An old bungalow standing almost dilapidated on the beach road at Waltair, in Visakhapatnam, is known to the locals as "Dutch Bungalow". This building was in occupation by various families till the late 70s, but no one ever dreamt that it would one day become the home of "Visakha Museum".
The bungalow and the land around it was alienated to VUDA for development in the 1980s. Originally it was thought that the Bungalow would make way for a five-star hotel. Founding members of the Visakha Historical Society and other public-spirited citizens rallied around and appealed to the authorities to preserve the building and utilise it for a public purpose. Good sense prevailed and it was decided to renovate and preserve the Bungalow for public use.
So it was that our "Visakha Museum" has the distinction of being one of the very few museums in the country housed in a preserved old building. The credit for the renovation of the old Dutch Bungalow goes to one Mr. Sarma, the Engineer-in-charge of this project in VUDA. The "Dutch-ness" of the building was retained, barring the inevitable ceramic floor-tiles and the steel-and-glass showcases. The renovated Dutch Bungalow was purchased by the Municipal Corporation from VUDA and the Museum was established in it.
Commissioner of MCV S.P.Singh, IAS, is credited with planting the administrative seeds for setting up a Museum in the city. However, it is widely acknowledged that the First Citizen of the city, Mayor D.V. Subba Rao and the then Municipal Commissioner Sameer Sharma were instrumental in converting the dreams of Vizagites of having a Museum in the city into a reality.
Corporation Museum of Visakhapatnam had a grand-gala opening on the 8th October 1991 by the then Honourable Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Mr N. Janardana Reddy.
The Museum is primarily a historical one which would act as a repository of artifacts and documents relating to the history of people, events and institutions of the largest district of "Vizagapatam" of the erstwhile "Madras Presidency" of the pre-Independence era, which extended from Tuni in East Godavari district up to Ganjam in neighbouring Orissa.
The following is a list of notable exhibits arranged according to museological grouping :
PORTRAITS, oil on canvas : Standing portraits, some of them life-size, of members of the royal family of Vizianagaram and Bobbili.
ARMOURY : Two full suits of armour, two stands of spears and muzzle loading guns, several ancient weapons such as steel bows.
HAND GUNS : English handguns and revolvers of various types are acquired from the Police Armoury, having been decommissioned on the transfer of power on the 15th August 1947. At least one revolver has an inscription in French.
SWORDS AND DAGGERS : A large collection of daggers and long-bladed swords and bodices of chain-mail are also in the collection.
HELMETS : Three varieties of helmets are identified, resembling designs of British, and probably those of Greek / Roman and Viking.
TAXIDERMY EXHIBITS : Two magnificent Bengal tigers (stuffed) which are hunting trophies of Jeypore Royalty are excellent examples of the art and science of taxidermy. Valuable HEIRLOOMS of Ankitam family consisting of an antique Buddhist Pagoda, a silk skirt, RAMAYANA on palm-leaf, costume jewellery and medallions are donated by their descendants. Astronomical instruments from the A.V. Jagga Rao Observatory of the 90s in Vizag form a unique collection.
PORCELAIN AND GLASS : A dinner set of porcelain with family coat of-arms inclusive of Telugu script which was made in 1920's in Czechoslovakia and glass wine set are from Bobbili Royal family.
ARTIFACTS / MEMORABILIA FROM LOCAL INSTITUTIONS :
ST. Aloysius School : Shell of a 250-lb bomb dropped by Japanese on Vizag during II World War, which fortunately did not explode.
Hindustan Shipyard Limited: Coconut broken by the First Prime Minister Jawaharalal Nehru when launching the first India-built ship S.S. Jala Usha and a model of the ship.
VISAKHAPATNAM PORT TRUST : Bronze busts of port officers including Nanjundiah, its first Indian Chairman.
When the Museum was inaugurated, the exhibits listed above formed its 'core'. Subsequently, the Honorary Curator Prof. E. V. Gangadharam augmented the museum collection, with the following items:
GANDHI MEMORABILIA. A desk used by Mahatma Gandhi and later by late Sri Tenneti Viswanatham along with photographs of the Mahatma walking with other personalities of Vizag and photos of the Ankitam House in which Gandhiji stayed while in Vizag.
FELICITATIVE DECORATIONS of the first Poet-Laureate Sripada Krishnamurthi Sastry : Suvarna Gandapenderam, Mani Kireetam, MahaMahopa-dhyaya insignia and medallions; An invaluable collection of 32 works of art by the celebrated artist of Andhra, Adivi Bapiraju; A Burmese silver bowl with Budda Jataka Katha on it; old violins from Germany and Czechoslovakia; old watches, clocks, documents, photographs and a collection of over 200 rare and old books from the personal libraries of prominent personalities of Vizag with which the Museum Library was started. Prof. E.V. Gangadharam Director, Centre for Marine Archaeology, is the Honorary Curator of the Museum.
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