Rajasthan State Archives Museum, Bikaner, by Dronah

Shikha Jain

Shikha Jain

The recently completed Rajasthan State Archives Museum at Bikaner, by Dronah, is an invaluable resource for the nation. It is one of the first archives’ museums in India that sets a benchmark for other State Archives Department in the country as to how invaluable historic documents and old land records can be transferred from dust-laden stores to be conserved and showcased in a publicly engaging and state of the art designed museum.

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Designed by DRONAH  for Rajasthan State Archives under the Department of Art, Culture, Literature and Archaeology

Inaugurated: Aug 20, 2020

The recently completed Rajasthan State Archives Museum at Bikaner is an invaluable resource for the nation. It is one of the first archives’ museums in India that sets a benchmark for other State Archives Department in the country as to how invaluable historic documents and old land records can be transferred from dust-laden stores to be conserved and showcased in a publicly engaging and state of the art designed museum. Though India has several Archives’ Departments at the Central and State level, Rajasthan State Archives is the most pioneering not only for digitizing its documents but, also being the first one in the country to have its own Museum displaying these invaluable archival resources.

Commissioned by the Government of Rajasthan and guided by the vision of the Director, Rajasthan State Archives to create one of its kind museums,  DRONAH was assigned as a consultant for the conservation of the historic buildings that house the records and the Archives’ office since 1955 along, with carving out space within the historic structures to design and curate the museum. The heritage buildings in the complex were duly conserved using lime and traditional materials while new flooring was done with locally made Bikaner ceramic tiles.  There were several limitations in museum design as the existing building was linear and there was limited space available for the proposed galleries. Finally, an area of 10000 square feet on the first floor of Archives’ office was identified for the galleries and supporting functions of the museum. The museum design incorporates three main galleries (Document Gallery, Copper Plate Gallery and LP Tessitori Gallery), an exhibition space for rotational displays and a lab for the conservation of the documents and artefacts.

The Archival Document Gallery contains the historical records of Mughal times including Nishans, Akbarat, Arzdasht, Persian Farmans, Vakil Report, Khatoot and Manshurs. These documents are important records of the Mughal communication with the Rajput Princes who often served as their army commanders. The most unique document is the 5.6 meters long Purandar Treaty written on paper comprising 99 lines in beautiful Nastaliq style of Persian (Farsi). The Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb transmitted this Farman, i.e. decree, to Mirza Raja Jai ​​Singh of Amber in 1665 CE. This decree mainly comprises of the treaty conditions between Aurangzeb and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj where Mirza Raja Jai Singh played a major role in drafting and getting this treaty signed.

The biggest design challenge was to design the display case and interpretation for this long treaty. The display case incorporates a pull-out drawer of 6 metres for the treaty to be taken out horizontally without folding it in any manner as per conservation norms. The treaties are interpreted in a fluid vertical display with visuals of historic paintings on a backlit panel to communicate the complete story to the visitors.

Besides the Purandhar treaty, this gallery also showcases various types of clothing cover and, books of medieval times such as Toji, Chopnia, Bahis and later British period records.

The copper plate gallery showcases the land records of the state of Mewar, dating from the reign of Maharana Lakha, 1362 CE to Maharana Bhupal Singh, 1919 CE. These plates provide information on the cultural, political and economic status of Mewar. Most of the copper plates contain information on land grants for a charitable purpose. At times, priests were granted land during solar and lunar eclipses and some plates have information on donating land in the name of Hindu gods and goddesses. The most significant ones are 7 copper plates from the time of Maharana Pratap recording the land donations made by him on the demise of his horse Chetak in the battle of Haldighati. These are displayed alongside the backlit panel of the replica of the famous historic painting of Haldighati sourced from the City Palace Museum, Udaipur.

The interiors display and lighting in both Archival Document Gallery and Copper Plate Gallery uses dark colours so that the audience focus remains on the collections which are in light coloured paper and copper. The lighting incorporates specialized LED lighting inside the cases to provide ambient light without damaging the object while track lights are used for highlighting the wall graphics.

A smaller third gallery is dedicated to L.P. Tessitori, an Italian Indologist and Linguist, who lived in Bikaner during the years 1914 to 1919. Along with his linguistic work, Tessitori ranged across Jodhpur and Bikaner in search of memorial pillars, sculptures, coins, and archaeological sites on behalf of Sir John Marshall of the Archaeological Survey of India.

The museum has ensured proper conservation of its artefacts by IGNCA art conservators’ team before display. It also includes two multitouch digital panels one in the Documents’ Gallery that gives access to all digitised records and, another one in the Copper Plate Gallery that displays all digitised copper plates to the visitor. It is opened with a complete virtual tour designed by Augtraveller that can be accessed

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