Indians don’t really like going to museums. This is probably because the museums here are not very dynamic and continue to exhibit the same artefacts for an elongated period of time,” says Tarun Thakral, founder and managing trustee of Heritage Transport Trust, which owns the Heritage Transport Museum, situated near Manesar. Set up in December 2013, the museum was conceptualised by Thakral and is the only all-inclusive transport museum in India.
Thakral’s personal collection of more than 50 vintage beauties had just been lying around before he finally decided to display them together. “I started acquiring these cars in 1994. Once I had about 50-60 cars, I realised they required a dedicated space. I approached the Ministry of Culture with a proposition; I had the cars and the land. All I required was some financial assistance to build the museum. The government supported my project and we built the museum in all of three years.”
One part showcases hand-rickshaws and cycle-rickshaws. In the same section, we also meet the jugaad and the fat-fat, improvised mechanical wonders that continue to be primary modes of rural transport, especially in western India.
Spread across four floors, the Heritage Transport Museum is at par with international museums in terms of aesthetics and architecture. A mix of exhibits and art installations, it traces the evolution of transportation from pre-mechanised times to present-day versions. One of the first installations traces the evolution of wheel, starting from the early days of the Mesopotamian civilisation. A bunch of carts pulled by elephants, horses, bulls and even goats (along with palanquins adorned with self-explanatory insignias) have a separate section. Another part showcases hand-rickshaws and cycle-rickshaws in vibrant colours. In the same section, we also meet the jugaad and the fat-fat, improvised mechanical wonders that continue to be primary modes of rural transport, especially in western India.
It’s a challenge to put a bunch of automobiles on display and have it not look like a garage. Apart from elegant placements, the museum has meticulously designed interiors to achieve a distinct period look, like a railway platform from decades ago or a colonial-era street. From the Impala to the Desoto Convertible, the early Ambassador, the Humber Pullman, the Slipstream Sedan and more, no two cars look alike in this collection. Their aviation and maritime gallery is limited but effective and is set for rapid expansion.
Besides the collection, the museum has various transportation-themed art installations. While a Chevy (covered in dome mirrors) designed by Hetal Shukla hangs between floors, there is an installation by Baptist Coelho titled Re(wind)ing made out of paper planes. The two-dimensional spaces have also been used to house transportation-centric art. Graffiti and 3D installations by the pseudonymous graffiti artist Daku occupy one entire wall and a huge shutter illustrates vibrant truck art by Anjum Rana, an artist from Pakistan.
The designers and curators intend to keep the museum as dynamic as possible. They change their exhibits regularly to give their visitors a reason to return. Those who own vintage items can loan it to the museum. While offering a place for displaying Thakral’s private collection, the owners plan on expanding this space and turn it into something that future generations can enjoy as well.