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GOVERNMENT MUSEUM

Well worth visiting , the Government Museum is on Pantheon Road between Egmore and Anna Salai. The building originally belonged to a group of eminent British citizens, known as the Pantheon Committee, who were responsible for improving the social life of the British in Madras. The Main Building has a fine archaeological section representing all the major South Indian periods including Chola, Vijayanagar, Hoysala and Chalukya. It also houses a good ethnology collection. The bronze gallery has a superb collection of Chola art. One of the most impressive is the bronze of Ardhanariswara, the androgynous incarnation of Shiva. The museum complex is open 9.30 am to 5 pm; closed Friday and public holidays.

In January 1851 AD, Dr. Edward Balfour, Medical Officer of the Governor's Body guard was appointed as the First Officer in charge of the Government Museum. The notification in the Fort St. George Gazetteer dated 29th Aprtil 1851 AD contained the first announcement regarding the opening of the Madras Government Museum. The Government Museum otherwise called as the Central Museum was started in the College of Fort St. George, in the premises of the present office of the Director of Public Instruction, on College Road. The college had been established in 1812 AD and made a significant contribution to the development of South Indian Languages. The Museum was started in the first floor of the college with the 1100 geological specimens of the Madras Literary Society. It steadily developed and expanded under the guidance and supervision of a succession of directors.

     As the building was in a dilapidated condition, the Museumís Superintendent, Dr. Balfour advocated shifting it to another building.

     In December 1854 AD, it was shifted to a building named the Pantheon, also known as the Public Rooms or Assembly Rooms, where the elite of the city met.

     The building was being utilised for banquets, balls and dramatic performances from the last decade of the 18th Century. The estate of the Pantheon was the property of Hall Plumer, civil servant and public works contractor who subsequently, in 1793 AD, assigned the grounds to a Committee of 24, which regulated the public amusements in the city at that time. In 1821 AD, the Committee sold the main house and central garden space to E.S. Moorat, a wealthy Armenian merchant, who in turn, sold it back to the Government in 1830 AD, for Rs.28,000. The property was originally 43 acres in extent and stretched from Casa Major Road to the present Police Commissionerís Road, and it was flanked by the Pantheon Road and Halls Road.

     The Public Library was started in 1853 AD. It was opened to the public in June 1862 AD. The construction of the library and lecture hall began in December 1873 AD and completed in 1875 AD and formally opened by the Governor on March 16, 1876 AD. Captain Mitchell, Superintendent, was responsible for strengthening the library. He is regarded as the originator of the Connemara Public Library.

 

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