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Last Updated: Monday, 28 June, 2004, 12:36 GMT 13:36 UK
'E-museum' for Pakistani treasures
By Ayesha Javed Akram in Lahore

A Koran of the Fakir Khana museum
A Koran from Fakir Khana museum, which has over 3,000 pieces
Many would scoff at the idea of launching an "e-museum" in Pakistan, where national museums are constantly derided for their low numbers of visitors.

"They have got to be kidding," says artist Qaiser Khan. "Just how many hits do you think they're going to get?"

The e-museum, the first of its kind in Pakistan, hopes to launch in August.

It is the brainchild of the Fakirs, a family counted among the nobility of Lahore that traces its ancestry back to the holy city of Uch Sharif.

The Fakirs were official physicians to Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the most powerful ruler of Punjab, and he rewarded them with priceless artefacts and jewels, all of which are now displayed in Lahore's Fakir Khana museum.


Saifuddin Fakir, curator of the museum, is not bothered by what critics might think about the e-version.

A lot of [friends] have moved abroad and often ask me to send a picture or two so they can share the stories with others
Fakir Iftikhar

"All the projects I get involved with come from the heart. I am a son of Punjab and feel passionately about this province, which is why my projects revolve around promoting the culture and heritage of Punjab."

The Fakir Khana already has a general website but the e-museum site promises to be just that - a museum on the web.

Credit for the e-museum actually goes to 29-year-old Fakir Iftikhar, a nephew of Saifuddin.

While surfing the internet one day, Iftikhar recognised a niche for such a project but was unsure of its potential.

"I grew up around these collections and every time our friends came over, they would inevitably get a tour of the museum," he says.

"They were fascinated by the stories these objects had to tell and kept coming back for more. Now a lot of them have moved abroad and often ask me to send a picture or two so they can share the stories with others."

Revenue stream

That was when Iftikhar seriously started thinking about the e-museum and discussed the idea with Saifuddin.

His uncle immediately embraced the project.

An object from the Fakir Khana museum
The launch date for the e-museum is 14 August

"Since the Fakir Khana has never indulged in advertising or promotion of any kind, many people don't know of us and have never paid the museum a visit," says Iftikhar.

"I would like to make our collections accessible to as many people as possible and the e-museum seems like a great way to do this."

The family also hopes subscriptions to the e-museum will provide much-needed revenue.

For more than three decades now, the museum and other activities of the Fakir Khana have been completely funded by the family - a constant drain on its finances.

The Fakir Khana contains more than 3,000 objects and among the online collection will be the famous Ghandhara Buddhas, the Korans of Hazrat Imam Hassan and rare specimens of calligraphy.

Other "pieces" are ivory miniatures, arms and armaments, woodwork from Kashmir and a textile collection which includes rare Pashminas.

Iftikhar is now racing to meet the 14 August launch date.

"We are in the process of finishing the cataloguing and we should be done in a month's time. If everything goes to schedule we should meet our deadline."

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