The Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum first opened to the public in 1857 and is Mumbai's oldest Museum. It is the erstwhile Victoria and Albert Museum, Bombay. The Museum building is one of the most important historical sites of the city. It was the first colonial building to be built for the specific purpose of housing a museum. Bombay, then the richest mercantile town in India, was considered the Gateway to the East or Urbs Prima in India, the first city of India, and had the honour of exhibiting to the world the country’s rich cultural traditions.
The idea of setting up a museum in Mumbai was first mooted in 1850 when preparations were being made for the first ‘Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations’ to be held in London’s Crystal Palace in 1851. Prince Albert, the consort of Queen Victoria, wanted to present to the world the industrial arts and crafts of Britain’s colonies and thereby stimulate trade for these products. The Great Exhibition was a catalyst for other world fairs and resulted in the establishment of new museums across the British Empire. The duplicates of art objects and raw products that were sent from the Bombay Presidency to the 1855 Paris Universal Exhibition thus formed the nucleus of a new museum that was set up at the Town Barracks in Fort and known as the ‘Government Central Museum’.
A little more than a hundred years later, on November 1, 1975, the Museum was renamed the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum in honour of the man whose vision and dedication enabled its establishment. Dr. Bhau Daji Lad was the first Indian Sheriff of Mumbai, a philanthropist, historian, physician, surgeon and secretary of the Museum Committee when it was first instituted.
By 1997, the Museum had fallen into a state of disrepair. The MCGM invited INTACH, the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage to restore the building and objects. A tripartite agreement was signed between the MCGM, the Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation and INTACH in February 2003 and the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum Trust was established for the revitalisation and management of the Museum. After five years of intensive restoration by INTACH, the Museum was reopened to the public on January 4, 2008. The Museum was inaugurated by Honourable Shri Uddhav Thackarey, who became the Chief Minister of Maharashtra on 28 November 2019 and attended by several city leaders and citizens.