Project to create digital history of tea plantations in Nilgiris

Fascinating initiative by the British Library and the Government of France:

Tea plantations in the Nilgiris and Coimbatore districts now have the opportunity to get their historic documents preserved for posterity free of cost, thanks to a special project supported by the British Library and the Government of France.

“The project aims to create digital documentary resources in the Nilgiris and Coimbatore districts covering the period from 1850 to 1970,” coordinator of the project K Rameshkumar, who is Head of Photo Archives of French Institute of Pondicherry (IFP), told Business Line.

The IFP is under the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“This project coming under Endangered Archives Programme is supported by the British Library Arcadia,” he said. “We will help planters possessing old documents preserve them forever through high quality digitalisation and save them permanently from loss.”

“Our intention is to work on the site of the plantations itself. We will not take any documents with us; instead, we will return the original documents along with a digital copy of high resolution images to the owners.

The digital copies will be preserved at the British Library archives as well,” Rameshkumar noted.

“The historic documents can be of any type – land and property records, photographs, old maps, route sketches, pencil or other drawings, printed materials, books or manuscripts,” the project’s Research Assistant Noel Francis said. “We can document the lifestyle of planters of yesteryears in terms of their working conditions, bungalows, medical facilities, schools, churches, labour quarters, workers’ wages and other registers, planters’ clubs, dresses horse rides and transportation,” he said. “Collectively, we aim to create a digital version for the history of the Nilgiris and Coimbatore districts which will be a treasure for posterity.

Those interested can contact us through e-mail: rameshkumar@ifpindia.org or over phone (0) 9363156400.”

The Nilgiri Planters’ Association is 128 years old.

“Besides, the small scale tea sector is in the possession of Badaga, the predominant community of the Nilgiris, whose ancestral family property holding records as also photographs and handwritten documents should be nearly a century old.

We have come across some of them during our initial survey,” said Rameshkumar, who had digitised some other aspects of the historic lifestyle in The Nilgiris in his earlier projects.

 

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