In its endeavor to showcase artifacts and important objects depicting history and culture of the summer capital, authorities have starting the process to revamp the 120-year-old Sri Pratap Singh (SPS) museum building at Lal Mandi here.
Keen on retaining the heritage value of the SPS building, the department of culture is planning to rope-in experts to create the city museum at this heritage structure set-up in 1898.
Minister for Culture, Naeem Akhtar said preserving SPS Museum, which has been in shambles after the devastating 2014 floods, is his top priority. Akhtar, who recently took over as culture minister, visited the museum and directed officials that all necessary measures should be taken to restore the glory of this building.
"The building is a real heritage and the fact that its interiors are firm and standing is a golden opportunity for us to preserve it. Apart from a natural history museum we will also be setting-up a city museum at this heritage building for which we will seek help of experts," Akhtar told Greater Kashmir.
The flash floods in Kashmir in 2014 had claimed precious artifacts that had been preserved for a long time. Priceless exhibits were destroyed at the SPS museum, some of which date back to the 2nd century. Akhtar said several major assets preserved in the old SPS museum building are rare heritage of the state. He said a special focus at the proposed city museum will be to preserve objects portraying history, culture and daily life of downtown Srinagar.
"I am somewhat disappointed that the under-construction new museum building lacks a Kashmiri touch. It is like any other concrete structure which could come up in any other part of the world. The old museum building on the other hand stands apart," said Akhtar.
"The historic murals preserved at this heritage building are so vibrant that they seem to have been done recently. A theme-based city museum will be the most appropriate place to showcase our rich history right from the Burzhama days to the present era," Akhtar said.
Akhtar also informed that construction of the new SPS museum building will be completed by July this year.
"We want that the SPS museum should become a one stop destination for both tourists and locals to catch a glimpse of our past and present. Work on the third floor and the attic at the new building will also be completed soon. We are hopeful that work will be expedited and the museum will be fully operational soon," Akhtar said.
Visitors to the state-of-the-art new building of the SPS museum, which came up for about Rs 66 crore, had recently complained about poor power supply. However, Akhtar said all facilities for visitors such as uninterrupted power supply, hygienic toilets at the museum are being put in place.
The SPS museum Srinagar established in the Maharaja's summer guest house is largely based on collections transferred from state Toshkhana. Approximately 79,595 artifacts and objects covering various subjects like archaeology, numismatics, decorative art, arms and armory, paintings and textiles are housed in the museum. However, several objects including ancient documents, rare artifacts, and art from ancient era were so baldy at the SPS Museum during 2014 floods that they were beyond recovery. But initiatives from conservationists and cultural activists have been taken to restore the museum's glory.