ISLAMABAD: “Tickets will not be refunded in case of a power failure,” reads a notice pasted on the ticket booth at Lok Virsa Museum. With load shedding expected at 3pm and the museum closing down at 4pm, Fayyaz, a guard comfortably seated in his booth, was happy to turn every visitor away.
“You won’t be able to see anything,” he added with a smile. “There is no generator.”
The much touted Lok Virsa museum is considered by many as ‘a journey into Pakistan’. Dioramic depictions of the culture, lifestyle, history and landscape of different areas of the country have been put on display here. The four provinces and their musical and cultural influences, traditional folklores and important personalities have also been given their due representation at Lok Virsa.
However, lack of proper management and disinterest on the part of employees is preventing the place from turning into a popular landmark of the capital.
Bilal, a visitor at the museum, said “The effort put into making the miniatures, artsy depictions of various ethnicities and eye for detail is really commendable. But it’s a pity that the management is failing to maintain the place.”
Soon after visitors begin their tour, they discover that apart from the information boards which explain the background and relevance of the real-life depictions, there are not enough arrangements to guide them around the museum.
Explaining that there were no guides to help everyday visitors, Shahbaz, a guard sitting at the entrance, said, “If you are confused about anything or want additional information, you can ask the guards sitting along the way.”
Nadeem, who runs a cd shop inside the museum added, “If you really want one, go to the management’s office and request for one. If you are lucky, they might send someone who can tell you in detail about the museum.”
In some cases, sole reliance on signboards is helpful but in others, even the information boards cannot be found. Shafaat, another visitor remarked, “This place is being run by an army of visitors. So much tax-money spent on this venture, but there is no air conditioning, not even a generator in case of power outages.”
Furthermore, the glass panes protecting the miniatures from damage were missing at some instances and there were no guards to prevent potential damage. “I hope the CCTV works, because the artists must have put in a lot of effort in creating these items and there is no one to even guard them,” Bilal remarked.
Another noteworthy facility which was not being provided to the visitors was access to the library. “You cannot read here today; it’s Sunday,” said one of the two guards, who were engrossed in a chat.
Similarly, the audio-visual facility which would ideally play famous works of local artists for the visitors was also not working. “No, these televisions do not work. If you like something in specific, buy the cd from us,” said Nadeem.
Visitors also complain about the museum tuck shop charging exorbitant rates. Rukhsana, who was visiting with her family, said,”Are they promoting culture or demoting it? The management really needs to pull up their socks and start addressing these issues before further harm is done to its reputation.”
Talking to the Express Tribune, Executive Director Lok Virsa Khalid Javaid, refuted the claims of these dissatisfied visitors and said he had received no complaints about lack of proper management at Lok Virsa.
“Despite the security situation in the country, we are playing an active role in conducting festivals for the general public, even more so than any other art and culture centre across the country. We deserve appreciation for that.”
He also added that the museum did have a generator, and four to five guides for foreigners or students on field trips.
Additional reporting by Maha Mussadaq
Published in The Express Triune, August 24th, 2010.
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