

Visiting hours

The museum is open for visitors on Friday and Saturday, from 10:30am-4:30pm. There is a one hour break starting at 1pm on Fridays, on account of the Jumma prayers.

Entry tickets cost Tk20 for regular visitors, Tk10 for students, and Tk200 for foreign visitors.

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