Digitisation of the photographic collection from DirghaMan and GaneshMan Chitrakar Art Foundation (EAP838)

Aims and objectives

The DirghaMan and GaneshMan Chitrakar Art Foundation has a total of 1,800 glass plate negatives and 4,000 acetate negatives. This project will digitise and catalogue these negatives and rehouse them in archival storage. All the digital images will be made available online for research purposes.

Dirgha Man (1877-1951) was employed as a Royal Painter and Court Photographer. His photographs were taken when cameras were only accessible for the court and a few elites. Dirgha Man was able to capture court and local life, official events and state visits that otherwise would not have been recorded. These photographs are interesting for Nepal’s history as Nepal did not open up to outside visitors until the mid-1950s.

Ganesh Man (1916-1985) continued his position in the Court and later worked as a chief photographer for USAID. He made the first aerial photographs of Kathmandu Valley and was also the first person in the country to develop colour slides. His photographs are essential to observe the changing landscape of Kathmandu Valley over several decades and have been of most interest to climate change researchers. His photographs have also been used to record lost and stolen artefacts from temples and other complexes from around Kathmandu. These photographs are unique and essential for understanding the history of Nepal.

Currently most of the glass plate negatives are housed in wooden cases with the remainder stacked in paper boxes. The acetate negatives are stored in paper envelopes. Proper cases are essential for their safekeeping. All the negatives have accumulated dust. The emulsion has detached from the glass in some negatives and some are broken and re-attached with adhesive tape. Because the glass plate and acetate negatives are not stored individually, some have attached due to high temperature and humidity. The earliest glass plate negatives from the collection date back to the 1860s. The majority of the glass plate negatives are from the early 1900s and acetate negatives from mid to late 1900s.

This unique collection is very important to Nepal and the world. At a time when most people did not have access to cameras, Dirgha Man and Ganesh Man documented life in Kathmandu. It is not only one family’s patrimony but also an account of history and it is extremely important to preserve this heritage for the future generations.

Outcomes

The EAP project has been instrumental for the Foundation. For the first time in decades, the collection is organised and catalogued. This will help the Foundation to organise exhibitions and publish books. Researchers will also be able to easily locate the photographs and know more about them.

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