Chennai Museum


The proposal for a Museum in Madras was mooted by the Madras Literary Society in 1846 and Sir Henry Pottinger, the then Governor, obtained the sanction of the Court of Directors of the East India Company in London.

In January 1851, Dr. Edward Balfour, Medical Officer of the Governor's Bodyguard was appointed as the First Officer in charge of the Government Museum. The notification in the Fort St. George Gazetteer dated 29 April 1851 contained the first announcement regarding the opening of the Madras Government Museum. The Government Museum otherwise called as the Central Museum was started in the College of Fort St. George, in the premises of the present Office of the Director of Public Instruction, on College Road. The college had been established in 1812 and made a significant contribution to the development of South Indian Languages. The Museum was started in the first floor of the college with the 1100 geological specimens of the Madras Literary Society. It steadily developed and expanded under the guidance and supervision of a succession of Directors. As the building was in a dilapidated condition, the Museum's Superintendent, Dr. Balfour advocated shifting it to another building.

In December 1854, the museum was shifted to a building named the Pantheon, also known as the Public Rooms or Assembly Rooms, where the elite of the city met.

The building was being utilized for banquets, balls and dramatic performances from the last decade of the 18th Century. The estate of the Pantheon was the property of Hall Plumer, civil servant and public works contractor who subsequently, in 1793, assigned the grounds to a Committee of 24, which regulated the public amusements in the city at that time. In 1821, the Committee sold the main house and central garden space to E.S. Moorat, a wealthy Armenian merchant, who in turn, sold it back to the Government in 1830, for Rs.28,000. The property was originally 43 acres in extent and stretched from Casa Major Road to the present Police Commissioner's Road, and it was flanked by the Pantheon Road and Halls Road.

In December 1896, the Front Building (Anthropological Galleries) and The Museum Theatre were opened. The new extension (main entrance) was built in 1939 in order to display stone sculptures, period-wise. 

Between 1941 and 1946, (i.e., during the full-fledged World War II and Indian freedom struggle) a great part of the buildings and the grounds had to be handed over for an ARP depot stationed in the Museum. The galleries had to be used as storage rooms and therefore the showcases were removed. The most valuable among the collections, such as bronzes, copper plate grants, selected coins, relic caskets of Bhattiprolu, etc. were sent to places of safety. As the Amaravati sculptures were too heavy and difficult to transport, the Government ordered that they should be protected in situ in the gallery.

The Government Museum took over the Victoria Technical Institute Building (constructed in 1909), named it as National Art Gallery, and opened it for the public from November 27, 1951 onwards. Museum celebrated its Centenary on November 27, 1951, which was inaugurated by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. In Order to display the exquisite rich collection of bronzes, a separate building was constructed in 1963. In the same year, a new block was added to the Chemical Conservation Section to cope with the increasing work of preservation. A new building for the Birds Gallery was also opened in 1963. A separate building for Contemporary Art was opened in January 25, 1984 and a new Children's Museum building was opened in April 1988.

Notable collections of this museum are the world famous Chola and other south Indian bronzes, Amaravati sculptures, Thanjavur kingdoms’ armory weapons, stone inscriptions, copper plate grants, Dowleshwaram gold coins of Raja Raja I and Kulothunga I, Chengam copper coins, prehistoric Adhichanallur artifacts, Bruce Foote collection of prehistoric stone implements, Arikamedu (near Pondicherry) Roman artifacts, exquisite crystal reliquaries from Bhattiprolu stupa and the enormous whale skeleton obtained on shore near Mangalore.

Thiru M.K. Stalin, Hon'ble Chief Minister of TamilNadu.
Thiru M.P.Saminathan, Tamil Official Language & Tamil Culture, Information & Publicity, Film Technology & Cinematograph ActNewsprint Control, Stationery & Printing, Government Press.
Principal secretary to Government : Dr. K. Manivasan, I.A.S.
Commissioner of Museums : Tmt Kavitha Ramu, I.A.S.,

MUSEUMS - H.O.D s (from 1851 onwards)

Name Designation Period
Surgeon E. Balfour First Officer in-charge 1851 - 1859
Captain J. Mitchell Superintendent 1859 - 1872
Surgeon G. Bidie, C.I.E. Superintendent 1872 - 1884
Dr. Edgar Thurston, C.I.E. Superintendent 1885 - 1908
Dr. J.R. Henderson, C.I.E. Superintendent 1908 - 1919
Dr. F.H. Gravely, D.Sc. Superintendent 1920 - 1940
Dr. A. Aiyappan, Ph.D. Superintendent 1940 - 1960
Dr. S.T. Satyamurthi, D.Sc. Superintendent 1961 - 1978
Mr. N. Harinarayana, M.A.B.Sc. (Technical.) Director 1978 - 1989
Mr. G. Kesavaram, M.Sc. Director 1989 - 1991
Mr. M. Raman, I.A.S. Commissioner 1991 - 1993
Mr. T.R. Ramasamy, I.A.S. Director 1993
Mr. M. Ramu, I.A.S. Commissioner 1993 - 1995
Mr. Naresh Gupta, I.A.S. Commissioner 1995 - 1996
Mr. K. Dheenadayalan, I.A.S. Commissioner 1996 - 1997
Mr. S. Rangamani, I.A.S. Principal Commissioner 1997 - 1999
Dr. R. Kannan, Ph.D., I.A.S. Commissioner 1999 - 2004
M. A. Siddique, I.A.S. Director 2004 - 2006
Dr. R. Kannan, Ph.D., I.A.S. Special Commissioner / Commissioner 2006 - 2007
Dr. Sitharam Gurumurthi, I.A.S. Principal Commissioner 2007
Dr. Shanthini Kapoor, I.A.S. Principal Secretary / Commissioner 2007 - 2008
Dr. T.S. Sridhar, I.A.S. Principal Secretary / Commissioner 2008 - 2011
S.S. Jawahar, I.A.S. Commissioner 2011 - 2013
Dr. R. Kannan, I.A.S. Principal Secretary / Commisioner 2013
P.R. Shampath, I.A.S. Principal Secretary / Commisioner 2013 - 2013
Dr. R. Kannan, I.A.S. Principal Secretary / Commissioner 2013 - 2014
Dr. R. Kannan, I.A.S. Additional Chief Secretary / Commissioner 2014 - 2015
Dr. D. Karthikeyan, I.A.S. Commissioner 2015 - 2015
Dr. D. Jagannathan, I.A.S. Director 2015 - 2017
Selvi. Kavitha Ramu, I.A.S. Director 2017 - 2019
Dr. Pinky Jowel, I.A.S. Director 2018 - 2018
Selvi Kavitha Ramu, I.A.S. Director 2018 - 2019
Mr. T. Udhayachandran, I.A.S. Director 2019 - 2020
Mr. M.S. Shanmugam, I.A.S. Commissioner 2020 - 2021
Mr. S.A. Raman, I.A.S. Director 2021 - 2022
Mr. Sandeep Nanduri, IAS. Director 2022 - May 2023
Tmt. A. Suganthi , I.A.S. Commissioner May 2023 - July 2023
M. Arvind, I.A.S. Commissioner July 2023 - July 2024
Tmt Kavitha Ramu, I.A.S Director July 2024 - Till Now