Lahore Museum

Contiguous to the National College of Arts, and located in the museum compound is a distinct 2-storey structure containing an auditorium and library, which was once referred to as the Technical Institute. This building too is built in red brick and is part of the original cluster of Anglo-Mughal buildings. The ground floor is utilized as an auditorium while the first floor houses one of the finest antiquarian libraries in Pakistan. On the south, facing the Mall, Lahore Museum, commonly referred to as the ajaib ghar, one of the most impressive Anglo Mughal edifices presents itself in all its glory.

The history of the establishment of the museum is traced back to the first industrial exhibition held in 1864. The Lahore Exhibition was part of a series of exhibitions being organized at the time in several cities of British India in the wake of London's 1851 Great Exhibition, which had proved to be a remarkable showcase for the products of the empire. The exhibition hall, later known as Tollinton Market, was built as a temporary structure, but continued to serve various functions until the end of the 20th century.

After the conclusion of the exhibition, the museum collection which had been displayed in the Wazir Khan's Baradari since 1855 was shifted to the new exhibition building and significant additions were made to the collection. For 30 years (1864 to 1894), the present Tollinton Market functioned as the museum.  In order to house the growing collection, a building catering to permanent display of objects d'art became essential.

The present building was constructed as a memorial of Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria held in 1887, and financed through a special public fund raised on the occasion. The foundation stone of the new museum was laid on 3 February 1890 by Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Queen Victoria's grandson.  On its completion in 1894, the entire museum collection was transferred to present building with its new name as Jubilee Museum.

The present building, designed by Lockwood Kipling and Bhai Ram Singh, became the first structure especially designed as a museum, allowing cool north light to filter into the museum galleries. Bhai Ram Singh, Vice-Principal of Mayo School designed the fountain in front of the building, and along with students of the Mayo School was deeply involved in the design and execution of internal decorative features of the museum.

Lahore Museum is one of the most remarkable museum buildings in Pakistan. Its grand entrance, framed by a white marble portico provides the accent to this picturesque Anglo-Mughal ensemble. Although not as decorative as Aitchison College main building nor carrying its refined and delicate brick and terra-cotta detailing, the massing of the composition is exceedingly impressive. This architectural edifice expresses geometric purity in its formation of square corner cube-like towers surmounted by handsome hemispherical domes, providing an interesting interplay of light and shade in the strong sun of the Punjab. The contrast of deeply shaded voids against solid elements presents a dramatic view; and the slightly projecting portico in white Nowshera marble successfully highlights a crescendo of domes and cupolas of the red-brick structure. Although built more than a decade later, the museum building strives at compatibility with the school of art through a similar treatment of repetitive lancet arches on its side wings which flank the central piece de resistance—the portico entrance.

Internally, the museum presents one of the most exciting architectural spaces designed to set off the valuable displays. The museum is as much a must in view of its unique collection as it is for its architectural excellence. The museum displays some fine specimens of Mughal and Sikh door-ways and wood-works and has a big collection of paintings dating back to Indo-Pakistan, Mughal, Sikh and British times. It also boasts the finest example of the Gandhara sculpture, the masterpiece of Fasting Siddharta Buddha. Also on display are a collection of musical instruments, ancient jewellery, textile, poetry and armory.

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