The Shri Pratap Singh (SPS) Museum building, which has been housing Valley’s artefacts for the past over a century is a heritage building with a history of its own. Historians said the Museum establishment was a Dogra endeavour initiated by the younger brother of the then Maharaja of the independent Kashmir. “The Museum was set up around 1898 AD when a memorandum was submitted to the then Dogra ruler of Jammu & Kashmir, Maharaja Pratap Singh, by his younger brother, General Raja Amar Singh, and a European scholar, Captain SH Godmerry, proposing the establishment of a museum in Srinagar to house exhibits and artifacts covering the region of Jammu, Kashmir, Baltistan and Gilgit,” says a historian.
The museum was set up in a building belonging to the state at Lal Mandi, Srinagar, on the left bank of the river Jhelum. The establishment of the museum, as per historians, was supervised by Sir John Marshal, the Director General of the Archaeological Survey of the then neighbouring India. “The Accountant General of the state, Blerjee, served as the first head of the institution. Blerjee was responsible for preparing a catalogue of the various coins kept in the museum.” It is believed that the museum collection initially showcased shawls and armory that were obtained from the Tosh Khana. After the reorganization of the Archaeological Department in 1913 under Rai Bhadur Daya Ram Sahni, artefacts excavated at Panderenthan, Parihaspora and Avantipura were first exhibited in the museum. This rich endowment formed one of the major additions to the museum’s collection. Subsequently, a number of objects, mostly decorative household items, were acquired by the museum from private owners. The museum’s various artefacts have been tentatively dated on the basis of style, period and material, etc. By October 2010, the artefacts are scheduled to be shifted to the new adjacent building. The old structure, the government says, will be conserved as a Heritage Building. (With Inputs, Courtesy INTACH)