About the Museum
For ancient mariners, the delta of the Indus served as an important geographical landmark. Karachi continued as an entrepot for trade along both land and sea routes for several centuries, until the British began to expand their colonial administration under the aegis of the East India Company. Recognising the commercial and strategic importance of Karachi as a means of access to the entire north western flank of the sub-continent and beyond it, to Russia, they annexed Sindh in 1843.
The presence and authority of the British were reflected in the architecture they adopted for army cantonments, municipal buildings, churches and formal residences in Karachi. The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw new styles of architecture in the sub-continent that were a fusion of European, Victorian, Gothic and Mughal elements suited to local forms and materials. Karachi rose to prominence at an astonishingly rapid pace, attracting people from the north west, the Iranian plateau, Turkey and Central Asia and from the south east, especially Kutch, Bombay and Rajasthan.
History of the Museum: Shiv Rattan Mohatta
In 1927, Shiv Rattan Mohatta, a successful Marwari entrepreneur, commissioned a palatial house in the affluent seaside neighbourhood of Clifton. Mohatta had made his fortune as a ship handler and trader. The architect commissioned for his palace, Ahmed Hussein Agha, was one of the first Muslim architects of India and had come from Jaipur to take up an assignment as chief surveyor for the Karachi Muncipality. Ahmed Hussein Agha designed a number of buildings in Karachi but Mohatta Palace was to prove the coup de maitre of his professional career. Working in a Mughal revival style with a combination of locally available yellow Gizri and pink stone from Jodhpur, he sought to recreate the Anglo Mughal palaces of the Rajput princes.
History of the Museum: Post Partition and Museum
At Partition in 1947, Mohatta Palace was acquired by the newly established Government of Pakistan to house its Ministry of Foreign Affairs. When the Foreign Office moved to Islamabad in 1964, the palace was given to Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah. After her demise in 1964, her sister Shireen Bai lived here until her death in 1980. The property then went into litigation and remained sealed until 1995, when it was formally purchased by the Government of Sindh, in conjunction with the Federal Government, for a sum of six million rupees. It was agreed that the monument would house a museum that would foster awareness and appreciation of the cultural heritage of Pakistan and of the region. An autonomous Board of Trustees was set up to oversee the restoration and adaptive use of the monument. The first two phases of the restoration programme were successfully completed in August 1999 and the Museum opened its doors to the public on 15th September 1999. Since then it has held many major exhibitions displaying artefacts that have never been seen before; these thematic displays were culled from both public and private collections. The Museum has grown from three galleries in 1999 to forty four in 2005.
Mohatta Palace Museum: Present Day
The Mohatta Palace Museum is a source of pride for the citizens of Karachi as it aspires to become a museum of international standing and a beacon of hope and commitment to the city. None of this would have been possible without the support of the Federal Government, the Government of Sindh and our key donors who share our vision for a symbol of a cultural renaissance in Karachi.
Board of Trustees
Official Members: Governor Sindh, Chief Secretary Sindh, Secretary, Department of Culture, Government of Sindh.
Non-official Members: Hameed S. Haroon, Sherry Rehman, Abdul Hamid Akhund, Towfiq Chinoy, Yasmin Lari, Munir Kamal, Amar Jalil Kazi, Sami Askari and Nazar M. Shaikh