The Lahore Science Museum is housed within the University of Engineering and Technology off the famous Grand Trunk Road. Being the first and only science museum in Pakistan, it gets its fair share of visitors; according to last years’ numbers, the museum had around 100,000 visitors.
The spacious 11,000 square foot building has a feel of the past, though not in disrepair it still carries an air of neglect, of a place quietly kept clean and running but ignored nonetheless.
Whether it’s due to lack of funding or disinterest by the government (first federal, for the last one year, provincial) the atmosphere lacks the sense of wonderment and excitement one would associate with a science museum.
The idea for such a museum was conceived by a former mechanical engineer Mohammad Akmal in 1965 who suggested that the government should build one. Meant only for UET students at first, it was opened to public in 1976.
Today the museum remains popular with metric level students as well as those interested in science, said Saima Riaz, an administrative officer at the museum and a biologist by profession.
Being the only one of its kind in Pakistan, the museum has slowly tried to make its way to achieving western standards of science museums. In the last 48 years, exhibits and galleries have been through four phases of expansion, the last one in 2006, according to Riaz.
Riaz admits that museums abroad are quite lavish, however, the basic concept of a science museum can’t change she says. Building around what the Lahore Science Museum offers, Riaz said she would like to improve the technology used at the museum. I would like to have a 3D theatre, more audio video tools, e-readers, and touch technology embedded in our displays, she said.
Going through the galleries, one can see the work put in by the administration. The mechatronics gallery along with the machines, mechanics, electricity, and magnetism exhibits were some of the most interactive displays. They were also the most popular with the students of the Fauji Foundation Technical College – the ground floor was full of young boys looking at displays, whereas the first floor, hosting mostly text based galleries on biology and natural science history, were empty.
“People don’t read anymore,” said Riaz of the vacant first floor, which is why she is pushing for the museum to expand on its audio visual techniques. Yet given the budget the museum gets, she thinks it is still a long way off.
Last year the museum received 17.8 million rupees, 80 per cent of it went into pay and allowances, the remaining 20 per cent was spent on repairs, maintenance and functioning costs. This, according to Riaz, doesn’t allow for much expansion.
Despite the slow development of the museum, there were still many visitors roaming its pink hallways. Children on a school trip, boys who heard it was a fun place to visit, a lady and her nephew from the UK who wanted to see a Pakistani science museum and a university science major with his fiancé – all of them passed through the doors of the museum within an hour of it’s opening on a Monday morning. - Text and photos by Sara Faruqi/Dawn.com