Story of IISc to be relived through an archives cell

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HISTORICAL: A 1914 photograph of the IISc council with its first director, English chemist Morris Travers (third from left front row).
HISTORICAL: A 1914 photograph of the IISc council with its first director, English chemist Morris Travers (third from left front row).

Divya Gandhi

Manuscripts, photographs to be accessible to scholars within a year

BANGALORE: The product of an initiative of Jamsetji N. Tata, the colonial Government and the Mysore Maharaja, the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) will be 100 years old on May 27, 2009. And now the story of the premier institute, which runs almost parallel to the story of science in India, will be told through an archives cell on its campus.

The archive of letters, manuscripts, theses and photographs would be accessible in a year to researchers and scholars of the history of science, director of IISc P. Balaram told The Hindu .

The history of the institute, which was started in 1899, is in the process of being pieced together from the National Archives, the Karnataka State Archives, the Asiatic Society library in Kolkata, University College, London, and the British Library.

"The first part of our work, which involves research, collection and archiving, has begun. The next step will involve preservation and display, for which we will be consulting with professional archivists," said Prof. Balaram.


A ten-member committee of convenors comprising senior faculty from the institute, including Raghavendra Gadadkar, B.N. Raghunanadan and E.S. Rajagopal, has been formed.

Prof. Balaram said that though the collection was still in its nascent stages, the research carried out so far had provided some interesting insights.

Among these was Tata's letter in 1898 to Swami Vivekananda expressing his desire to sponsor a "research institute" in India and his vision for it. "We have also discovered personalities such as B. Padshah, an extraordinary scientist who played a pivotal role in the establishment of the institute, but whose work has gone unrecognised," said Prof. Balaram.

A permanent exhibition of photographs and scientific inventions dating back to the 1910's is also planned, and, along with the archives, will be housed in the present library building. It will be funded by institutional resources.

"The archives are going to keep growing as more material is unearthed and people send in old records," Prof. Balaram said.

"Our intention is to have a record of the activities of the institute as well as of the evolution of science in the country. One hundred years is a long time it is going to be an arduous process."

He said that a "national science archives" in IISc was something he would like to see in the next ten years.

"India does not have a tradition of archives for science, and, therefore, our history is sadly lost over the generations," he added.




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