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Digitizing the past

art-and-culture Updated: Mar 12, 2009 17:02 IST
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In the silent corridors of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA) stand endless rows of steel cupboards. A treasure trove of history lies within — 20,600 microfilm roles of over two lakh manuscripts, 2,500 rare books and 3,000 photographs by eminent photographers … and a whole lot more.

Founded in 1994, the Cultural Informatics unit of the IGNCA along with the UNDP began a project called the Interactive Multimedia Documentation of Cultural Resources aimed at preserving heritage virtually. Today the library has completed a large portion of the work and is making CDs, a web portal, and an in-house digital library called Kalasmpada.

The collection includes manuscripts from over 49 libraries in India, those from Bibliothic Berlin, the India Office of Britian, libraries of France, and rare collection of 3000 photographs by eminent photographers from Lala Deen Dayal’s collection.

A dark room has two people bent over a yellowed sheet of paper that is being scanned on a giant scanner. Ramesh Gaur of IGNCA explains that it is part of AK Cooomaraswamy’s personal collection of books and folders that was donated by the family. “Some material is sensitive and cannot be sent back and forth from the digitsing lab, so we have scanners in the library where very sensitive manuscripts or materials can be scanned and archived immediately.”

The IGNCA has several scanners of different sizes. There’s the Bookeye that can scan big-sized books and paintings, a slide scanner and other hi-tech scanners for larger works. For members of the IGNCA, the books that have been scanned will be available on the internal website and on CDs and eventually certain manuscripts will be retailed.