Pictures & words Rajiv Joshi
Walking through the entrance of International Mountain Museum located in a quiet neighborhood of Rato Pahiro, Ghari Patan in the lake city of Pokhara, you will find an impressive setting and architecture inside the compound. The compound gives a sense of living museum with a real setting of the culture of indigenous people of different tribes and clans of Nepal, their homes and culture in real models. The shape of the museum roof which resembles mountain peak gives a true sense of a mountain museum.
While in the beautiful city of Pokhara make it a point to visit the International Mountain Museum (IMM). Mountain and mountaineering has a history of its own and the museum houses the records, documents, exhibits, and chronicles the past and the present development of mountains and mountaineering activities in the world.
The museum was opened on February 5, 2004, and spreads over a total floor area of 4,242 sq.m on 12.5 acres of land. The museum has three main exhibition halls – Hall of Great Himalayas, Hall of Fame and Hall of World Mountains.
The museum contains models of famous peaks, mannequins of famous mountaineers, culture, and lifestyle of mountain people, flora and fauna including geology. The museum has been built with the theme of man, mountains and mountaineering.
Built by Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA), the museum dedicated to mountain and mountain community, stood with support from various mountaineering clubs and associations as well as individual donors from around the world.
The museum can be considered a treasure trove for mountain lovers as it provides information and exhibits almost everything related to man, mountain and mountain activities from around the world.
Upon entering the grand hall of the museum, visitors are greeted by the Hall of Mountain People. This hall showcases the customs, traditions, heritage, culture, and way of life of the mountain people. Their lifestyle and culture are showcased impressively to give the actual senses to the visitors. For more closer observation, visitors can get insights at the adjoining video hall which displays visuals about the people, culture and the mountains of Khumbu region.
The hall also exhibits life-size models of the mountain people of Nepal and the world. Models of the people of Nepal, Taiwan, Slovenia and Japan, and their culture, costumes, and artifacts are equally fascinating to get to know about. Photographs taken more than 50 years ago can also be found in the hall. Plenty of photographs of British expeditions to Mount Everest from 1921 to 1953 are showcased here which were donated by the Royal Geographical Society.
Next comes the Hall of World Mountains. Information of all 14 peaks over 8 thousand meters of height and their photographs are available in this section. The geological section in this hall displays collection of important rock samples that formed the geological formation of the Mountain range. Flora and fauna collected in the picture and real stuffed replicas; plants and wild animals are equally exciting as it gives a feel of watching the serene beauty and real wild lives in the wild.
Contributions of five prominent personalities are also displayed in a corner of the hall. Dawa Norbu Sherpa – the prominent contributor in the construction of museum building, Kumar Khadga Bikram Shah – who translated the vision of international mountain museum and the founder of NMA, Dr. Tony Hagen, explorer and the geologist, Reverend Kawaguichi Ekai – the first Japanese to visit Nepal in January 26, 1899, Dr. Harka Gurung – the renowned geographer, development partner and conservationist of Nepal are preserved here for public display.
The third hall is the hall of Mountain Activities. This display dwells on the historical ascents and explorations in and around the mountainous regions, trekking and more. The hall exhibits different mountaineering equipment, clothes and different professional loops of the ropes. Photographs of French Expedition team leader; recorder holder Maurice Herzog who scaled Annapurna for the first time in 1950, Junko Tabei, the first Japanese women to scale Mt Everest, Timanishi, the first summiteer of Mt. Manaslu and other climber’s equipment are also showcased here. This hall also introduces fourteen peaks over eight thousand meters in chronological order to the year they were conquered.
The hall also features equipment necessary for climbing mountains and rocks, their varieties and their uses which can give a sense of feeling on how hard the scaling these mountains can be. You can even find a life-size model of mystical Yeti. Although nobody has seen the creature many have claimed of witnessing it and some have even claimed to have photographed its footprints on an icy blanket. This section is dedicated to the Yeti whom nobody has seen but many like to believe in. Its tales, myths, and publications can also be observed here.
The museum also has a Lakhang room for those who like to get the experience of the true feeling of the prayer room of the mountain people and people of the Buddhist religion. The room is also all time ready for anyone to offer prayers. The museum also houses a library to get more insights into mountains.
The detour of the hall ends with the display of further information related to the socioeconomic life of the mountain people, their activities in different periods on the first floor of the building. It also showcases present and future planned activities for better conservation of environment, flora, and fauna, for the sustainable environment of the region.
The entire compound and the setting of the museum give a true sense of knowledge on mountain, mountaineering and environment conservation. The museum has not spared a chance to give its visitors the importance of mountains. A separate section inside the museum displays garbage collected from Mount Everest between the year 2000 and 2003 demonstrating a gloomy picture of possible environmental degradation if caution of preserving the environment is neglected.