Museums of Assam and Public Education

The Assam State Museum was formed by the Kamarupa Anusandhan Samiti (Assam Research Society, 1912) and formally inaugurated by Sir Robert Neil, the Governor of Assam on 21st April, 1940. Formerly the Assam Provincial Museum, this institution was taken over by the Assam State Government on 1st April 1953 and termed it as the Assam State Museum. A large number of objects donated by the Kamarupa Anusandhan Samiti formed the genesis of the Museum collection. These objects can be categorised as stone and terracotta sculptures, metal objects, wooden artefacts, textiles, ethnographical objects, coins etc. The notable scholars and literary persons such as Late Kanaklal Barua, Late Dr. Surya Kumar Bhuyan, Late Rai Bahadur Naupat Rai Kedia, Late Premadhar Choudhury, Late Moulabi S.D.Mohibullah, Late Jogendranath Barua, Late Rai Bahadur Kaliram Medhi and others took cognizance and contributed immensely to the foundation of the Museum glory in Assam. This further lead to the dawn of Museum movement in the state. The aim for having a Museum was to collect, preserve, and research and exhibit the rich material and cultural artefacts of the region. Today, the imposing Museum buildings spread across the state symbolically serve as a testament to the founder’s important role as Museum-makers. It reflects the founders passion and dedication serving as a permanent reminder of their largess. Succeeding their predecessors the contributions made by scholars such as Dr. P. C. Choudhury and Dr. R. D. Choudhury is praiseworthy. Their command, wisdom, scholarship and selfless work culture evolved the Museum beyond the scope of its original formation.

The notion of having a Museum as an institution for imparting knowledge and education was already embedded and rooted in the idea of its formation. In a memorandum submitted by Babu Kalicharan Sen, the secretary of Kamarupa Anusandhan Samiti on 25th April, 1914 to the then Chief Commissioner of Assam Hon’ble Sir Archdale Earle, I.C.S proposed for allotment of a site to construct a Museum in the State. The second point in the memorandum reads:

“The tank called Digli Pukhuri has a traditional reputation of having been excavated by Raja Bhagadutta, the illustrious ruler of Pragjyotisha, on the occasion of the marriage of his daughter Bhanumati with Raja Duryyodhana of Hastinapur, the famous hero of the Mahabharata. It is but proper that its banks should afford a spot for the location of the proposed Museum which will be a repository of all the available collections of historical interests in connection to the ancient kingdom of Pragjyotishapur, as well as all the mineral, geological and botanical specimens of the Province, of which Gauhati is going to be the most convenient educational centre.”

The Assam State Museum is a multipurpose Museum with different types of collection. The objective of the Museum is to collect, preserve and present the visitors the artefacts that are socially endowed with cultural value having symbolic and sacred meaning. Alongside the Assam State Museum a number of Museums such as District Museums, Sub-divisional Museums and Personalia Museum were established in the district clusters of the state. These Museums serves as repository of cultural artefacts representing the socio-cultural magnitude of the region, its diversity and as well as its historicity. The Museums are distributed in the following districts: Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Tezpur, Nagaon, Karbi Anglong, Barpeta, Kokrajhar and Dhubri. The personalia Museum of Late Gopinath Bordoloi in Raha, Nagaon is an important centre of education whereas a small Museum in Bordowa, Nagaon is another treasure house of vaishnavite culture. These Museums of various natures are considered to be the most important cultural landmarks.

One of the major role and objective for the functioning of the Museums is to offer the public with non- formal educational opportunities. The academic possibilities of the Museums being immense, have fully dedicated to the cause of multidisciplinary researches. By adopting different ways of learning, enjoyment and discussions the Museums by large have added special values to the existing formal sector of education.  Another role of the Museums is that it contributes to mutual understanding and social cohesion as well as economic and human development.  Many Museums across the country survive without an education wing, but, the Assam State Museum has always remained committed towards this need. A guide lecturer who is also the Museum educator of the Assam State Museum is entrusted to enlighten the visitors (school students, researchers, adults, tourists and general public) by sharing and disseminating valuable information and knowledge about the Museum and its collection. This focus of the Museum educator makes the institution a visitor-oriented cultural centre. Thus the educational services offered by the Museum enhance and complement the understanding and enjoyment of the collections and displays.

The role of Museums of Assam has undergone change over the years. Today the Museums are a place of inspiration, admiration, enjoyment and education.  They have transformed their conventional character of comprehensive collection, preservation and display to offering the product, i.e. the artefacts, to the public for enriching their understanding towards art, culture, history and aesthetics through various interpretive modes and mediums.

Image Source: Directorate of Museums, Assam