Museums and Emporiums in Port Blair

Andaman and Nicobar Islands have a rich history. A lot of this history has been documented in the many museums in the capital. What could be a better way to get a good glimpse of history than through a museum? Port Blair has a few good ones. While not all may boast of world class maintenance, the material and information inside is worth knowing about.

Anthropological Museum

This is an anthrographic museum started in 1975-76. Situated in the heart of Port Blair, it is well connected by city transport. You just need to grab a Bazaar bus and get off at Middle Point. It remains closed on Mondays and public holidays.

The museum has two levels and several large round rooms connected to each other. The ground floor houses the photo gallery which has black and white photographs since after the WWII time. On the upper floors, each room is dedicated to a particular tribe; their implements, utensils, clothing, artifacts and the way they build their houses.

In an appreciable effort, the life size replicas of the huts of most tribes have been incorporated into the museum. You peep inside and see utensils, toys and fiber woven from coir on the floor. While the maintenance isn’t the best, the effort to house everything possible regarding the tribes is commendable. Entry tickets are available at the souvenir shop outside where you can also pick up trinkets and books. The timings are from 9 AM to 1 PM and 1.30 PM to 4.30 PM.

Sagarika Cottage Emporium

It is a government run cottage emporium within Port Blair, not too far from the Anthropological Museum. It is an attempt to promote the work of local artisans using locally available raw material.

One can find unbelievable items made of shells, mother of pearls, coconut shells, bamboo and local wood work on display and sale. Locally grown condiments like clove, black pepper, cardamoms are also available here.

The prices are reasonable and the quality is good. If you wish to buy good souvenirs, wooden carved ships and canes or even t shirts and fridge magnets, do stop here! The emporium is on a regular route and local and public transport can easily be taken to visit. The Baazaar bound bus stops at Gol Ghar, barely a 100 meters from the emporium. It stays closed on Sunday and public holidays. Timings are: 8.45 am to 6.45 pm.

Samudrika Naval Marine museum

It is located in Haddo, Port Blair. It stays open on all days except Monday and public holidays. Timings are from 9 AM to 12 PM and 2 PM to 5 PM. This museum is maintained by the Navy and is very informative. It has thoughtfully and with a typical military precision been divided into 5 sections showcasing in details the complete history of Andaman and Nicobar islands.

These sections are- marine life, history of the islands, geography of these islands, archaeology and the people of Andaman. Each section has various specimens, posters and pictures in support of the written matter which makes it a lot easier for us to understand. If you visit, you could definitely get to learn quite a bit. There is also a small souvenir shop from where one can buy small trinkets or souvenirs as a remembrance.

Cellular jail museum

A trip to Andaman is incomplete without a visit to the museum of the Cellular Jail. It is housed within the jail so there is no need to make an extra effort or take out time especially for it. The area that was once the administrative block of the British has now been converted into a museum.

After 1947, many of the political prisoners (freedom fighters), who had once spent years in Cellular jail, visited this place. One must remember that for the freedom fighters this place was considered to be ‘a pilgrimage’ of sorts. It was a matter of pride for them to be sent here for life imprisonment or ‘Transportation of Life’ as it was called.

Upon their request the Indian government decided to preserve this facility as a National Monument. One gets to see a collection of rare pictures, drawings, articles, poems and detailed accounts of the challenges faced by the prisoners, written in their own words. The museum has different enclosures like the Photo and Exhibition gallery, Art gallery, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose gallery and a Library which contains a detailed history of the freedom struggle in Andaman and Nicobar islands.

As you step out of this place, you’ll definitely  ask yourself, “Have the people of India done justice to the sacrifices of these freedom fighters? Do we really value the freedom we enjoy? If ever required, would we be willing to sacrifice our lives for our nation?” Sometimes, the answers don’t come easily and are not very heartening.

Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) Museum

It is situated near Andaman Teal House, Haddo.  The museum is open on all days from 9 AM to 5 PM. On weekends, it stays open from 9 AM to 12 PM. Local and public transport can easily be taken to reach the museum. The museum has a variety of displays, the prettiest being the butterflies which are mostly endemic to Andaman.

Preserved specimens of many animals have been displayed; from the endemic mammals to the birds and fish.  All specimens and displays are well labeled with their scientific names. It can be quite the learning experience for someone who is new to any aspect of zoology.

The Science Centre

It was established in 2003 in the Goodwill Estate about 5 km from Port Blair. You can take local transport to reach there. Public transport buses also commute but are not so regular. Hence, it is advisable to check the bus timings beforehand. The center is open on all days except Mondays and public holidays. Timings are from 10 AM to 5.30 PM.

This science center is a very good initiative by the government. It is very educative and offers interactive learning to school children. There are different sections for giving deep knowledge about the genesis of the islands, science of the oceans and volcanic activities.

Innovative and interactive methods like slide shows, a quiz corner, a fun science gallery and 3-D movie shows are used to generate enthusiasm and create awareness among young children. One of the main attractions is the Telescope Show which is organized to show the planetary movement, stars and constellations.

Often, depending on the planetary alignment, shows for one focus planet are conducted wherein information about the planet is given. After the slide show, you can actually go up to the telescope and take a look yourself.  Schools also have realized the importance of this center so regular school trips are organized for students to visit this place.

Yet another attraction, right out front is the re-assembled body of the first ever aircraft to land in Andaman- the VT-AAN. Recently, the authorities have started developing a dinosaur themed park named Jurassic Park. All information and advertisements regarding the shows is provided well in advance in the local dailies and tickets are available at the counter near the gate.