The Salar Jung Museum was brought into existence on 16th December, 1951 in Diwan Deodi, the residential palace of Salar Jung III and opened to the public by Pandit Jawarharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India. In 1961, through an Act of Parliament, the Salar Jung Museum along with its library was declared as an “Institution of National Importance”. The museum was transferred to its present building in the year 1968.
As on date, there are 38 galleries in the Museum in three blocks i.e. (1) Indian Block (27 galleries), (2) Western Block (7 galleries) and (3) Eastern Block (4 galleries) in which nearly 13,654 objects are on display. The Indian collections are from the States of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Orissa, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir, and places like Kangra, Basholi, Jaipur, Udaipur, Mewar, Hyderabad, Golconda, Bijapur, Kurnool and Nirmal. The Western collections are from England, Ireland, France, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Venice and Austria. The Eastern collections are from countries like China, Japan, Burma, Korea, Nepal, Thailand, and Indonesia and from Middle East countries like Egypt, Syria, Persia and Arabia. The Indian art objects comprise of stone sculptures, bronzes, woodcarvings, miniature paintings, modern paintings, ivory, jade, textiles, metal ware, manuscripts, bidri, arms and armour, utility ware etc.
The collections of the Salar Jung Museum are the mirrors of the past human environment, ranging from 2nd century B.C to early 20th century A.D of different cultures such as Greek, Roman, Hindu, Jain, Buddhist, Christian and Islamic of various countries and of various materials.
The collection of the Museum can be divided into Indian Art, Middle Eastern Art, Far Eastern Art, European Art and Children’s Section. Apart from this, a gallery is devoted to the illustrious Salar Jung family, which was mainly responsible for acquiring the collection.
The Indian Art Objects Comprises of stone sculptures, bronze images, painted textiles (Kalamkari), wood Carvings, Jade carvings, metal-ware, manuscripts arms and armour etc.
Middle East is represented through its art objects from Persia, Syria and Egypt covering the diverse media like carpets, paper (manuscripts), ceramics, glass, metal ware, furniture, lacquer etc.
Salar Jung Museum is one of the few Indian museums which can boast of a fairy extensive collection of Far Eastern Art consisting of Sino-Japanese art objects of porcelain, bronze, enamel, lacquer ware, embroidery, paintings, wood and inlay work.
European collection comprising of art objects ranging from resplendent and excellent examples of oil paintings, aesthetically attractive glass objects to majestic furniture, splendid examples of ivory, enamel ware and clocks.
The objects on display in the children’s section of the museum are a testimony to the vast range of interest and diverse nature of Salar Jung III, in collecting objects. The objects housed in the section provide informal education to the children apart from providing delight to them.
Salar Jung Museum is an institutional member of various historical and museological organizations, like ICOM-INC, Museums Association of India etc. The museum organizes temporary exhibitions periodically on various themes and efforts are being made to make them more aesthetic, educative and informative. It is also maintaining a ‘Mobile Exhibition Van’ arranging exhibits on different themes on the museum’s collections and the cultural heritage of India to present the museum at the doorstep of schools, villages and other public places as part of Museum Education. Seminars and workshops are being organized on special occasions such as – Birthday celebrations of Salar Jung III, Museum Week, Children’s Week etc., as part of its educational activities.
The Salar Jung Museum also possesses a huge library consisting of nearly sixty thousand books, manuscripts, journals etc., and it is a monument to the love of learning of the Salar Jung family. The origin of some of the collection dates back to 1656 A.D. The manuscripts collection in the library, which possesses unique Specimens, is one of the richest in the world in terms of its quality. It contains many gems of calligraphic art and ornate embellishment; items with gorgeous decoration and an artistic blending of colours with a profuse use of gold, mineral colours that lavishly used lapis lazuli for blue, pearl for white, shangraf for red and Zabarjad (emerald) for green.
The rich collection of the Library consists of 62,772 printed books of which 41,208 are in English, 13,027 in Urdu, 1108 in Hindi, 1105 in Telugu, 3,576 in Persian, 2,588 in Arabic and 160 in Turkish languages. The English printed books include research journals, albums of rare photographs and valuable engravings. A paramount feature of this vast collection is that it covers a plethora of specialized fields of learning ranging from the fields of Art, Architecture, Archaeology, Physical, Biological and Social Sciences, Literature, History and Travel. It also includes collection of religious books on Islam, Hinduism, Christianity and other religions. The oldest book in the collection is an English volume printed in 1631 A.D. The library is constantly replenished with latest arrivals covering subjects like Art, Sculpture, Paintings, Ceramic Arts, Decorative Arts, Museology, Tourism etc. Research scholars (both from India and abroad) regularly visit the Library apart from the staff of the Museum. On an average, ten persons a day use the library to enrich and expand the origins of their learning.
To meet the needs of scholars and research students and interested visitors, the museum has been publishing catalogues on certain important collections of the museum. So far, it has come out with catalogues on Persian, Arabic and Urdu manuscripts, special monographs apart from the SJM Bi-Annual Research Journal to facilitate the researchers. Museum publications, including popular leaflets and picture postcards of the collection are sold at the publication sales counter.
The Reading Room is located in the second floor and equipped with all the daily local papers and magazines in English, Telugu and Urdu. Some foreign magazines are also available for the benefit of the readers.
The museum has a rich collection of printed books covering various subjects and a rich collection of thousands of manuscripts in Persian, Arabic and Urdu languages. Scholars are permitted to use the library on request by obtaining passes from the reception counter.
Situated on the southern bank of the river Musi, the Salar Jung Museum is not far from the other important monuments of the old city. The historic Charminar, Mecca Masjid, High Court, State Central Library and the Osmania General Hospital are all within a radius of one mile from the Salar Jung Museum.
The Museum has an easy approach by road and rail. The important railway Stations Kachiguda and Nampally are within a distance of three miles. Road transport buses run frequently from all parts of the city to Afzalgunj, which is within walking distance from the museum.
The Salar Jung Museum is open from 10 in the morning to 5 in the evening on all days except Fridays.
This is in short a summary about the great Salar Jung Museum. A must see place on your itinerary in case you are visiting Hyderabad.