The government on Monday said the National Archives of India will not be demolished under the Central Vista redevelopment project as it is a heritage building but confirmed that the National Museum will be shifted to the North and South blocks. No heritage building will be demolished under the central project, Union Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri asserted.
While the main building of the National Archives will remain intact, its annexe will be demolished and a new building will be constructed, officials said. The records at the National Archives, include 45 lakh files, 25,000 rare manuscripts, more than 1 lakh maps and 1.3 lakh Mughal documents. The redevelopment of the Central Vista the nation's power corridor in Delhi envisages a triangular Parliament building next to the existing one, a common Central Secretariat for ministries and the revamping of the three-km-long Rajpath from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate. In a press briefing, Puri said though plans are underway to shift the National Museum, the "actual move is in the distant future".
The 35,000-square metre museum will be shifted to the 1.67 lakh-square metre space in the North and South blocks, the officials said. At present, the South Block houses the Prime Minister's Office, Ministry of Defence and Ministry of External Affairs, while the North Block has offices of Home Ministry and Finance Ministry. Both the blocks are heritage buildings and are planned to be converted into museums as part of the Central Vista project.
However, neither Puri nor secretary at the culture ministry, Raghavendra Singh, who was also present for the briefing, said what the status of the building of the National Museum will be after the artefacts are shifted out. "No heritage building will be demolished under the Central Vista project. The National Archive building is a heritage building and will remain as it is," Puri said. "The Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) will be shifted since we want a world class facility and there is no space in the current building for it. A new location has been decided. We want a world class facility comparable to the facilities in New York and Sydney. For, now, the artefacts will be shifted to the Janpath Hotel temporarily," the minister said.
The IGNCA has a huge collection of heritage pieces, manuscripts and an impressive collection of books at its library. The Janpath Hotel has been renovated to store these temporarily. Culture Secretary Singh said that the National Museum is undergoing renovations and addition of galleries. Preparations are being done for shifting its contents to the bigger space, he said. "The actual shifting of the museum will be in the distant future (baad ki baat) since first the 10 office buildings of the central vista will be constructed and then ministries will shifted. After that the museum interiors will have to be done," Union Minister Puri said. Singh also said the Archaeological Society of India's old building near the museum has been renovated and now displays rare Buddhist artworks from its repository. "We have made most of the opportunity given to us by the Covid pandemic where public entry was restricted and renovated the space inside the museum… We are also preparing to move to the North and South Block which has a 1.67 lakh square metre space as compared to the 35,000 sq metre space here, he said. National Museum Additional Director General Subrat Nath said that the work on the expansion and renovation of the museum has been underway for more than two years. Once open, he said, the museum will have additional galleries like the Kashi Gallery and another gallery on Central Asian Antiquities which will be digitised with the help of IIT-Bombay. He also said that the rare Company paintings' of the 18th and 19th centuries will also now be showcased prominently. Singh also said that technological interventions have also been made to make sure that the museum is ready to shift to its new locations. The officials said that this includes cataloguing, 3D scanning, and inventorisation of the museum's collection.
The first phase of the National Museum building was formally inaugurated by Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the then vice president, on December 18, 1960. The second phase of the building was completed in 1989.