1) It was the first colonial structure in Mumbai built to serve as a museum. Built in 1855, it is one of the rare British-era buildings in India to combine Palladian and High Victorian architecture. The Star of David — a design element on the museum’s roof — is an ode to its Jewish benefactor, David Sassoon.
The museum’s roof. (Photo: facebook.com/BDLMuseum)
2) The museum was funded by the citizens of Bombay on the request of Dr Bhau Daji Lad, a physician and an educationist,. He successfully raised Rs 1,16,141 from patrons across the city. He was also responsible in acquiring unique collectables that are displayed in the museum. For instance, the museum houses Bidri artefacts. The King of Bidar invited craftsmen from Iran to design the these artefacts in the 13th-14th century. .
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A foot-warmer made using Birdri art. (Photo: Satish Bate/HT)
3) The museum was ill-maintained till 2003, due to lack of funds. But from 2003 to 2008, it underwent extensive restoration. Today, it stands proud, with spacious halls, Minton-tiled floors and old-world shutter windows. Interestingly, Minton tiles were used only on the stairs and the first floor. That’s because the ship from England carrying the tiles for the ground floor, sank.
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Minton tiles used on the first floor of the museum. (Photo: Ruta Waghmare)
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4) The carpet from Bijapur is a replica of the original artefact. The original carpet had a man-sized hole pre-restoration. Naturally dyed yarn was imported from Iran to restore the carpet to its former glory. Artisans from Kashmir were invited and additional help was provided by the inmates of the Yerwada Jail in Pune.
The replica of the carpet from Bijapur. (Photo: Satish Bate/HT)
5) Before being named after Dr Lad, the museum was called the Victoria & Albert Museum. So, a palindrome of V and A (for Victoria and Albert) is welded into the railings. The cast iron used in the construction of the railings and the columns was shipped from England.