Historian from Paris to head Victoria museum

A year after the top job at the prestigious Victoria Memorial Hall in Kolkata went vacant, the culture ministry has finally found a candidate to steer one of India's finest museums. Prof Jayanta Sengupta, a historian from the University of Notre Dame, Paris, will take over as secretary-cum-curator, highly placed sources said. His predecessor, Prof Chittaranjan Panda, had completed his term in January 2012.

Sengupta is an assistant professor of history at Notre Dame and has also served as a Fulbright lecturer at Utah State University. He has, however, spent a large part of his academic life in West Bengal. "He will join his new position soon after wrapping up his current assignment. It is certainly a welcome trend to see academics and experts based overseas choosing to come and work here at Indian salaries," a senior culture ministry official said.

Only recently, the HRD ministry approved for the first time the appointment of a Harvard Law College academic, Prof Ashish Nanda, as director of IIM-Ahmedabad.

Heading the Victoria Memorial is an assignment of equal prestige.

Described as the largest repository in India for a "visual history of Kolkata", Victoria Memorial boasts of major collections of paintings, manuscripts and sculptures from the British period, rare books dating to the 1870s such as a collection of plays by Shakespeare, Omar Khayyam's Rubaiyat, manuscripts such as copies of Ain-i-Akbari by Abul Fazal, the court historian of Akbar; the note book of Tipu Sultan in his own hand writing; a volume of copies of Tipu Sultan 's letters, among others.

Opened to the public in 1921, Victoria Memorial Hall was conceived by the then Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon, as a monumental memorial to Queen Victoria.

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