The country's lone ethnology museum displaying the lifestyles and heritage of 37 ethnic groups of Bangladesh and four other countries is gradually losing its charm and visitors for poor collections and lack of publicity.
Experts say it will be a tourist attraction if the authorities enrich the collection of objects and artefacts and take steps to draw tourists.
“The museum could earn huge revenues and become a place of recreational learning for visitors,” said Shamshul Hossain, a former curator of Chittagong University Museum.
Documents show that the number of monthly visitors dropped to around 3,000 from more than 7,000 in the early 1990s.
Curator of Chittagong Ethnological Museum Mohammed Amiruzzaman recognised that the number of visitors had sunk for lack of promotion and that the museum was in a shabby condition.
Sitting on 1.30 acres of land in Agrabad area of Chittagong city, the museum opened to the public in 1974. The four galleries and a hall room portray 26 ethnic minorities of Bangladesh and 11 others from India, Pakistan, Australia and Kyrgyzstan.
Exhibits include outfits, tools, musical instruments, weapons, ornaments, idols of deities, paintings, photographs, dioramas, and sculptures. There are also some stones of the Berlin Wall, fall of which led to the reunification of East and West Germany in October 1990.
Visitors, however, say the objects available in the museum are too inadequate to completely present the lifestyles of even seven or eight groups.
“Most of the ethnic communities are displayed through only a few exhibits, which present an incomplete image,” said Md Mohiuddin, a visitor, who has been to the National Museum of Ethnology in Japan.
“Unlike this museum, there you could find almost every detail of the lifestyles of the ethnic groups and complete narratives through the thematic presentations of objects,” he said.
The Bangladeshi ethnic groups include Chakma, Marma, Tripura, Chak, Tanchangya, Murong, Khumi, Garo, Bawm, Pankho, Lusai, Khyang, Monipuri, Khashia, Oraon, Hajong, Mandai, Dalue, Hodi, Bona, Polia, Koch, Rajbangshi, Santal, Munda and Ho.
The five groups from Pakistan are Pathan, Swati, Sindhi, Kafir and Punjabi. The Indian ethnic communities include Adi, Muria, Mizo and Futtowa. The remaining two come from Australia and Kyrgyzstan.
The curator said, “We have submitted a project design to the Department of Archaeology (DoA) in April to upgrade the museum, including gradually and regularly increasing collectibles, improving presentation style and launching publicity campaign.”
“If the project is approved by the cultural affairs ministry, hopefully the museum could be turned into an attractive tourist destination,” he said.
An official seeking anonymity said the project could be worth more than Tk 2 crore.