Kolkatta: Afternoon in the Museum

by - Monday, February 14, 2011

Kolkatta - easy to get around and a pleasure to visit.

The masterclass if over but we are going to keep giving updates on our trip; just the highlights - with a focus on textiles and dyes.

An enchanting selection of apothecary bottles filled with dyes.

In Kolkatta, we took a short visit to the India Museum. Kolkatta made the news last year for the discovery of the natural dye recipes of Thomas Wardle. There were 15 volumes, giving recipes and samples of the colourants on various fibers, stowed away in a closet. We’d love to get our hands on those, or even just look through them for a few minutes.

Rubia cordifolia - Indian madder
Instead we content ourselves with going though the Industrial Botany secton of the Indian Museum . It is quite amazing. We don’t know of any other museum collection of dyestuffs to compare with this. The samples are a bit old (The museum was founded in 1814) but as each sample is clearly labeled they give a good idea of the dyes that were in active use in the past.

One of many walls showcasing dyestuffs
There is also a section on fibres, with twists of silks, cottons, flax, jute and hemp. Some of them looking quite promising for lovers of natural fibres ...

Crotalaria Juncea L. Sunn or San Hemp looking very much like muga silk.

And as we leave we pass some small dioramas that give the entire extraction process for indigo as it was practiced during colonial times.

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