How the Archives of India are actually destroying History

This is a very depressing piece. For someone who has been closely associated with Archives business in India, state of Archives here is just plain pathetic. The kind of importance the higher authorities give to the state of these places speaks volumes.

The piece is on National Archives but applies to most other Archives in India:

Something is rotten about the state of the National Archives of India. The heritage Lutyens building houses priceless historical documents, “stored in over 40 km of shelf space”, according to Sanjay Garg, deputy director of the archives. These include documents dating back to 1748, a rich collection of private papers, over 7,500 microfilm rolls and records from several countries. Scholars, academics, authors, journalists and students frequent the repository. Outstanding works by renowned authors and researchers have emanated from this goldmine.

One would think that the guardians of the National Archives would make it their bounden duty to protect and preserve our nation’s written history. However, the horror story begins here.

Thanks to callous mishandling by staff and scholars alike, priceless documents have ended up dog-eared and annotated. Staff at the research room mandate scholars to number all the pages of a document selected for photocopying. Some scholars highlight portions important to them using coloured pens ­­– on original documents. Fragile and aged archival pages are flipped through several times by each scholar; while photocopying, these are disengaged from the file, only to be put back in a haphazard manner. As a result, documents end up with multiple page markings, at times right in the middle of a priceless document.  This defacement happens every day, on treasure that belongs to the next generation.

For a country so deep and rich in history, preservation of Archives is just such a basic thing to expect. But not here..

 

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