Victoria Memorial will open to visitors in June 2019 as a disabled-friendly venue, which is in lieu of the renovation and conservation efforts that have been going on for the past one and a half years. The Memorial will have 2,000 additional artefacts on display along with additional gallery space.
The Memorial’s trust has received a sum of Rs. 60 crores for the project from the Ministry of Culture. The renovation is being carried out by NBCC, which has also been responsible for renovation and conservation projects such as Lal Qila in New Delhi. Victoria Memorial curator Jayanta Sengupta is very optimistic about the renovations. According to him, Victoria Memorial has the largest footfall among all museums in India. In the year 2017-18, the iconic building recorded a footfall of 36.5 lacs, outstripping all other museums. The Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad was at a distant second with some 12.5 lacs footfall. He expects the footfall to be even higher in 2018-19 because not only have the museum hours been extended by an hour, but visitors have also been permitted photography inside the galleries, which was earlier prohibited.
With the addition of disability-friendly features, the footfall is likely to increase further according to Jayanta Sengupta. Several ramps for wheelchairs and two lifts have been sanctioned. These lifts will not be open to the general public and will be used only by the differently-abled visitors and by the museum staff. Out of the 2000 additional artefacts that will be added, there would be 50 among them with Braille signage. Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Bharat Mata’, the first ever depiction of the country as a mother figure, will have a Braille sign. Another is ‘Jaipur Procession’, painted in 1876 and depicting a procession of British royalty and Indian Maharajas outside Hawa Mahal in Jaipur, and the third largest oil painting in the country.
30 per cent of the museum space has already been freed up by shifting out all offices to pre-fab buildings in one corner of the grounds. The library has been shifted out as well. The plan is to make at least 85 to 90 per cent of Victoria Memorial disabled-friendly.