More than any other type of museum; a national museum provides its publics with a theatre for presenting the ultimate act of the modern era; namely the performances of citizenship and nationhood. In this paper; I will explore the founding of the National Museum of India as a colonial institution; and follow its development as a national symbol through the 1950s. Given the colonial framework for the museum’s original conception; including its site; the physical development of its collections; as well as their intellectual meanings; how did the National Museum come to symbolize the national aspirations of the postcolonial Indian government? How did museum objects that were collected and categorically assigned to the imperial canons of Indian art history shift in meaning to assume a national significance; associated with cultural pride; heritage and modernity? These questions epitomize the complexity of the museum as an experimental zone of the postcolonial era; working to consistently reproduce itself as a national symbol; its public as citizens; and its culture as modern.