Desi version of Smithsonian planned

Last Updated 06 March 2019, 16:36 IST

India has set in motion an ambitious plan to create a desi version of the world-famous Smithsonian Museum, showcasing Indian subcontinent's evolutionary history.

A two-day brainstorming would be held in Delhi on April 1-2 to fine tune a preliminary proposal that came from the community of palaeontologists, said K Vijayraghavan, Principal Scientific Advisor (PSA) to the government, who is backing the idea.

Scientists from the US, the UK, Germany France and Korea would be attending the conference.

The Indian Museum of the Earth may come up near Faridabad due to better availability of the land and relatively easy access due to the metro rail network.

The museum had its genesis in a September 2018 meeting in Delhi where fossil hunters from all over the country unanimously agreed on the need to set up such an institution in order to boost the dying stream of palaeontology.

“The meeting unanimously endorsed that an Indian Museum of Earth should be established and measures should be taken to protect paleontological or geosites from rampant destruction and vandalism and to rejuvenate interest in Indian palaeontology,” said a source involved with the project.

Because of its links to Gondwana, an ancient super-continent that broke up about 180 million years ago to create Africa, South America, Australia, Antarctica, the Indian subcontinent and the Arabian Peninsula, scientists said that India must be having a strong fossil record that remained largely unexplored in the absence of institutional backing and a policy framework.

Unlike static museums that are commonplace, the proposed Earth museum would be a dynamic place to encourage fossil research, student activity, public outreach besides driving policy decisions.

“For instance in the absence of a law, foreigners come to the Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh and buy fossils from locals. The proposed museum can also advise the government how best to deal with such issues,” said Arabinda Mitra, scientific secretary to the PSA.

For the time being, an expert group has been constituted to examine the issues related to fossil smuggling out of India and how to prevent it.

The experts would also examine whether a new law is required for the job or whether existing laws and rules are adequate.

The museum would be having a repository where individual collectors and researchers can submit their life long collection for safekeeping and allowing future generation researchers to study those samples.

Palaeontologists often complain about the difficulties they face in accessing the samples they collected from the Geological Survey of India repository.

The proposed museum may also house a marine planetarium that the ministry of earth sciences plan to set up to showcase India's marine diversity to the world.

(Published 06 March 2019, 15:49 IST)

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