With the 31st annual Museum Day in progress, the usually sleepy venue has suddenly been transformed into an amusement park of sorts. So come Sunday, you can ride a joy train, kayak in the pool, or attend one of the many workshops to know more about the history of Indian Railways.
“We wanted to ensure that when kids come here they don’t go back bored. Instead, they should take back fun memories with them,” says A K Saxena, Additional Director-General, Public Relations, Railway Board.
This year has seen a significant change in the Museum Day schedule: otherwise held every year on February 1 since its inception in February 1977, the two-day affair began on Saturday this time round. The idea, Saxena says, is to take a step into the future. “Museums in the country have always been a dreary affair,” he says. “While it’s true that we have to be oriented towards educating, we have decided to increase interactive sessions to ensure learning is fun.”
To do that, the museum has enlisted the help of a bunch of rail enthusiasts to conduct workshops. Raghunandan, of course, is among those volunteers. His miniature trains, museum officials say, detail all intricacies of a full-size train, and often come with a functional, small-scale model of an engine.
The more sophisticated models can even be made to run on tracks of a standard width.
Another session museum officials expect will draw large crowds is the “tree walk”, to be conducted on Sunday morning by Pradip Krishen, eco-botanist and author of the popular ‘Trees of Delhi — a field guide”. Krishen, a museum official says, “walked extensively along Delhi streets to identify the fauna in the city. His expertise will definitely translate into a useful exercise, not only for the museum but also for those who choose to come on this walk.”
Bird enthusiasts, too, can expect a treat on Sunday morning: visitors will be invited to observe and identify the many birds that have made the museum their home.
Other sessions will include a comprehensive study of the history of Indian Railways told through stamps, and a toy-making workshop.
Volunteers will conduct all these sessions, a move the museum sees as revolutionary. “All over the world, museums open their doors to enthusiastic volunteers. It’s time such a movement was encouraged in India also,” a museum official says.