Study of Gandhi Memorial Museum at Madurai

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Introduction

The term “Museum” originally derived from the Greek word meaning the “Sanctuary of the muses”. The Museum’s first duty is to survey, collect documents and preserve genuine objects and information, may it be any field of specialization. The other aspect is to utilize them for the research and education for the present and future generations, for which the museums as a custodian of information and artifacts have a chief responsibility1

While describing the museums of the first decade of the twentieth century, David Muray writes, “A Museum, as now understood, is a collection of monuments of the antiquity of the objects interesting to the scholar and the man of Science, arranged and displayed with scientific method’’.

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The Museums today intended to play a lively role not only in preserving the art and culture of a particular locality or community but also in contributing the social and cultural uplift of humanity by means of presenting the original evidence of man’s creativity and his control over nature. The preservation of such material is one of their functions. The explanation and use of this material for the advantage of present society.

  • Classification of Museums
  • Museums can be classified into many numbers based on their contents or area of coverage. Among them some important classifications are;
  • Art and Archaeology Museum
  • Industry and Commerce Museum
  • Science and Technology Museum
  • Crafts Museum
  • History Museum2
  • Personalia Museums
  • Natural History Museums
  • Anthropology Museums
  • Modern Art Museums
  • Multi-purpose Museums

There are several Personalia Museums in India viz.., Gandhi Museum, Nehru Museum, Nethaji Museum, Ravindra Sangrahalaya Museum, etc… Gandhi Museum is fall under the category of Personalia museums3

History of Museums

Humans have always been curious to understand their environment and people. One of the most interesting ways to achieve this is to examine the objects everyone creates. Historically, the beginning of acquiring and displaying objects of curiosity and art can be traced to the Renaissance in Europe, somewhere in the 14th century. This was the period when the world was becoming more accessible with the opening of new trade routes from Europe and the idea of acquiring objects from these new regions held appeal.

These collections attained a great public and historical value, placing their owners in a prominent place in society. They also proved to be an aesthetic and pleasant means of learning about the world. The urge to extend knowledge to the public through private collections took shape in 1523.4

The word museum owes its origins to the Greek ‘mission,’ meaning ‘seat of the muses,’ and was used to denote a philosophical institution or a place of contemplation. It was used for the first time by Ptolemy I serious for the great museum founded by him in the 3rd century BCE at Alexandria, though that was mainly a library or a prototype university.

In India, with the entry of the British, French, Portuguese, Danish, and Armenian traders beginning in the 13th century, the objects of trade such as textiles and decorative arts garnered much interest and appreciation. They moved beyond the realms of trade and represented an ‘exotic’ new culture5

In 14th century the world came to know the importance and impacts of museums in society. In India, the importance of museums was known during the British period by Sir William Jones who formed an institution called the Asiatic Society. It established the first Oriental museum of the Asiatic Society. In this way, the History of museums started in India.

It was only in the 17th century that the term gained currency all around Europe to describe collections of curiosities. Ashmolean was the first museum to open to the public in 1682, consisting of the collections of John Trade scant, bought by Elias Ash mole, and donated to Oxford University.

Although there is some ambivalence in the use of museums in the legislation, drafted in 1753, founding the British museum, never less the idea of an institution called a museum and established to preserve and display of collection to the public was well established in the 18th century. Indeed, Denis Diderot outlined a detailed scheme for a National Museum for France in the ninth volume of his Encyclopedia, published in 17656

When the British colonized the Indian subcontinent in the 18th century, the European idea of the museum percolated to India. Sir William Jones, one of the prominent British historians, formed the Asiatic Society in 1784 at Calcutta (now Kolkata) to study India’s cultural and historical heritage, and disseminate it7

This was the development of the seed of the idea to have a permanent space dedicated to displaying objects and in 1796 the members of the Asiatic Society approved the proposal to start a museum. India’s first museum was set up at Asiatic Society; Calcutta in 1814 was called as ‘Imperial Museum’ to be changed late as ‘Indian Museum’. It still is one of the largest museums in India.

Museums in Independent India

After India got Independence on August 15th, 1947, the leaders started searching for a museum that would preserve the free country’s vast heritage and its national identity thus, resulted in the establishment of the National museum. Though it stands as one of the biggest edifices of independent India in the cultural sector, the initial idea to set up the National Museum in New Delhi was introduced by the British in 1946 and opened to the public at Janpath in 1960. Its initial collections came from Ajit Ghosh, S.T. SrinivasGopalachari, Sharan Rani Bakliwal and others, acquired through donations or purchases. Grace Morley (1900-1985), who was the museum’s first Director, came to India in 1960. She was the founder of the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco and was invited to direct the National Museum.8

History of Museum in Tamilnadu

The city of Tamil Nadu is visited by numerous people for every year. While quite a lot of people visit the city for exploring the place and going to other places and come to Tamil Nadu as halt quite a big number of people also visit Tamil Nadu to know more the roots of the country India. For all those who are interested to know about the rich heritage and history of India, they have to visit the museums. Upon visiting these various Museums, they will be able to explore the museums in which many artifacts have been well preserved by the Government of India.9 The state of Tamil Nadu is an important city for historians and scholars to enjoy. The typical objects displayed in various museums of Tamilnadu attract people the most. Interesting objects vary from archaeology to anthropology and from the ancient days to the present times.

  • Some of the important museums in Tamil Nadu and their important feature
  • Anna Library and Museum at Kanchipuram
  • Different kinds of pen and key chains along with various objects of art and architecture are displayed in this museum10
  • Archaeological Site Museum at Dharmapuri
  • Established in 1979, this museum stores various objects of archaeology11
  • Art Gallery at Thanjavur
  • Most of the art objects belonging to the Chola period, between the 9th and 13th centuries
  • Art Museum at Madurai
  • This museum is a storehouse of bronzes, paintings, jewelry and various other historical objects
  • Central Leather Research Institute at Chennai (CLRI)
  • It is a leading unit, associated with education, research and training in leather-related technologies.
  • College museum at Coimbatore
  • Displayed objects include cereals, pulses and other materials of agriculture12
  • Museum Of Anatomy at Vellore
  • It is a well-known museum of anatomy. The museum contributes to the learning of human anatomy.
  • The Department of Ancient History and Archaeology at Chennai
  • Excavated materials and antiquities of Chennai and the allied areas are displayed in this museum.
  • District Science Centre (National Council of Science Museum, Government of India) at Tirunelveli
  • As the name suggests, the exhibits are all scientific and science related objects13
  • Fort St. George Museum at Chennai
  • Established a year after the independence, the museum houses important objects like Odeyars of Mysore period.
  • Government Museum at Chennai
  • It is a multipurpose museum that houses several objects of natural history and botany.
  • Government Museum at Erode
  • Being a multipurpose museum, it is a storehouse of objects of art, archaeology, and other objects of the past14
  • Government Museum at kanyakumari
  • Established in the year 1991, this museum displays typical historical items of the place.
  • Government museum at Madurai
  • The Government Museum at Madurai in the state of Tamil Nadu was established in the year 1980 as a multipurpose museum15
  • Government Museum at Pudukkottai
  • Nestled in the state of Tamil Nadu, this museum is a treasure house of historical antiquities.
  • Government Museum at Salem
  • Along with anthropological and archaeological items, this museum also exhibits objects of natural history.
  • Government museum at Sivaganga
  • A multipurpose museum itself, this museum has valuable objects of the past in its core.
  • Government museum at Tiruchirapalli
  • Natural history objects, philately and objects of children’s interest are in the possession of this museum16
  • Government museum at Tirunelveli
  • Established in 1922, this museum exhibits objects of historical interest.
  • Government museum at Tiruvayur
  • Established in the year 1988, the Government Museum at, Tiruvayur is a show house of ancient historical objects of India
  • Government museum at Udhagamandalam
  • The objects displayed in the museum include art, archaeology, anthropology, and various others of the ancient days.
  • Government museum at Vellore
  • With the oldest historical tradition in the core, this museum is famous for archaeological and anthropological objects.
  • K. Sreenivasan Art Gallery &Textile Museum at Coimbatore
  • A storehouse of ancient objects, this museum was built in the year 1988 as an art museum.
  • Kalaimahal Meenakshisundram Archaeological Learning & Research Centre at Erode
  • Nested in the city of Erode in Tamil Nadu, the Kalaimahal Meenatshi Sundram Archaeological Learning &Research Centre was established in the year 1981.
  • Madras Regiment War Museum at Wellington (nilgiris)
  • The objects that have been displayed for the general visitors to enjoy include archives and history of madras Regiment down the ages.
  • Marine Biology museum at Parangipettai
  • Established in 1958, this museum exhibits nothing other than the marine organisms17
  • Museums of Tamil Nadu Padmanabhapuram Palace at Thuckalai
  • The objects that have been exhibited in the museum include sculptures, ceramics and many others.
  • Raja Raja Cholan Museum at Thanjavur
  • It is an archaeological museum exactly located in the palace Complex of Thanjavur
  • Raja Serfoji li Memorial Hall at Thanjavur
  • The museum welcomes people to show its ancient stores of a variety of interesting objects.
  • Ramalinga Vilas Palace Museum at Ramanathapuram
  • In order to preserve the ancient historical objects of the past, the museum has stored objects like glass paintings, photographs, etc.
  • Royal palace museum at Thanjavur
  • The royal palace museum at Thanjavur in the state of Tamil Nadu was established in the year 1994
  • Saraswathi Mahal Museum at Thanjavur
  • Today, the museum gas in its store an accumulation of varied objects, such as, very important palm leaf manuscripts, Ramayana, Paper manuscripts, etc18
  • Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple museum at Srirangam
  • Other than the historical items, this museum also stores objects like ivory idols, icons, etc.
  • Sri Vasavi College of History Museum at Erode
  • People visit this museum to see the oriental collection of historical items.
  • Tamil University Museum at Thanjavur
  • Tamil University Museum at Thanjavur in the state of Tamil Nadu is an important museum for its storage of ancient historical objects.
  • Theosophical Society museum at Chennai
  • As the name suggests, it is a religious museum situated in Chennai

Madurai

As pointed out in the introductory part, the Gandhi memorial museum in Madurai is the first and the biggest museum in India. It was built in dedication to the people of South India. It remembers in our minds about the heroic days of Gandhi, and his motivation to the millions of people in India and led them to victory and freedom. The museum serves all four southern states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Mysore and Kerala. The prominence of Madurai from early times as the Athens of South India has been added with much fame by the location of the Gandhi Memorial Museum here. This Gandhian Institution seeks to help an ever-increasing number of people, particularly youth, to understand and to value the life, work and ideologies of Gandhiji.19

Selection of Madurai for a Gandhi Memorial Museum

There are many places in South India that are important in relation to Gandhiji. But among them, Madurai can claim a distinct place of its own. When the Gandhi Nation Memorial Trust planned to start Gandhi Memorial museums throughout India, it decided to start one of them in South India at first. Madurai was selected for locating a Gandhi Memorial Museum for south India because of many reasons.

It was in Madurai on 21st September 1921 that Gandhiji discarded the Khadi aware made of dress and donated the dress to the poor, the loin cloth. Since then Gandhiji was known throughout the world as the “Semi naked Fakir”. It was in Madurai again that Gandhiji won a historic battle against untouchability. The doors of the great Meenakshi temple were thrown open to Harijans, on 2nd February 1946, Gandhiji entered into the Meenakshi temple with the Harijans.

Moreover, Gandhiji began his spiritual movement form Madurai that finally released India form the bonds of foreign rule the next important reason for selecting Madurai for housing a Gandhi Memorial Museum is that Madurai, the temple city, remains as a place of great pilgrimage. People of various states come to Madurai to Sri Meenakshi temple, on their way to Rameswaram.20

The place selected for the housing of Madurai museum is a great one and plenty of opportunities to come in contact with the great number of people of India and the atmosphere is very much favorable to the work of the museum. Gandhiji made five visits to Madurai. Thus the city became one of the places hallowed by him.

At first, he visited Madurai on 26th March 1919 in order to enroll the volunteers for Satyagraha in connection with Rowlett Act. His second visit to Madurai on 20th September 1921 is famous for the adoption of loin cloth. Gandhiji made his third trip to the city of Madurai to collect funds for Khadi and to spread the message of Swedish. He again visited Madurai on 25th January 1934 during his all-India Harijan tour21.

The final and historical visit of the Mahatma to the city of Madurai occurred on 2nd February 1946, when he visited in order to win the battle against untouchability. All these five visits of mahatma to Madurai made the city more suitable for starting a Memorial museum in the name of Gandhiji here. One more important cause for the establishment of the Gandhi Memorial Museum at Madurai was that the Central Trust wanted to make this museum as a memorial for the patriots of South India, who gave their lives for the cause of Indian Independence.

Madurai has taken an active part in all the programs of Gandhiji, thus, the Gandhi National Memorial trust selected Madurai to house a memorial museum. Thus, Madurai’s outstanding contribution in the freedom struggle, in the constructive field, her importance as a historic city and as an ancient seat of learning brought her this well-merited distinction of having a Gandhi memorial Trust selected Madurai to house a center of Gandhian ideology for the whole of South India.22

Aims of the study

To bring out the importance of the Gandhi Memorial Museum all over India and most importantly to carry out the social impact and work of the Gandhi Memorial Museum at Madurai. There are not much more systematic study has been made on the Gandhi Memorial Museum in Madurai. The present study hence aims at an effective study and investigation on the importance of the Madurai Museum.

The main objectives of the study are

  • To trace out the history and formation of the Gandhi Memorial Museum in India
  • To analyze the historical background of the Gandhi memorial Museum in Madurai
  • To identify the social impact of the Gandhi Museum at Madurai
  • To insist the importance of the Gandhi museum to the Society
  • To find out the works and internal problems inside the Madurai Gandhi museum.

Scope of the study

The scope of the present work is to insist the importance of the Gandhi museum at Madurai and to find out the present social impacts of the museum to the people. And also to find out the administrative difficulties at the Madurai Museum.

Sources

Primary sources:

To know the history of the Gandhi Memorial Museum in India in general and the Gandhi Memorial museum of Madurai in particular, source materials are plenty in the original. The records are preserved in the archives of the Gandhi memorial museum, Madurai.

The Government of India passed many orders for the organization and development of the Gandhi Memorial museum. The Madurai District Gazetteers also remain as primary source materials to know the historical background of the Tamukkum Bungalow, where the Madurai Gandhi Memorial museum is housed.

It contains the annual reports of activities, official correspondences and the minute books of the Madurai Gandhi Memorial museum with the proceedings of its Managing Committee. The Tamukkum bungalow files kept in the archives of the Madurai Museum help much to reconstruct the historical background of the Tamukkaum building. The manuals were published by the Gandhi Memorial museum. The proceeding of the meeting of the Madurai Managing committee makes clear the important changes in the administrative setup to the Madurai museum.

Secondary sources:

There are many printed and digitalized pamphlets, journals, newspapers, and other authentic sources have helped the researcher enrich the subject matter of this study. And many of the books constitute the secondary sources available in public and private libraries.

Methodology

The methodology adopted for the study consists of both Primary and secondary sources. Critical evaluation is made with the available data. The study is fully descriptive and analytical and theoretical research work has been completed. Personal observations made by the researcher during every occasion also helped to carry out the project work.

Limitation

The researcher has limited the work as per to have a deep research on this particular museum. There are many oldest museums in Tamilnadu, I have restricted my research work to give widen and depth of knowledge information for tht the museum.

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Study of Gandhi Memorial Museum at Madurai. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 22, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/study-of-gandhi-memorial-museum-at-madurai/
“Study of Gandhi Memorial Museum at Madurai.” Edubirdie, 27 Dec. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/study-of-gandhi-memorial-museum-at-madurai/
Study of Gandhi Memorial Museum at Madurai. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/study-of-gandhi-memorial-museum-at-madurai/> [Accessed 22 Jul. 2024].
Study of Gandhi Memorial Museum at Madurai [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 27 [cited 2024 Jul 22]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/study-of-gandhi-memorial-museum-at-madurai/
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