Precious little being done to preserve dresses worn by kings

  • Locals doubt the historical items will last till the museum is rebuilt

Kathmandu, November 14

Amid the rush for reconstructing cultural monuments destroyed by the 2015 earthquakes, less attention is being given to preserve clothes worn by kings earlier put on display in museums in Kathmandu Valley.

Clothing, accessories and paintings used by Shah kings of Nepal were recovered from the earthquake-damaged Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Museum recently and are being fumigated after two-and-a-half years.

Museum officials and chemists can be seen working to preserve the dresses, some of which are more than 100 years old and fragile enough to be damaged under the slightest stress.

According to the museum officials, around 300 garments from Tribhuvan Memorial Museum, Mahendra Memorial Museum and Birendra Memorial Museum were recovered. The garments were placed in a ‘safe place’ and given ‘regular dusting and cleaning’, according to officials.

Om Prakash Yadav, a chemist involved in the preservation of the historical outfits at HDDM, said humidity in the storeroom was damaging the already worn out garments.

“Look at these cuts made by growing number of insects because of humidity in the storeroom” Yadav said, showing damaged area in some of the dresses.

Yadav, who is also a former head of the Central Conservation Laboratory for Cultural Heritage, added, “We are trying to prevent more damage to the dresses, but they have remained in damp places for long and have become fragile.”

HDDM staffers are using basic protection technique using chemical fumes of petroleum ether to protect the dresses from further damage by pests.

Conservation specialist Griman Singh Shrestha of National Archive said papers and garments could be preserved for a longer term by controlling temperature and humidity. “A perfect humidity control can be achieved when the room is shielded from every corner and well-ventilated,” Shrestha said.

Executive Director at HDDM Aruna Nakarmi said they did not have budget enough to even fumigate the dresses. “We are working on a very tight budget, but protecting these garments is important for us. So we will make do with whatever resources we have.”

Locals doubt that these materials will last till the historic Basantapur palace is rebuilt.

A local resident Kiran Ranjit, 54, said, “The government has so far done nothing to rebuild heritage monuments like Kasthamandap and Dharahara. In this scenario, we doubt that the precious items recovered from damaged museums will be kept protected.”