Veteran Heritage Conservator and Museologist remembered

Nilam Harinarayana (b.1931), former Director of Museums,Tamil Nadu, was a post-graduate in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, and a Conservator and Museologist with three and half decades of experience in these fields. He was the recipient of Fellowships from the French Government and the British Council. He was trained in the restoration of paintings in the Louvre Museum Laboratory at Paris and underwent training in conservation in the Institute of Archaeology, London. The Dept., of Science and Technology, Govt., of India awarded him a Senior Fellowship project entitled Chennai: The Built Heritage. He was a Hon. Fellow of the Indian Association for the Study of Conservation of Cultural Property. He was also conferred life time achievement award by the Museums Association of India for his distinguished service. He participated in the XV General Conference of the International Council of Museums at The Hague and the Asian Relations Commemorative Conference at New Delhi.

He was instrumental for the course in conservation entitled ‘Care of Museum Objects’ when he was the Curator of the Chemical Conservation and Research Laboratory of the Government Museum, Chennai. He also helped many organizations in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh to conserve the art and cultural heritage. He studied the paintings at Sri Rangam, examination of the paintings in the VaradarajaPerumal temple, Kanchipuram; preservation of oil paintings in the Rajaji Hall and examination of ancient pottery specimens from the Department of Ancient History and Archaeology. He preserved Tallapakkam Annamacharya copper plates of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam at Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh.

As early as 1976, he was able to study bronze icons through the use of isotope excited x-ray fluorescence in the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Bombay. He was instrumental in formulating the idea of district museums in the State of Tamil Nadu. The project proposed by him was accepted and sanction was given for the establishment of the district museums. In 1978 he was promoted as the Director of Museums.

He did many research projects with the help of the Nehru Trust, New Delhi. During his period of directorship, the Panorama of Culture was conducted every month in the Museum Theatre.After his retirement in 1989, he was appointed by the University of Thanjavur as the Director of the University Museum, Thanjavur.

Many research articles were written by him in various journals both in India and abroad. He is the author of The Science of Archives Keeping and co-author of Museology in Tamil. Later in 2007, his articles were piled up together and a book was brought out entitled ‘Heritage: Essays on Museology and Conservation’. This book was reviewed by Dr. V. Jeyaraj and was published in the IASC Journal.

He was a voracious reader of books and a very good orator. His fluency in English was great. He trained many in English oration when he was the Director of Museums. He had varied collection of books. His family members have decided to donate his book collection to the museum library, the Connemara public library and the library of the Hepzibah Institute of Heritage Conservation.

The family members have also planned to establish an endowment with the Government Museum, Chennai in his name to carry out works, lectures, seminars etc., in the name of late Mr. N. Harinarayana.

On 7th March 2014, the first death anniversary, his family members, professional colleagues and friends remembered his service in the field of heritage conservation and Museology.

- Blog by Dr. V. Jeyaraj on March 7, 2014 Retrieved May 18, 2014