History of Gass Forest Mesuem


          In 1900 Mr. H.A. Gass, Conservator of Southern Circle, Madras Presidency, British India desired to develop a forest museum with specimens of economic importance and general interest in Coimbatore. The museum had a humble start from a nucleus of collections made by Mr. A.B. Jackson a British Citizen. In April 1901, Mr. Gass officially placed before the Board of Revenue for sanction to open a museum in the Conservator office. With more accessions arriving in the museum it was expanded during1902. Mr. R.D. Richmond, Assistant Conservator of Forest was then placed on special duty to catalogue the specimens. Collections were originally grouped in thirty four series. Construction of Gass Forest Museum commenced in April 1905 and was completed in June 1906 costing Rs. 8,860. At that time 358 different species of economic products were exhibited The museum was opened by H. E. Sir Arthur Lawle, Governor of Madras Presidency on 5th September, 1906. The Museum has collections of all important timber species found in India. Notable among the exhibits is a 456 years old cross section of teak in a girth of 5.7 m and a massive sandal tree weighing 1.75 tonnes and 10.2 m in height.


          The city of Coimbatore is located in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Till recently it was also known as Manchester of the south in view of many cotton textile mills dotting its landscape, a few of which exist even this day. With the growth of country’s economy, it has now metamorphosed into one of the fastest growing industrial areas in the country today. It boasts of several foundries, auto ancillary units and engineering firms. It has a population of predominantly comprising of Tamils, Telugus and Malayalis.

The city of Coimbatore is endowed with several colonial era structures that now houses prominent institutions of higher learning like Tamil Nadu Forest Academy (erstwhile Madras Forest College), Tamil Nadu Agricultural University and Government College of Technology besides Town Hall that serves as headquarters for Coimbatore Corporation.


          One of the heritage buildings of immense historical significance is the Gass Forest Museum. This museum can in fact take the credit of being the first institution housing the exhibits that were related to Forestry in India.



          A Forest Museum was initially started at Madras (now Chennai) by one J.S. Gamble, the then Conservator of Forests, Madras state towards the end of 19th century and later abandoned for want of space. The idea of starting a Forest Museum was thus aborted at a very stage itself.


          The origin of present museum can be traced to one Henry Anderson Gass, the then Conservator of Forests, Coimbatore circle who made the first definite efforts to open a museum dedicated to forestry. It took off in the room and verandahs located upstairs in the Conservator’s office building. Lord Ampthill, the then Governor of Madras opened the museum on 15th April 1902 and in entering his name in the Visitor’s Book made the following remark “ I am delighted to have been the first visitor to the Forest museum and I shall feel interested to hear of the progress of the excellent and novel under taking ”. The available space was soon found to be inadequate and subsequently office rooms of the District Forest Officers (North & South), Coimbatore were taken up. The Government subsequently sanctioned the construction of a building on 24th March 1905 and appointment of Curator on 01st April 1905. The construction of new building commenced in April 1905 and completed in 1906 at a total cost of Rs. 8,860/- . The new museum building was opened by Sir Arthur Lawley on 05th September 1906. He has recorded the following remark in the Visitor’s Book “ I esteem it a great privilege to have been asked to open the Gass Museum. I wish long life and success to its founder and I hope that every member of the Forest Department will be animated by the same spirit so that the Museum may grow as the years go by”. Mr. H.A. Gass who saw the commencement of the building retired from service on 12th September 1905, before it was completed and gave over charge to one F.A. Lodge. The government in its G.O dated 18th September 1905 passed the following order, “In recognition of the fact that the establishment of the Forest Museum at Coimbatore was due to the personal initiative of Mr. H. A. Gass and that its present successful development is due to the energetic interest which he has taken in it, during the tenure of his office as Conservator of Forests in the Southern circle, His Excellency the Governor in council is pleased to direct that the Museum be hereafter known as “The Gass Forest Museum”.


          Mr. Eardley Wilmot, Inspector General of Forests paid a visit to the Museum on 8.12.1907 during his tour to this Presidency. He recorded his opinion as a paragraph in his note on Inspection of the Madras forests as follows: “ I have found at Coimbatore a Museum of Forest Products overflowing the available accommodation on all sides and a Forest School for Lower subordinates in which good work was being done. I must express my admiration of the contents and arrangements of the Museum. I consider it superior to that at the Imperial College at Dehra Dun, but the reason for the superiority need not here be discussed it will be sufficient to accept the fact the zeal and energy of the Local Forest Officers have created an Institution which must be of the greatest value to scientific and economic forestry ”. Later, it was felt to construct a typical museum building along with the forest college to make the museum useful to Forest College, so that the trainees could have easy access. Subsequently on 11th December 1907, F.A. Lodge, Conservator of Forest (Southern circle) submitted proposals regarding the great necessity of opening a Forest college in the vicinity of Agricultural College. This proposal was strongly supported by H. Eardley Wilmot, Inspector General of Forests. He also recommended that Forest Research Centre should be combined with the college and that entire establishment should be under a separate Conservator of Forests. The Board of Revenue supported the proposals. The Member (Forests) along with the Executive Engineer, Coimbatore division, Principal, Agricultural College and Conservator of Forests, Southern circle then inspected the land to select a suitable site for Forest College that was found to the north of agricultural farms about half a mile away.


          In August 1909, the Madras government accorded formal sanction for construction of a forest college at Coimbatore. On 01st July 1912, the college was formally opened with one F.L.C. Cowley Brown as Principal of College and C. Srinivasa Rao as Curator of the museum. On 14th October 1915, new buildings of Madras Forest College and Gass Forest Museum were opened by His Excellency, Lord Pentland, the Governor of Madras.

During the World War II, the museum was temporarily closed for few years and the building was made available to the Defence department for housing the refugees from Greece and Malta. During the closure of the museum, most of the wooden specimens were disposed off and some valuable exhibits were spoiled. Many of them were auctioned for want of space. Owing to the keen interest of one J.A. Master, the then Conservator of Forests, Madras, the museum exhibits were saved from auction although a large part was disposed. With the tireless efforts of Sri C.R. Ranganathan, IFS, the then Principal of Forest College, the building was restored to college and was reopened to public.



          The management of this museum was handed over by Government of India to the Southern Forest Rangers College under the Ministry of Food & Agriculture. During 1988, the Institute of Forest Genetics & Tree Breeding, Coimbatore came into existence at Coimbatore under the Indian Council of Forestry Research & Education, an autonomous body of the Ministry of Environment & Forests, Govt. of India which took over the management and control of museum and has undertaken its upkeep and maintenance.



  1. Timber

  2. Non-Timber Forest Products

  3. Wood Crafts

  4. Wildlife

  5. Entomology

  6. Mycology

  7. Geology

  8. Ethnology

  9. Arms

  10. Forest Engineering

  11. Environment


          Restoration work of Zoological specimens like antlers, skulls, animal skins and mounts & anthropological specimens like arms, tribal dresses and jewels were carried out under the supervision of experts from Chemical Conservation & Research Laboratory and Zoology department from Government Museum, Chennai. Besides, a Taxidermist from Government Museum, Salem and an Artist modeler from Government Museum, Karur took part in restoration of the models.


Entry fee

         Student / Child : Rs.2/-   Adult : Rs.5/-


working hours


Gass Forest Museum is opened on all working days as follows :

Monday - Saturday : 9.00 A.M to 5.30 PM

(Except Sundays and Closed Holidays) *