The Salar Jung Museum, located in Hyderabad, India, is one of the most impressive and renowned museums. It houses an extensive collection of art, artifacts, and other historical objects, dating from the 1st century to the 20th century. It is the third-largest museum in the country. The building itself is a masterpiece of architectural design, featuring a blend of styles that incorporate both Eastern and Western elements. The museum’s impressive architecture and carefully curated collection make it a must-visit destination for art lovers, history enthusiasts, and anyone interested in exploring the rich cultural heritage of India.
The Largest One-Man Collection Museum | Salar Jung Museum
The museum consists of 1.1 million artifacts, comprising local and international items. The 43,000 art objects, 9,000 manuscripts, and 47,000 printed books are all collections that originated from the Salar Family. The first Salar Jung, appointed Prime Minister at the age of 24, was an astute administrator, reformer, and lover of art. Inspired by commemorative mementos of European royal families, he is credited with bringing the famous “Veiled Rebecca” sculpture to India.
His son and successor, Laiq Ali Khan, continued his father’s social reforms and was a great administrator. His grandson, Yousuf Ali Khan (Salar Jung III), inherited a vast estate and built an extraordinary collection of art objects from all over the world, emulating the traditions of European royal families. Yousuf Ali Khan was appointed Prime Minister by the seventh Nizam but later relinquished the post due to health concerns to focus on enriching his art collection.
There are multiple art forms displayed in the museum, including paintings, sculptures, textiles, manuscripts, and decorative art from all over the world, from Chinese and Japanese art to European porcelain. Among the museum’s galleries are the Founders Gallery, South Indian Bronzes, Indian Textiles, Ivory Objects, Arms and Armor, and the Bidri Gallery. Other collections include Far Eastern Statuary, Arabic and Persian Manuscripts, Egyptian and Syrian Art, and Modern Paintings. The museum even has a children’s gallery curated with porcelain figures and toys from the 20th century!
If you’re sightseeing in Hyderabad, then the Salar Jung Museum’s location proves to be quite convenient as it’s surrounded by multiple tourist spots. Within a day, you can experience the museum along with Mecca Masjid, High Court, State Central Library, and much more! Not only is the museum easily accessible by railway, but it’s also near two bus stops, the Afzalgunj, and Salar Jung bus stops.
As you arrive at the museum, you see the Musi River on one end and the Dhanalaxmi Garden on the other. The garden acts as a buffer to the white semi-circular mass of the museum. The museum acts as a marker with its motif-ed façade and protruding domes. The semi-circular form consists of two central galleries based on Indian artifacts. It spans into two squares, where the western square has five galleries mostly comprising European art, and the eastern block has four galleries comprising East Asian art. The building overall seems to be inspired by Islamic architecture, with domes in the center and corners of each wing.
All three wings are double-storied, and on average, it can take around 3 hours to tour the museum. The circulation is centrally organized around open courtyards to let in natural light. Only the galleries by the central rotunda are lit by natural light. Otherwise, the galleries use artificial lighting powered by solar panels. These are placed according to the type of exhibit. For example, the guns and knives display has lighting placed within the niches to illuminate the weapons properly.
It is important to note that the museum is wheelchair accessible and even provides wheelchairs to its visitors. As you move through the galleries, each gallery will have a wall treatment to match the type of display that is showcasing. Overall, niches have been given for the majority of the 3D displays, and wall moldings and crowning are used to separate the 2D displays.
Behind the Scenes: Preservation and Research at a Hyderabad Museum | Salar Jung Museum
In addition to the exhibits, the museum boasts a large library, a manuscript collection, a conservation lab, and an auditorium. The conservation lab has different lighting requirements depending on its needs and is not accessible to the public. The lab is responsible for preserving and restoring the museum’s vast collection of art and artifacts.
It employs a range of techniques, including cleaning, stabilizing, repairing, and reconstructing objects. The museum’s team of trained conservation professionals, including conservators, scientists, and technicians, work to ensure that the collection’s objects are preserved for future generations to enjoy and study.
The lab also conducts research and scientific analysis to better understand the materials and techniques used in creating the museum’s objects, which can inform conservation decisions. Additionally, the lab offers training and education programs for conservators and other museum professionals and collaborates with other conservation institutions and organizations to promote best practices in the field.
Currently, the museum is moving towards the digital age and expanding its horizons. It has published around 19 detailed catalogs and is looking to create a digital archive. The museum is becoming more interactive by providing virtual tours, audio guides, and even games within the exhibits. So, the next time you’re in Hyderabad, be sure to check out this marvelous treasure box that is the Salar Jung Museum!
The Heritage Lab (2019) Virtual tour: Salarjung Museum, Hyderabad, The Heritage Lab. Available at: https://www.theheritagelab.in/virtual-tour-salar-jung-museum-hyderabad/ (Accessed: February 20, 2023).
Rahman, T., Purohit, R. and Reddy, R. (2019) Salar Jung Museum, Share and Discover Knowledge on SlideShare. Available at: https://www.slideshare.net/shiv404/salar-jung-museum-149603516 (Accessed: February 20, 2023).
Salar Jung Museum (2018) Explore the museum, salar jung museum. Available at: https://www.salarjungmuseum.in/explore-museum.html (Accessed: February 20, 2023).
Somu, S. et al. (2011) Salar Jung Museum Hyderabad, Hyderabad Tourism. Available at: https://www.hyderabadtourism.travel/salar-jung-museum-hyderabad (Accessed: February 20, 2023).