Saturday, October 17, 2015

Gass Forest Museum, Coimbatore

Gass Forest Museum, Coimbatore
Gass Forest Museum is a government run natural history museum situated at CoimbatoreTamil Nadu. Gass Forest Museum (GFM) in Coimbatore is a destination with a difference. This is a natural history museum and is the first institution in India to house exhibits related to forestry. This government run museum is located in the verdant Forest College Campus on Cowley Brown Road. It is housed in a heritage building that is over a century old.

Gass forest museum is at located at Cowley Brown Road, It is one of the oldest buildings in Coimbatore and it is over 100 years old, in a way the museum building itself is an heritage site. Museum is within Forest college campus grounds and it feels like a mini forest within the city. Apart from wildlife the exhibits include Arms used in olden days, wood crafts, huge collection of insects, cultural artifacts and many more. Main Attractions are the Preserved and stuffed animals, birds and reptiles.
It was established in 1902 by H.A. Gass, the then Conservator of Forests of Coimbatore circle. Gass conceived the idea of starting a museum to represent various aspects of forestry though a comprehensive collection.

It was started in one of the rooms of the conservator's office building and was extended to the verandah and some other portions of the District Forest Office. The present building built in 1915. It is made of red stone and built in British Gothic style. The ventilation is such that light spreads throughout the hall. The folding in the four corners give the building the strength to withstand perpendicular seismic impact, if any. The iron pillars in the hall were imported from Britain.
During World War-II, the museum was closed to accommodate evacuees from Greece and Malta
Gass Forest Museum should be on your must-see list when you are in Coimbatore. The forestry artifacts here include: timber, non-timber forest products, wood crafts, wildlife, entomology, mycology, geology, ethnology, arms, forest engineering and environment. The Museum has collections of every important timber species found in India. Remarkable among the exhibits is a 456-year-old cross section of teak with a girth of 5.7 m and an enormous 10.2 m high sandal tree weighing 1.75 tons. Gass Forest Museum in Coimbatore is located at 11°00'59.6"N 76°56'45.3"E or 11.016569, 76.945917.
Toward the end of the 19th century, an aborted attempt was made by J. A. Gamble, the conservator of forests of Presidency to establish a forest museum in the province. A few years later in 1902, Gamble's successor as Conservator of Forests, Horace Arichibald Gass, succeeded in establishing a museum for forestry.
It was opened to the public 15 April 1902 by Baron Ampthill, the then Governor of Madras. When Gass, the first curator, retired in 1905, his successor F. A. Lodge renamed the museum in his honor. It was expanded in 1905 and 1915. In 1912, the Madras Forestry College (currently the Tamil Nadu Forest Academy) was established in the museum grounds to train foresters.
During 1942-47, the museum was closed and the buildings used as shelters for World War II evacuees from Malta and Greece. After Indian Independence in 1947, the museum came under the Government of Tamil Nadu. It is currently administered by the management of Institute for Forest Genetics and Tree Breeding (IFGTB), which is also situated in the same campus as the museum. The museum was reopened for public on May 1, 2015 after carrying out renovation works. A 3D diorama depicting wildlife in its natural habitat has been added.
There are about 10000 exhibits presently on display at the Gass Forest Museum. The exhibits on display at the museum cover various disciplines in science and geography like botany, zoology, geology etc. Of the rare artifacts in the museum is a piece of asteroid which is believed to be several million years old, a full grown male stuffed Indian guar which would have weighed over a ton when alive and a stuffed albino crow. At present the numbers of insects which have been preserved here are more than 1200 and are growing slowly. This museum seems attractive to people off all age groups as often youth can be spotted posing in front of the Indian Gaur, young children roaring at the preserved leopard and elderly studying the exhibits with deep thoughts.

As you enter the heritage building that houses Gass Forest Museum, you will be greeted by a 1,000-kg stuffed gaur (Indian bison) from the Biligiri hills. This was gifted to the museum in 1956 by Jayachamaraja Wodeyar, the last Maharaja of the princely state of Mysore. You can see an assortment of stuffed animals and birds including an attention-grabbing one of a brahminy kite capturing a chick. A large snarling leopard frightens you; although it is a stuffed animal, you feel as if it could attack you any minute!

Even though it is over half a century old, the gaur is among the newer stuffed acquisitions of the museum; this is because hunting was banned by the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. As a result, most of the stuffed animals and birds were captured by the British in the early half of the 20th century. It would interest you to know that the procedure of taxidermy — curing, stuffing and arranging animal skins for display — was refined and perfected by the British. Their practice was so perfect that frequently, it is difficult to decipher where the animal has been stitched together after stuffing. This level of perfection ensures that the artifacts last for a long time if they are maintained well. And GFM has enhanced the viewing experience for visitors – all the stuffed animals and birds have been labeled with their characteristics, habits and territories; as a result, one can gain useful and interesting information on extinct species as well.
The museum has such a quirky and eclectic collection of exhibits, many with interesting stories behind them. For instance, the small snail shell which dates back 65 million years, when a trillion-ton asteroid rammed into Earth with a force one billion times stronger than an atom bomb. It wiped out fifty percent of the then existent species; this little snail survived to tell the tale! The museum presently has 10,000 such artifacts.

Each artifact has a tale of acquisition to recount. There are two 14-month and four-month elephant fetuses at the museum. These were presented to the museum by the prominent ‘elephant doctor’ V. Krishnamurthy, renowned internationally for having performed the highest number of elephant post-mortems. The entomology section has over 1,000 insects, with a significant part of the collection being butterflies.
Regardless of being a niche forestry museum, Gass Forest Museum attracts over 25,000 visitors annually including students, tourists and specialists. The exhibits have been laid out in an appealing and interesting fashion across two floors. GFM is a great place to spend a few hours; you will come back enriched and awed!
The museum is situated in the Forest College Campus, situated on Cowley Brown Road in the heart of Coimbatore city. The campus also houses other institutions like the Tamil Nadu Forest Academy (TNFA), the Institute of Forest Genetics and Tree Breeding, Central Academy for State Forest Service (CASFoS) and other offices of the Tamil Nadu Forest Department.
Holidays: Sundays and National Holidays
Operating Hours: Mon-Sat: 09:00 AM - 05:30 PM
Address: State Forest Service College, R.S.Puram, Coimbatore - 641 002, Tamilnadu.
Contact Information: Ph.: (0422) 2431540, 2435541, 2450302
Period Built: Opened In 1906 AD

Entry Fee: Adult: Rs. 5/- Child: Rs. 2/-