Pull that lever, push that button
Museums are storehouses of information and offer a lot for those interested in science as well as history. Hearteningly, not all of them have the Don't Touch policy.
The Government State Museum is an impressive heritage structure.
ARE YOU one of those who think museums are places where old and boring artefacts are housed for posterity, and that only stuffy, dull and grey-haired people visit them? Well, being seen in a museum may not be the in thing or it might not be the most happening place, but museums are certainly favoured by young and old alike!
On a Saturday morning, the Government State Museum, adjacent to the more popular Visvesvaraya Technological Museum (VITM) on Kasturba Road, is reasonably crowded. Echoes of footsteps ring in your ears as visitors shuffle around peering at the various exhibits. The VITM, on the other hand, is riot of shrieking children and hassled parents, and oohing and aahing visitors. The Nehru Planetarium may be fairly empty in the morning, but count yourself lucky if you can procure a ticket for their evening "star" show (3 p.m. in Kannada and 4.30 p.m. in English) in the domed auditorium, which runs to packed houses on weekends!
Each museum in the City has a history of its own. The Nehru Planetarium, strictly speaking, is not a museum, but like museums has great educative value. Inaugurated in 1989, it is a part of the Bangalore Association for Science Education, (BASE), a government-funded autonomous body.
A large and magnificent image of the remnants of the Vela Supernova greets you at the entrance of the exhibition hall. On the right wing is a display of the "Century of Physics", the right wing is currently dedicated to Galileo, the "Starry Messenger". Their evening show is also on Galileo.
"Our main aim is to popularise science and education," explains Assistant Director Pramod Galgali. The planetarium attracts around 1.75-1.9 lakh visitors annually. You can also buy science and educational kits here.
The VITM's motto is also popularisation of science. This four-storeyed museum is by far the most popular in town. Each floor is dedicated to the various branches science like mechanics, electronics, popular and fun science, etc. What is more important is that you can fiddle with the exhibits - pulling levers and pushing buttons - and learn about scientific phenomena for yourself!
VITM was started in 1965, and is part of the National Council of Science Museums (NCSM), an autonomous body with its headquarters in Calcutta. Bangalore has the privilege of being the highest grossing centre, boasting of about 8 to10 lakh visitors every year!
There is this preconceived notion about the word `museum', which brings to mind the old and rattling chains of boring displays. But in VITM, the first approach is fun. "Fun comes first, then the visitor's curiosity is aroused, so he/she goes ahead and reads about the particular scientific phenomenon," VITM Director Vasudeva Bhatta.
Sadly, the same cannot be said for the Government State Museum. This magnificent, Corinthian style building, was constructed way back in 1876. It's not fun and hence is not brimming with tourists. The museum, which is immaculately kept, houses stone statues, sculptures, miniature paintings, arms and armoury, and various other archeological exhibits. It used to be fuller, with exhibits of stuffed animals; however these have now been removed.
"Not many people are interested in history. And moreover, the way it is taught in the schools, everyone knows what a boring subject it is," says Annapoorna, a commerce graduate and a second-time visitor, who has tagged along with a friend.
Surprisingly, neither of the museums have pukkah guides. "If there is a guide, a visitor will not have the freedom to explore the museum on his own," explains Mr. Vasudeva Bhatta, adding, "Besides, the purpose of putting up the explanatory board will be lost!"
Mr. Ramakrishna Udupi, curator in the Geology Department of Bangalore University, who had brought his nephew to the Government Museum, feels that most people do not have the patience to sit or rather stand through the 20-30 minutes drone of the guide!
The tourist is the lifeline of museums in terms of sustaining interest, but monetarily, the meagre entrance fee covers only a tiny percentage of their costs. The VITM and the Planetarium recover some costs by other educational activities. The Government Museum (closed Mondays and other government holidays) charges Rs. 4 for an adult and is free for schools students and teachers. The VITM (closed only on Ganesh Chaturthi and Deepavali!) charges Rs. 10 for adults, while the Planetarium (closed Mondays and second Tuesdays) charges Rs.15 for adults for their half-our shows.
But for the locals, once a museum is seen, it's over. Right? Well, not so for the science museums, which change and upgrade their displays to attract locals. The Planetarium has different themes, the current one is on Galileo, while the earlier ones included the sun and its family, cosmic journey, life beyond earth, and so on. There are other educational camps and programmes for eager amateur.
The VITM's current attraction for Bangaloreans is dinosaurs, while the previous one was the science of sports. The latest is an entire wing on biotechnology, to be opened shortly.
Museums are storehouses of information, well so is the internet!"You see there is a big difference in seeing things happening in front of your eyes and in your presence, compared to taking a virtual tour of the museum, sitting in front of your monitor," explains Mr. Bhatta. He firmly believes that the charm of going to a museum and coming back with the satisfaction of having learned or spent one's time fruitfully is pretty much entrenched.
With advancements in various fields, scientific and otherwise, people are being more inquisitive and want to keep up with the latest developments. "Visitors who come here are already pretty well informed, and I would say the interest level shown by the public in these matters is quite high," avers Mr. Pramod Galagali. Mr. Ramakrishna Udupi feels that the "general public has an eagerness to learn" and is convinced that the interest in museums will be sustained by future generations.
Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash
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