Photographer: Francis Frith
Date: Between 1850s to 1870s
Whole-plate albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
The Indian Museum is the largest museum in India and has rare collections of antiques, armour and ornaments, fossils, skeletons, mummies, and Mughal paintings. It was founded by Dr Nathaniel Wallich a Danish botanist at Serampore (originally called Frederischnagore) near Kolkata (Calcutta), India, in 1814. It is a multi-disciplinary institution of national standing and is one of oldest museums in the world.
This was the first museum of its kind in Asia. The Indian museum rose from the Asiatic Society of Bengal which was created by Sir William Jones in 1784. Many relics and curiosities were sent in initially and the space required was granted by the Government of India between Park Street and Chowringhee. In February 1814, Dr Nathaniel Wallich wrote a letter supporting the formation of a museum in Calcutta which he said should have two sections - an archaeelogical, ethnological and technical section and a geological and zoological one. The latter was taken charge of by Wallich. After the resignation of Dr Wallich curators were paid salaries ranging from Rs 50 to Rs 200 a month. Until 1836 this salary was paid by the Asiatic Society but in that year its bankers, Palmer and Company became insolvent and the Government began to pay from its public funds. A temporary grant of Rs 200 per month was sanctioned for maintenance of the museum and library and Dr JT Pearson of the Bengal Medical Service was appointed Curator followed shortly by Dr John McClelland and on his resignation by Edward Blyth. In 1840, the Government took a keen interest in the geology and mineral resources and this led to an additional grant of Rs 250 per month for the geological section alone. A new building became a need and this was designed by Walter R Granville and completed in 1875 for the cost of Rs 1,40,000. In 1879 it received a portion of the collection from the India Museum (South Kensington) when that collection was dispersed.
The Zoological and Anthropological sections of the museum gave rise to the Zoological Survey of India in 1916, which in turn gave rise to the Anthropological Survey of India in 1945.