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Birla Industrial & Technological Museum

Established on 2nd May 1959 under the administrative control of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), Birla Industrial & Technological Museum in Kolkata is widely regarded as the mother of science museum movement in India. The idea behind this pioneering initiative came from Dr. B C Roy, the then Chief Minister of West Bengal who after visiting the Deutsches Museum in Munich was inspired to create a similar institution in India for public engagement with science & technology. His vision and efforts in this regard found instant support and patronage from the likes of PanditJawharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India, and industrialist Shri G D Birla.The latter donated the Birla Park, his sprawling bungalow and the adjoining plot of land in the upscale Ballygunge area of Calcutta, to CSIR for setting up an Industrial and Technological Museum. Pandit Nehru received this magnanimous gift from Shri G D Birla in 1956. Starting with the taking over of the Birla Park in 1956 by the Govt. of India to the Museum’s inauguration in 1959, the journey was quite eventful and challenging. Careful planning and painstaking efforts by the museum’s planning committee that was headed by Dr. B C Roy himself and included a host of renowned scientists, educationists and industrialists ultimately resulted in the formation of India’s first science museum under the ambit of the central government. The Birla Industrial & Technological Museum, popular by its acronym BITM, was opened to the public on 2nd May, 1959 by Prof.HumayunKabir, the then union minister for scientific research and cultural affairs in the presence of Dr. B C Roy, Prof. M S Thacker, the then Director General of CSIR, and Shri. A Bose, Planning Officer of BITM. To start with, BITM had galleries on Electricity, Petroleum, Nuclear Physics, Metallurgy of Iron, Steel & Copper, Optics, Electronics and Television. Subsequently, many new galleries came up one by one, namely, Motive Power (1962), Communication (1963), Mining (1964), Popular Science (1965), Transport (1973), Underground Mock-up Coal Mine (1983), Atom (1984). But with the passing of time, many of these old galleries have either been thoroughly renovated or replaced with new galleries in keeping with the changing public expectation from BITM. From the very beginning BITM started conducting in-museum educational activities like Popular Lectures and Film Shows. Science Demonstration Lectures (SDL) for students became a feature of BITM from 1965. The same year also saw the launching of the first ever Mobile Science Exhibition (MSE) on wheels by BITM on the theme ‘Our Familiar Electricity’. BITM started organizing ‘Science Fair’ for students from 1968 and the same year, the first Teachers’ Training Programme (TTP) was launched. Over the years, a host of other in-museum and outreach educational programmes and activities were added that included Creative Ability Centres (CAC), Computer Awareness Programmes, Engineering Fair, Pet Library, Inflatable Dome Planetarium Show, Public Science Shows, Students’ Science Seminar, Science Drama, Vacation Hobby Camps, and many more. Presently, BITM has 12 educative as well as interactive galleries including a special gallery for the sightless people entitled ‘World in Darkness’. Now BITM organizes a plethora of educational programmes throughout the year and regularly conducts highly exciting science shows and demonstrations on daily basis.

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