Centralising, preserving and improving public access to government orders, historical and cultural documents and manuscripts is often considered the most irrefutable form of preserving heritage.
The Tamil Nadu Archives, which is considered one of the largest and accessible repositories of documents in South Asia, however needs better infrastructure, speeding up of digitising important records and open accessibility to contemporary records, say research scholars.
With records that date back to 1670s, digitisation of archives started in 2006, but only the records till the pre-mutiny period have been digitised completely till now, says a research officer at the institute.
“It takes weeks to procure old records here, it is much faster in other countries,” says a researcher from Europe. Many old records at the institute require better preservation mechanisms, she says, adding that scanning and lamination should have been introduced long time ago to prevent the loss of important archives with time. “Amenities have improved a lot over these years, but there's a long way to go,” she adds. Officials, however, say that all government orders, gazetteer copies, bulletins and electoral documents are preserved with changes getting recorded once in every 10 years. Preservation techniques such as micro filming, fumigation and chiffon-mending are in process, say the officials.
Higher Education Secretary K. Ganesan says there has been additional allotment of funds for renovation of the institute and programmes are under way to modernise the institute. “The process of digitisation will get over in a month,” he says, adding that public grievances are being catered to with utmost urgency.
The cultural troves in the city such as Dr. U.V. Swaminatha Iyer Library and Roja Muthiah Research Library started out as personal pursuits and today they aid many research scholars in their studies.
Honorary curator of Dr. U.V.S. library, M.V. Pasupathy feels the dwindling number of people with the knowledge of ancient scripts to copy the content from the damaging manuscripts hinders the process of conservation.
“The constant inflow of funds too is a major concern,” he says. “Reading the material on the internet would kindle their interest in history and motivate them to read the original works in the library,” he says, emphasising the need for virtual libraries to guide youngsters.
With frequent awareness programmes on history and heritage promoted by educational institutions and the internet, more people are keen on knowing history, but only a properly maintained research-oriented environment with immediate access to historical records will nurture this interest, says the researcher from Europe at Tamil Nadu Archives.
Keywords: Tamil Nadu Archives