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Updated: September 30, 2013 00:23 IST

They bring to life a bygone utopia

J. S. Ifthekhar
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Many buildings of the Nizam-era today exist only on fragile glass plate negatives of the 19th century, posing a challenge to conservation efforts

Charminar sans the hustle-bustle. A verdant garden abutting the Osmania General Hospital. The Golconda Fort minus the encroachments.

While all this would sound like a figment of the imagination, photographs taken by the turn of the 19th century would back up this seeming utopia.

Unfortunately, these images are fast disintegrating as they lie on life-support on glass plate negatives, the only medium of target photography in those days. The Department of Archaeology and Museums has some 50,000 such glass negatives of important monuments and public edifices under the Nizam dominion spread across Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka.

Threats to preservation

Moisture, temperature fluctuations and fungus are posing serious threats to the glass negatives, which have been preserved by the Department in special environment-friendly wooden boxes in 10 almirahs. Some of the glass plate negatives are broken, some have developed cracks and a few are beyond repair. Due to fragile physical formations and varied chemical structures, these glass negatives are more prone to damage, it is said.

Digitalisation on

The Department is now in the process of restoring and digitalising them with the help of Visions Information Transaction, a Switzerland-based company. It has undertaken this task with Rs. 1 crore worth of financial assistance from the Central Government.

Nearly 1,500 negatives have been digitalised in the last few months. The process, which involves scanning each negative, is expected to take one-and-a-half years. A dedicated server and software has been acquired to help locate and access picture of any monument.

“We are trying to store the restored negatives in four different media – terabyte, hard disc, film strip and micro fish,” said K.P. Rao, Director at the Department of Archaeology and Museums.

Some of the structures, whose pictures are now available, have disappeared over the years. The Department proposes to make the digitised pictures available on its website. Researchers would be provided with high-resolution pictures free of cost.

The restored pictures will help in conservation and reconstruction of missing portions of a monument. They will also be useful in resolving property disputes, Mr. Rao said.

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