Kolkata revives the romance of the Raj

first_imgTwo of Kolkata’s oldest colonial buildings, Currency Building and Metcalfe Hall, both built in the 19th century, will soon become museums and galleries showcasing art and urban history. The three-storied Currency Building in Dalhousie Square was built in 1833. Designed in the Italian style with Venetian windows and cast iron gates, its vaults and strong room once housed some of India’s oldest banks, including Agra Bank and the Reserve Bank of India. But now the western wing is all set to become the office of the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA). Once the NGMA moves in, the Currency Building will host an exhibition of sketches and sculptures by Ramkinkar Baij, a pioneer of modern Indian sculpture. “We are expecting that a portion of the Currency Building will be handed over to us by September. There are plans to have a large exhibition on Ramkinkar Baij,” said Adwaita Gadanayak, director general of NGMA. Archaeologists say the Currency Building was not a mint but a place where currency was kept. Till 1937, it was occupied by the RBI, after which it fell into neglect. Its central dome collapsed later. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) took over its upkeep in 2005. Barely 200 m away is Metcalfe Hall, with 30 Corinthian pillars built between 1840-1844. Located at the junction of Strand Road and Hare Street, it draws its name from Lord Metcalfe, the Governor General of India in 1835-36. It is in this structure that the city’s history will come alive as the ‘Calcutta to Kolkata’ exhibition. Renovation dilemma The ASI grappled with the question whether to rebuild the Currency Building’s dome, but decided to keep the existing structure. In Metcalfe Hall, it shifted one lakh books for repair work. “The exhibitions will bring them back to life,” said G. Maheswari, Superintend- ing Archaeologist, ASI, Kolkata circle.last_img

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