- An Archives Flyover! Dozen Archives Across India, Present and Future
- Archiving Protests
- Archives and Research
- Preserving Memories: Some Secret Recipes
An Archives Flyover! Dozen Archives Across India, Present and Future
Setting the tone for a week’s events, IAW2021 started off with a quick walkthrough of a dozen established as well as lesser-known archives.
From east India, Abhijit from CSSSCAL talked about the visual and textual archive of contemporary Bengali and Assamese culture.
From the South, Faisal and Ranjani discussed Keystone Foundation’s efforts towards archiving Adivasi culture in the Nilgiris, Bharat spoke about herbarium and pollen collections at the French Institute of Pondicherry, Rejikumar explained the massive scale of palm leaf records at the Kerala State Archives, and Radhika from St. John’s Research Institute at Bangalore shed light over archiving medicine as practice.
From the west, Avni spoke about maintaining the Pattani family archive that includes everything from newspaper clippings to furniture, Lalita talked about NID Ahmedabad’s institutional archive and how it preserves design materials, select prototypes, and film negatives, whereas Sanghamitra from Past Perfect shared her experience of archiving business conglomerate Bajaj’s family memorabilia.
Finally, from the north, Surajit discussed CCK’s efforts at archiving personal memoirs of Delhi, Rumela shared 1947 Partition Archive’s massive efforts at talking about 9,500 oral interviews and read out a brief passage from Mirza Changezi’s account, Deepa from Ashoka University deliberated on the institution’s efforts at creating a private paper archive on themes of economics, women and environment, among other things, and Jaya from The National Archives of India gave a brief history of the institution from its colonial beginnings.
- 05:20 - Session introduction
- 07:18 - Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata
- 10:40 - Pattani Family Archives
- 14:52 - French Institute of Pondicherry
- 19:20 - Ashoka University Archives
- 23:55 - Archives of Indigenous Communities of the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve
- 27:15 - National Archives of India, New Delhi
- 32:49 - National Institute of Design Archives
- 37:00 - Saint John’s Research Institute
- 40:30 - Kerala State Archives
- 45:45 - The 1947 Partition Archive
- 49:40 - Bajaj Archives
- 54:54 - Centre for Community Knowledge, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar University
The Q/A session brought forth several compelling questions on the ethical considerations of an archive, strategies for making archives reach a wider audience, the training required to become an archivist, the authenticity of oral records, how the pandemic affected the functioning of archives, and many more themes. The panellists’ took great interest in answering the range of questions, allowing for holistic explanations to develop.
- 1:00:45 - What is an Archive?
- 1:07:00 - How do you Archive the lives of individuals who, at the time, were criminalised and how to find their histories?
- 1:17:50 - What are your views on Code of Ethics of Archives?
- 1:25:00 - Oral records – Question of authenticity and training.
- Centre for Studies in Social Sciences Kolkata https://www.cssscal.org/
- Access CSSSC material on https://ndl.iitkgp.ac.in/
- If you are willing to join as a contributing member, write to Abhijit Bhattacharya at firstname.lastname@example.org or to email@example.com
- CrossAsia repository crossasia.org
- The South Asia Open Archives https://www.crl.edu/programs/samp/saoa
- Pattani Family Archives, Bhavnagar
- Avni Pattani firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Social Media instagram.com/pattaniarchives/
- French Institute of Pondicherry Archives https://www.ifpindia.org/
- Ashoka Archives of Contemporary India https://ashoka.edu.in/ashoka-archives
- Deepa Bhatnagar (Director, Ashoka Archives of Contemporary India) email@example.com
- Keystone Foundation, Kotagiri, Nilgiris https://keystone-foundation.org/people-nature-centre/
- Faisal Rehman and Ranjani M Prasad
- National Archives of India, New Delhi https://nationalarchives.nic.in/
- Search portal of National Archives of India www.abhilekh-patal.in
- Dedicated portal for declassified files of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose www.netajipapers.gov.in
- For any queries related to the archives firstname.lastname@example.org
- For records related queries email@example.com
- National Archives of India has a training school called School of Archival studies. They run different training courses for different types of professionals associated with archives - Records Management, Archives Management, Reprographics, Mending and maintenance of records, etc. Courses are short term and one year diploma. For details please visit https://nationalarchives.nic.in/content/one-year-diploma-course-archives-and-records-management-professional-level and https://nationalarchives.nic.in/content/short-term-certificate-courses
- Jayaprabha Ravindran (Assistant Director of Archives)
- National Institute of Design Archives, Ahmedabad https://www.nid.edu/education/knowledge-management-centre.html
- Lalitha Poluru (Head Librarian)
- St Johns Research Institute, Bangalore https://sjri.res.in/health
- Radhika Hegde (Museum Curator) firstname.lastname@example.org
- Kerala State Archives, Thiruvananthapuram http://www.keralastatearchives.org/main1.htm
- RejiKumar J. (Administrator)
- Maj gen History of Medicine Archives https://sjri.res.in/health/introduction
- Social Media https://m.facebook.com/medicinestory/
- 1947 Partition Archive https://in.1947partitionarchive.org/
- Bajaj Archives https://www.bajajgroup.company/bajaj-group/bajaj-heritage/
- Social Media @bajajheritage
- PastPerfect http://www.pastperfect.co.in/our-work.html
- Sanghamitra Chatterjee@pastperfectlive (For Past Perfect Heritage Management)
- Centre for Community Knowledge, New Delhi https://aud.ac.in/centre-for-community-knowledge
- Surajit Sarkar
- Budhan Theatre Group, Ahmedabad (museum and archive) https://www.theotherfromwithin.com/resources
- NC State University Libraries https://www.lib.ncsu.edu/news/special-collections/ethics-in-archives%3A-decisions-in-digital-archiving
- Nehru Memorial Museum and Library https://www.nehrumemorial.nic.in/
India has had a history of Farmers’ Protests, which in the past have been interpreted by scholars as ‘peasant militancy.’ In this session, Yogesh Snehi, assistant professor, School of Liberal Studies, Ambedkar University, Delhi, and Radhika Krishnan, assistant professor, IIIT Hyderabad, present their ongoing project of archiving the Farmers Protests that erupted amidst the Covid-19 pandemic in India in 2020. The Farmers’ Movement Archive (FMA) is a spontaneous project which seeks to locate this significant movement against the backdrop of (peasant) protests in the country. Snehi believes that the manifestation of the contemporary movement can capture a nuanced narrative of caste-class.
Imagining the larger phenomenon as an archival site challenges a rethinking of the nature of the archive—can social media posts, Facebook groups, tweets constitute archival data sets? How can protest sites across states be archived? How to configure the embedded categories of caste, class and gender into the archive’s imagination? How to visualise FMA as a physical archive that would house tractors, mikes, hookahs, recordings of songs and slogans? How to write metadata for these data sets?
Radhika Krishnan elaborates on the choice of a digital archive for the Farmer’s Movement, as a tool to tap into the potential of Big Data while recognising the limitations of Big Data analytics. Parallelly, she rephrases the ‘digital divide’ as a ‘computational divide,’ aiming to empower the normal person to use Big Data collected by agencies. They plan to do this via the FMA by releasing the Big Data they have gathered through data scraping (newspaper articles, tweets, Instagram posts etc.) along with the preliminary analysis of the data sets. She takes us on a walkthrough of the website, presents the team working on it and discusses their approach to archiving voices which support the movement and those that are against it. The session ended with a lively Q&A about the future plans of the FMA, their technical projects, and its intersection with the Covid-19 pandemic.
Archives and Research
This session looked at how archives inform research and looking at how researchers encounter unexplored collections and the process of documenting and archiving those collections.
Abhishek Bhattacharya drew on his experience of documenting newspapers, documents and journals produced out of social movements from the late 60s to the early 90s in West Bengal, Nepal, Uttar Pradesh, and erstwhile Andhra Pradesh. Examples include Deshoproti, the mouthpiece of the CPI-ML Bengal unit and Nalupu, a Telugu magazine discussing caste issues combining Marxist theory and the ideas of Phule and Ambedkar, which was subsequently digitised by the Hyderabad Book Trust.
Zoe Headley spoke about the origins of the DATAH archive: an archive of Tamil customary law and agrarian history put together by a team of anthropologists, photographers, and epigraphists from papers in the possession of a network of households in the Kallar Nadu, Kongu Nadu and Pudukottai districts of Tamil Nadu. The process of compiling the archive itself was of an ethnographic nature. The team was trying to locate unrecorded and invisible collections and progressed through word of mouth, one household to another, one village to the next. Gaining the trust of the families to get access was a key step.
S. Irfan Habib, a noted historian of science, spoke from his decades long experience as a user of archives. He spoke of how the centrality of archives has receded in contemporary historical research as new methods have emerged but emphasized the importance of archives nonetheless. He was instrumental in setting up the Bhagat Singh Archives & Resource Centre as part of the Delhi State Archives. Similarly, he encountered rare and valuable materials related to the history of modern science in Urdu at the State Central Library and in the possession of a private collector. He focused on the challenges in rescuing and preserving this material in the face of institutional apathy.
- Abhishek Bhattacharya (University of Chicago)
- Zoé E. Headley (Le Centre d’Études de l’Inde et de l’Asie du Sud)
- Irfan Habib (Historian of Science and Politics)
The discussion following this session touched upon the ethical responsibilities of the archivist-researcher working with private collections and the question of alternatives to large government archives like the National Archives and the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library.
- What about the legalities or copyright issues after any publication is freely accessible?
- How would researchers approach the question of safeguarding of marginalised histories?
- What kind of interest has the Data-H Archives generated or what kind of work has it been used for?
- V. Nalupu (full print run) https://www.crl.edu/news/samp-digitizes-leftist-telugu-magazine-nalupu
- DATAH https://clac.hypotheses.org/author/clac
- Sanchi Foundation https://sanchifoundation.com/
Preserving Memories: Some Secret Recipes
S. Girikumar’s workshop focused on the different materials we use to preserve memories: paper, magnetic tape, photographic prints and negatives, electronic media etc. and the challenges in preserving them in the long run.
Paper over a period of time yellows, gets stained, becomes brittle, because of the acidity of paper or acidity of materials it is in contact with; or extensively attacked by fungus or insects (temperature and humidity play a major role). Archives can store papers in polyester sleeves and archival quality boxes to minimise impact of surroundings.
The condition of photographs varies based on storage and processing. The difference in tone of discoloration can help us identify what’s going on. Materials with a sensitive surface should not be handled with bare fingers. One has to be careful about preventive measures too, the methods should not cause adverse effects on the object, particularly photographic materials which are very unforgiving. Storage conditions play a major role in the life of photographs. In the case of photographic negatives, cellulose acetate is an unstable material. High temperature and humidity can cause degradation. Photographic prints and negatives can be kept in archival quality folders or in polyester or polypropylene sleeves. Optical media and magnetic tape can also be stored in polypropylene or polyester cases and kept in storage boxes.
In the case of electronic media and flashdrives, multiple media and multiple formats, storing them in multiple locations, with sufficient physical and electronic security is key. Digital systems do not substitute for the original materials, they have to be kept.
More generally he observed that optimum storage conditions are a temperature of 23+/-2 C, and a relative humidity of 50+/-5% which is very challenging in a country like India to maintain. Instead, archives can focus on a more judicious treatment of materials and controlling climatic conditions. Short term fluctuations in the temperature is the most damaging factor, eg switching it on in day time and switching it off at night. Cycles of low and high temperature in short spans of time will cause more damage than not having temperature control at all.
He also recommended more sustainable and less energy intensive alternatives to air conditioning such as vermiculite insulation, geothermal heat exchange systems, wind-powered industrial ventilators, enclosures with smaller ACs, frost free refrigerators with materials in ziplock bags with moisture absorption and humidity indicators. One size doesn’t fit all, focus more on what not to do rather than what to do.