The History of The Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum in 1 Minute

The Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum| ©Muk Khan/WikiCommons
The Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum| ©Muk Khan/WikiCommons
Housed next to the 155-year old Jijamata Udyaan botanical gardens and zoo in Byculla is The Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum, a unique custodian of the city’s cultural heritage and history. Established in 1855, this grand Palladian building is the oldest museum in Mumbai, and the third oldest in India.

The museum wasn’t open to the public when first established in 1855 as the Central Museum of Natural History, Economy, Geology, Industry and Arts. It housed a collection comprising of duplicates of India’s arts and crafts from the time, which had been created to be presented at the first ‘Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations” – an exhibition reflecting Britain’s colonies – in London. After a spirited drive by prominent citizens to launch a museum as the first major public institution in the city, it was open to the public as the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1872.

The Museum Committee which oversaw construction and fundraising was led by Dr. George Birdwood, who conceptualized much of the museum’s design, and by Dr. Bhau Daji Lad, a prominent physician, historian and philanthropist after whom the Museum was renamed in 1975. The committee also included prominent Hindu, Muslim, Parsi and Christian leaders from cosmopolitan Bombay.

The Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum ©Ajay Goyal/Flickr ©Muk Khan/WikiCommons ©Elroy Serrao/Flickr

Much like the vision of its founders, the museum served as an important institution highlighting the arts and crafts practices of Bombay residents, and greatly interested the public – many of whom hadn’t been to a museum before. Today, the museum’s permanent collection includes historical artefacts, maps, photographs, manuscripts and rare books that document and showcase life in Bombay during the 19th and 20th Centuries. Dioramas and clay models – of the city’s earliest boats, textile mills, housing complexes etc. –tell the story of the city’s evolution over the centuries. The museum has updated its collection continually, particularly since its renovation in 2008 with contemporary art and other acquisitions, furthering the museum’s relevance in the study of contemporary Mumbai as well.

📅 Thursday to Tuesday 10AM-6PM, Wednesday Closed