Archives dept to preserve rare Gandhi records

A letter found from a tharavadu (ancestral house) in Wayanad.

A letter found from a tharavadu (ancestral house) in Wayanad.  

Latest project under community archives programme to cover Vinoba Niketan at Vithura

After Malappuram and Wayanad, the Archives Department is set to embark on the latest project under its community archives programme.

Photos and records related to Mahatma Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave, including documents in Gandhi’s hand, that are housed at Vinoba Niketan in Vithura here will be conserved by the department.

"We are yet to start inspecting the documents, but some of them are close to perishing. Such documents pertaining to Gandhi are rare in the State," says Archives Director P. Biju.

There is a diary of Vinoba Bhave at the Niketan wherein everyday matters are penned. There is a document too in which Gandhi speaks about the charkha.

Bug infestation

"There's need to urgently preserve them, bug infestation being one of the problems. We will bring them to the department if these are handed over or we will conserve and preserve them in the museum on the Niketan premises," says assistant archivist Shibu N.

The pilot project of the community archives programme was taken up at the Chembrassery 'mana' at Pandikkad in Malappuram. At the Puzhamudi tharavadu in Kalpetta, documents related to Gandhi's visit to Wayanad were found. In one letter, the planters' association had asked the head of the family to come for Gandhi's visit. In another, a father had written to his son who was abroad about the Moplah Rebellion. There are also 12 bamboo documents, one of which lists the names of slaves under the head of the family, hinting at the practice of slavery prevalent then, department officials say.

"All these will not be available as part of official documentation. These help understand history better and gain other perspectives, for instance from the communication between individuals. This is the possibility of community archives," says Mr. Shibu.

More studies under way

More studies are under way on such documents in association with local colleges’ history department students.

This will also help students get first-hand information about archives, what documents are housed in people’s homes, and their historical relevance.

The community archives will get a boost from a new initiative of the department – heritage forums. The forums, which will include school and college students, historians, writers, and others, will be set up in all districts under the aegis of department.

The forums will conduct visits to historical places in the district concerned, and collect records and objects for conservation. In a step towards creating regional archiving responsibility, the forums will undertake surveys to know where records exist and the extent of the collection.

“When people are approached by those who are from the area and conscious of the need for preserving records, they will open up more than they would to official channels,” Mr. Shibu says.

The department does not stress on custodianship. The documents can be conserved by it and remain in people’s keeping.

These will also be digitised.

A registry of private records, which will contain details about the documents, will also be maintained for easy access to researchers and scholars.

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