Having been a Tea Planter for 34 years, Museology was a very different ball game for me. At Tata Tea Ltd., I worked as Manager and later, for 20 years, served as Senior Manager. I thus had a good management experience in handling all aspects of management and labour; in the case of the Museum, it was the attendants.
I joined The City Palace Museum, Udaipur on 1st January 1995 as Dy. General Manager. Back then, no senior manager ever went around the Museum galleries to supervise the work of the attendants, who in turn adopted a lethargic approach. Very little attention was paid to cow-webs on the ceiling, names scribbled on the walls by local tourist and spitting of betel nut.
I was not of that opinion and felt there was always room for improvement and innovation. I would talk to the tourist and get their feed back as to what they expected form the visit. After all, they were the one spending their money to visit this place. On that basis, I started improving things by putting up signages. This was also not liked by the management and particularly the guides. They felt threatened and thought that if there is signage, then people will read those and get the information without employing a guide, which was laughable.
Having been transferred to some other department in the Palace organisation, I returned as Chief Administrator, The City Palace Museum, Udaipur, on 10th March 2003. Now I had the full backing of Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar, the Chairman and Managing Trustee of Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation, the Trust under which the Museum fell.
I, with my team, would take at least two to three rounds of the Museum daily and note down the immediate works to be carried out, and took up repairs, where necessary and put up signage, as required. It is not possible to list all the works that were carried out but the major works which made a difference to the Museum were: installation of a fountain in the huge cistern in Baadi Mahal, organising the display at Vani Vilas as the first Library of Mewar, housing Capt. Tod paraphernalia in Madan Vilas, renovation of Mor Chowk and Manek Mahal, and captioning of all the paintings.
In all the early years we ran the Museum with passion, as Shriji himself once said, in course of time, it would be more professional and systematic, as it is today, with newer expertise and larger enthusiastic teams to join in the endeavour.
The funds for the Museum Conservation Master Plan came in as also experts in the relevant fields, to implement the Plan, and a separate MMCF Project Department was started to concentrate specifically on the Museum work. I can tell you there was lot of work to do in the restoration of the Zenana Mahal areas, to open new galleries. I think that was a very important decision in implementing the Plan. After that, all the new galleries were systematically laid out in the Zenana Mahal, starting from the Photography Exhibition titled – Long Exposure: The Camera at Udaipur, 1857 – 1957, which was opened on 15th March 2009, followed by the Silver gallery, Musical Instruments gallery and the Sculpture gallery and so on. The City Palace Museum, Udaipur is what it is today due to hard work and dedication on part of the management, with full support of Shriji and due to the excellent advice of all our consultants.
- Blog by Bhupendra Singh Auwa