The Indian Museum in Kolkata also referred to as the Imperial Museum at Calcutta in British India era texts, is the largest and oldest museum in India and has rare collections of antiques, armor and ornaments, fossils, skeletons, mummies and Mughal paintings of 1600 c e. It was founded by the Asiatic Society of Bengal in Kolkata (Calcutta), India, in 1814 C.E. The founder curator was Nathaniel Wallich, a Danish botanist.
It has six sections comprising thirty-five galleries of cultural and scientific artifacts namely Art, Archaeology, Anthropology, Geology, Zoology, and Economic Botany. Many rare and unique specimens, both Indian and trans-Indian, relating to humanities and natural sciences, are preserved and displayed in the galleries of these sections. the administrative control of the Cultural sections, viz. Art, Archaeology, and Anthropology rest with the Board of Trustees under its Directorate, and that of the three other science sections is with the geological survey of India, the zoological survey of India and the Botanical Survey of India. The museum Directorate has eight co-ordinating service units: Education, Preservation, publication, presentation, photography, medical, modelling and library. This multipurpose Institution with multidisciplinary activities is being included as an Institute of national importance in the seventh schedule of the Constitution of India. It is one of the oldest museums in the world. This is an autonomous organization under Ministry of Culture, Government of India.
The Indian Museum originated from the Asiatic Society of Bengal which was created by Sir William Jones in 1784. The concept of having a museum arose in 1796 from members of the Asiatic Society as a place where man-made and natural objects could be collected, cared for and displayed. The objective began to look achievable in 1808 when the Society was offered suitable accommodation by the Government of India in the Chowringhee-Park Street area.
In February 3, 1814, Nathaniel Wallich, a Danish botanist, who had been captured in the siege of Serampore but later released, wrote a letter supporting the formation of a museum in Calcutta which he said should have two sections—an archaeological, ethnological and technical section and a geological and zoological one. The Museum was created, with Wallich named the Honorary Curator and then Superintendent of the Oriental Museum of the Asiatic Society. Wallich also donated a number of botanical specimens to the museum from his personal collection.
It currently occupies a resplendent mansion, and exhibits among others: an Egyptian mummy. The mummy is being restored.
Indian artifacts include the Buddhist stupa from Bharhut, the Buddha’s ashes, the Ashoka pillar, whose four-lion symbol became the official emblem of the Republic of India, fossil skeletons of prehistoric animals, an art collection, rare antiques, and a collection of meteorites. Stone sculpture of Devi Durga in Kolkata
The Indian Museum is also regarded as “the beginning of a significant epoch initiating the socio-cultural and scientific achievements of the country. It is otherwise considered as the beginning of the modernity and the end of the medieval era” by UZER Places.
The museum has four galleries dedicated to natural history, namely the botanical, insect, mammal and bird galleries. It also contains prehistoric artifacts such as the huge skeleton of a dinosaur.