Mission for Manuscripts, Part 2
BY: SUN STAFF
Conservation of cultural property through the promotion of awareness and expertise is a concern shared by all in the cultural heritage sector. The National Mission for Manuscripts over the past four years has made some definite interventions in this domain. Through its network of Manuscript Conservation Centres and Manuscript Conservation Partner Centres, the Mission has been organizing a number of workshops and training programmes across India to create a national base of conservation expertise around manuscripts.
In 2006, the Conservation Department of the Mission broadened its ambit, both in terms of a national distribution of workshops and affiliated institutions, and also in bringing in fresh perspectives in conservation training and research.
- Generation of skill and awareness among the holders of manuscripts, institutional and private, as well as in aspiring conservationists
- Provision of financial and material support to institutions and private holders for conservation of manuscripts
- Promotion of research and practical-theoretical modules for addressing various aspects in manuscript making and preservation, with a particular focus on indigenous methods
- Initiation of a publication programme to facilitate popular access to the current research in conservation of manuscripts
- Organizing national and regional workshops in preventive and curative conservation
- Organizing workshop-cum-semimars in specific aspects of manuscript conservation, based on materials, climatic conditions, indigenous and technical methods of preparation and conservation etc.
- Creating a National Resource Team of conservators, as a mobile national team for addressing conservation issues in various`manuscript repositories across the country
- Coordinating with institutions of repute like the National Research Laboratory for Conservation of Cultural Property (NRLC), Lucknow, for research, skill development and technical assistance in various conservation projects in the country
- Creating field labs to facilitate conservation methodologies
- Increasing the number of institutions within the fold of the Missionís Conservation Centres and Conservation Partner Centres
Expanded Network of MCC-s
In 2006-2007, the Mission increased the number of Manuscript Conservation Centres (MCC-s), bringing in new institutions in its network. The MCC-s are established in leading conservation laboratories and manuscript repositories. In the past four years they have been the core strength of the Mission in promoting conservation practices and training. Each Centre has trained manuscript conservators that provide vital assistance to a large number of manuscript holding institutions in their region. In 2006, the total number of MCC-s has risen to 32, with the additional 5 new Centres:
1. Regional Conservation Laboratory, Thiruvananathapuram
2. Tawang Monastry, Arunachal Pradesh
3. Manipur State Archives, Imphal
4. Sri Dev Kumar Jain Oriental Research Institute Arrah, Bihar
5. Central Library, Benaras Hindu University, Varanasi
Increase in Manuscript Conservation Partner Centres (MCPC-s)
Manuscript Conservation Partner Centres (MCPC-s) are a set of institutions with large holdings of manuscripts, which the Mission brings under its national network in order to facilitate and provide assistance to them. Under this programme, each MCC nominates 10 institutions as MCPC-s. Conservation assistance to these institutions, in particular, advice on storage and maintenance of their collections is provided by the MCC-s in the region. Where required the MCC-s also provide preventive and curative work on the manuscripts. Conservation and storage material (acid-free board, acid-free paper, etc) for storage of important manuscripts in these collections are provided directly by the Mission. In 2006, the number of MCPC-s has increased significantly, with the total at almost 270.
Creation of a National Resource Team of Conservators
Taking into consideration the extent and scope of conservation activities taken up for the preservation and conservation of manuscripts, the Mission has launched preventive conservation training programmes for creating a National Resource Team of Conservators. The training equips conservation professionals with practical training on preventive conservation of manuscripts. In this connection, the Mission is in the process of organizing six workshops across the country to aid the MCC-s in the preventive conservation of the collections in institutions and private repositories in their regions.
In creating this Resource Team, the Mission considers requests from various repositories, and thereby forwards the services of the team in imparting preventive conservation and reorganization of the collections concerned. Five such workshops were conducted in Delhi, Aligarh, Chennai, Benaras and Kolkata out of which we have selected fifty conservators as a part of the team. This training programme is given to participants, with a basic knowledge about the conservation of manuscripts.
Work done by Resource Team
Name of the institution and number of manuscripts conserved:
Iqbal Library, Srinagar 1000 Mss
Bhasha Bhavan, Patiala 600 Mss
Central Library, Patiala 4000 Mss
Personal collection of Preetam Singh, Patiala 1500 Mss.
Gurukul, Jajjar 800 Mss
Kurukshertra University 10000 Mss
Majuli, Assam 3500 Mss
Maulana Azad Library, Aligarh 9000 Mss
The Mission has further established Field Laboratories at Leh and at Guwahati in collaboration with NRLC, Lucknow. It was decided that rather than invest in new institutions and infrastructure, the Mission may operate out of its own affiliate centres like MRC-s and MCC-s for this purpose. In Leh, the Centre for Buddhist Studies is acting as the host institution, while in Guwahati, the Sankara Deva Kala Shetra is the host institution. Technical support is being provided by NRLC, Lucknow.