Pre-modern Visions, Modern Frames: Digitization and Conservation of Manuscripts and Books in Bardhaman and Nadia Districts, West Bengal (EAP1031)

Aims and objectives

We, the CSSSC archive team, while working on the EAP781 and the EAP921 projects, conducted a pilot survey with a small research grant extended by the CSSSC archive. We identified the private collection of Dr Tripura Basu, the collection of Akshay Granthagar, and the collection of rare books in Santipur Public Library as three collections that demanded immediate attention in terms of restoration, digitisation, and eventual transfer of the digital product to an online public-access server for wider scholarly use as stipulated under the Creative Commons license.

While working on the EAP781 project in Santipur, we approached the authorities of the Akshay Granthagar and the Santipur Public Library. Since both the institutions are listed as government-sponsored libraries, we also made it a point to speak to the District Library Officer, Nadia district. All of them encouraged us and assured us of their sustained cooperation. Our colleague, Dr Rajarshi Ghose, Assistant Professor in History, CSSSC knows Dr Tripura Basu for about a decade or so. When he approached Dr Basu with the proposal, Dr Basu agreed to let us copy a part of his collection of manuscripts.  We recently went to Raghunathganj town, Murshidabad to survey the repository of the Jangipur Sambad and meet the proprietors of the Pandit Press. The authorities of the Pandit Press who are the owners and the copyright-holders of the now-defunct newspaper enthusiastically agreed to collaborate with us on this project. They are lineal descendants of Saratchandra Pandit and are keen to have a digital interface for their heirloom.

Most manuscripts, newspapers, and books are damaged by water-seepage, fungal growth, and termite-attack. Thus, before the digitisation begins, some basic conservation work has to be carried out, and folios have to be properly arranged. Our external expert for conservation, Mr Pradip Mandal, who is advising us on the current EAP project, has kindly agreed to help us in future projects as well.

The proposed project will be monitored by a three member team: Dr Rajarshi Ghose will look after the academic component of the project; Ms Jayeeta Majumder will continue to supervise all technical issues and Mr Abhijit Bhattacharya will remain responsible for administering the project at the project sites, in the office and maintain liaison with the EAP staff.