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Mother’s Wax Museum
Birla Industrial and Technological Museum - Captivating Calcutta
106    Dibyendu Banerjee    07/05/2024

Located at 19A Gurusaday Road and established on 2 May 1959, the Birla Industrial and Technological Museum is the first science museum in the country, a unit under the National Council of Science Museums (NCSM), Ministry of Culture, Government of India, and is widely regarded as the mother of science museum movement in India.

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The museum, housed in the palatial building and famous for its several interesting galleries, daily science shows, sky observation, creative ability center, popular lectures, along with the 3D shows organized in the premises, has become one of the interesting attractions of Calcutta, especially for the kids of the city. According to the available records, a member of the famous Tagore family of Jorasanko purchased the property from Mirza Abdul Karim in 1898, and Meera Devi, the fourth child of Rabindranath Tagore, spent most of her early life in the building. In 1919, famous businessman Ghanshyam Das Birla purchased the property from Surendranath Tagore, the son of Satyendranath Tagore, the eldest brother of Rabindranath Tagore, when the house used by the Tagore family was pulled down and architects N Guin& Co. were commissioned to turn it into the Birla Park.

birla industrial and technological museum

The idea of establishing a science museum in Calcutta was first conceived by Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy, the then Chief Minister of West Bengal, who following his visit to the Deutsches Museum in Munich was inspired to create a similar institution in the city of Calcutta for public engagement with science & technology.

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His vision was instantly supported by Pandit Jawharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India, and found patronage from the industrialist Mr G D Birla, who promptly donated the Birla Park, his magnificent mansion, along with the surrounding plot of land to Mr Nehru in 1956, for setting up the proposed Industrial and Technological Museum in the city. The eventful and challenging journey of transformation of the Birla Park to form a museum took nearly 3 hours, which included the meticulous research, planning and diligent work done by the Museum's steering group, headed by Dr B C Roy and included several notable scientists, educators, and the entrepreneurs. Ultimately, the Birla Industrial & Technological Museum, popularly known as BITM, was opened to the public on 2nd May, 1959 by Prof Humayun Kabir, the then union minister for Scientific Research and Cultural Affairs, in the presence of Dr. B C Roy and other dignitaries.

birla industrial and technological museum
The floating tap, which is a water fountain

With its galleries, diverse activities and the growing chains of the satellite centres, the museum is an amazing place, where science manifests itself through means of interactive and animated models. Over the decades, several academic initiatives and events like Computer Awareness Programmes, Creative Ability Centres, Engineering Fair, Public Science Shows, Pet Library, Inflatable Dome Planetarium Show, Science Drama, Science Seminar, Vacation Hobby Camps, and numerous other in-museum and community engagements and events have been also incorporated to it.

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Apart from a vast library, containing a variety of books, journals, CDs in the field of Science & Technology, the museum building also houses a fully air-conditioned auditorium with a seating capacity of 210 people, where educational film shows and programs are organized for students as well as for adults visiting the museum. Other facilities include an air-conditioned conference room, a hall for displaying exhibits and a cafeteria. From time to time, the museum also arranges various educational events which include annual science quiz contests, Science drama competition and Science film festivals.

birla industrial and technological museum

Initially, the Birla Industrial and Technological Museum (BITM) had galleries on Electricity, Nuclear Physics, Metallurgy of Iron, Steel & Copper, Petroleum, Optics, Electronics and Television. But subsequently, many new galleries namely, Motive Power (1962), Communication (1963), Mining (1964), Popular Science (1965), Transport (1973), were added one by one to meet the need of the day. However, with the passing of time, many of these old galleries have either been thoroughly renovated or gradually replaced with new galleries in keeping with the changing public expectation Today, the Birla Industrial and Technological Museum (BITM) is equipped with 12 educative as well as interactive galleries, which include a special gallery for the visually impaired persons, containing 19 Braille compliant exhibits.

birla industrial and technological museum
Statue of Newton in the Physics Gallery
birla industrial and technological museum
Popular Science Gallery

Apart from containing a statue of Newton under an apple tree discovering gravity, the fascinating Physics Gallery of the museum contains 28 classic exhibits on mechanics, light, electromagnetic waves and gravitation, including the microcosm of subatomic particles and the super cool region near the absolute zero temperature and also experiments like Weight on Moon and Gravity Well. Moreover, there are 28 interactive exhibits on gravity, mechanics, light and electromagnetic fields with attractive visuals, animations, video, unmanned quiz, multimedia and other techniques, for the delight of the visitors and enhancing their experience. At the same time, the Life science Gallery is arranged with the intention to bring out the science of life through some exhibits which are both living and non-living, and it displays how human existence thrived on the planet through the ages, despite all the diversity. The Motive Power Gallery displays 81 exhibits on the different kinds of power that humans have invented and depicts the use of animal power to nuclear power and the story behind the invention of various engines.

birla industrial and technological museum
Transport Gallery
birla industrial and technological museum
Digital Adventure Gallery

The Transport Gallery, opened in the old building on the pre-golden Jubilee year of the institute in 2008-2009, and spreading over 500 square km, contains around 90 exhibits portraying over 50 models besides interactive activities and displays the evolution of the wheel to the supersonic jet engines and also displays the development of transport system in water or in the air, on land or in underground Metro. The other galleries of the museum includes the Digital Adventure Gallery, introduced in 2018, with about 16 exhibits showcasing digital technology, the Electricity Gallery, containing the high-voltage theatre, the Mathematics Gallery, inaugurated in 2010, the Biotechnology Gallery with 52 interactive galleries, the Metals Gallery and the Television Gallery, exhibiting ancient TV sets, valves, analogue cameras, early animation systems and analogue studios.

birla industrial and technological museum
The Motive Power Gallery
birla industrial and technological museum
Children’s Gallery

In addition to the above, the Children's Gallery, inaugurated on 14th November 2012 in the museum building, covering an area of 4000 square feet, contains the kid zone, learning zone, fun zone, play zone, mirror zone, ride zone, and an assembly zone where the children can unfold their imagination while playing around and experiment with the objects kept for them in the area. The museum complex also contains a mock-up underground coal mine, which was created in 1983, along with an aquarium, aviary for birds, rabbit house, bonsai plants, and snake pits to the delight of the kids, along with a floating tap in the garden which is actually a water fountain with an invisible pipe system.

Mother’s Wax Museum
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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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