There is a lot of anticipation about the opening of the new wing where King Birendra lived with Queen Aishwarya and Prince Nirajan and Princess Shruti. All four were killed in the 2001 palace massacre.
The rooms have been kept intact, just as they were on 1 June 2001. Prince Nirajan’s room still has his college class timetable stuck to the wall, the alcove bar has a bottle of the king’s favourite brandy, and the cot where Birendra’s favourite dog slept is exactly where it was 20 years ago.
Museum chief Bhesh Narayan Dahal and his team have worked right through the lockdown to make Shree Sadan ready for public viewing. There were up to 150 people waiting in queue even before the museum opened its doors on Sunday morning at 10am.
Said Dahal: “Public response so far has been phenomenal, and there are more people interested in Shree Sadan than the main Narayanhiti Museum.”
Although the government has also allowed art galleries and exhibitions to restart, some are not taking any chances yet because of the sustained surge in coronavirus cases in Kathmandu Valley.
At Taragaon Museum, Roshan Mishra’s hands are full. He is busy with the archives, documentation, and renovation of the museum that is run by the Saraf Foundation. He says he is in no rush to reopen the exhibition space, keeping in mind the risk it might bring to the visitors as well as employees.
“If we open the museum now, we’ll just have about three to four people walking in every day and it’s not really feasible, so our focus is more on documentation and archives until we reopen possibly in January,” says Mishra.
The lockdown has actually been a blessing in disguise to curators like Mishra who would otherwise be too busy for research, and design new shows.
Even though the museums were locked up for eight months, staff there also worked on renovation and maintenance. The National Museum in Chhauni has finally finished reconstruction of a wing that was damaged in the 2015 earthquake.
“It’s time we get back to operations, this is the new normal, and for how long can we stay idle?” asks Jayaram Shrestha of the Chhauni museum. “The Cabinet decision was good, better late than never.”