Madras museum complex - British heritage building

1851 colonial building Govt. Museum and theater, ChennaiAlamy
 In the colonial era the growth and development of East India company's successful trading activities had a direct bearing on the influx of more Europeans, expansion of Madras city and construction of more buildings to fulfill various government and social needs. The outcome of the city's growth was one of the reasons for the construction of a building complex to house a museum and a theater for entertainment purpose.

The Government Museum, Madras, in the suburb of  Egmore, Chennai is the  second oldest museum in India after the Indian Museum in Kolkata.  The museum complex has six buildings and 46 galleries on a huge plot of  about 16.25 acres (66,000 m²). The objects on display in the museum cover a variety of artifacts and objects  that come under diverse fields,  such as  archaeology, numismatics, zoology, natural history,  earth sciences, sculptures, palm-leaf manuscripts and Amravati paintings. Also included  are the largest collection of Roman antiquities outside Europe and rare  works of artists like Raja Ravi Varma.  

The growth of this museum began with a gift of collection of 1,100 geological specimens by the Madras Literary Society to the Government in 1851. The museum moved into this building in  1854; earlier it was  on College Road in Nungambakkam in the year 1851. It was the first government sponsored  museum in India with  20,000 freely gifted specimens ranging from rocks to books.
The Museum complex by Willie Burke, c.
Built in Indo-saracenic style, its architect was Henry Levin and this historical building includes a huge impressive Museum Theater built in Italianate style of architecture developed in England in the early 1800s. The huge hall with ornate columns was meant for theatrical performances in those days and had a seating capacity of 600. In the colonial era the theater was the venue of staging English plays preferred by the European elite. There is  a huge reading room (built in 1859) with a wooden ceiling between two curved rows of stained glass, supported by ornate pillars and arches embellished with sculpted acanthus leaves. The land was bought in 1830 and before that time the building and the  land were the venue
Canons at the museum complex, Chennai.
of Collector'scutchery (hearing grievances from people). The building contractor was  Namberumal Chetty. In 1864  first floor was  done. The library got a new block, now known as the centenary exhibition hall of the museum after restoration, in the northwest corner of the Pantheon road in 1876, with a lecture hall.  The Connemara Public Library, with ornamental woodwork, elaborate stucco decorations and stained glass windows is an impressive one. It was formally opened in 1896.  In 1896, there had been built new buildings for the museum (where the anthropological and arms galleries are presently housed). The restoration  work in the interior  parts was done  between  2004 and 2007. As part of restoration work  to mark 150th anniversary,  the 19th century theater was  fully air-conditioned.

The Madras zoo was here  on the  vast museum grounds from 1855 till 1863. In the early 1980s it was shifted to  near by Vandaloor.