There are a number of perspectives and interpretations on the histories of the Subcontinent. The various archives found in different parts of the Subcontinent serve as important means of understanding and appreciating regional history. Archives Southasia emerged from Hri’s commitment to highlighting the importance of archiving and garnering greater recognition of the individual archives.
Even as the importance of historical and social archiving is beginning to be recognised in Southasia today, it would be fair to say that the immense importance of archives for the overall advancement of society is not recognised. Moreover, the resources set aside to undertake this important activity of collecting and cataloguing documentation are largely limited to government-run national or state archives, the running of which is ‘politicised’ across the region. Meanwhile, historical records at the district level or lower, whether governmental or private are almost wholly neglected.
To bring these crucial stores of historical information to the fore, we are working on connecting a number of private collections across the region. The purpose of bringing these archives together is manifold. To begin with, none of these scattered private collections have any link with each other today. The direct consequence of this isolation is the fact that all the source material remains underutilised, if at all used. The link between the archives will also create spaces for cross-border fellowships of archivists, among other exchanges, to take place, thus recreating the past social, academic and economic exchanges that took place in the region in the past.
As a first step, we began listing the various private archives and collections of Southasia, listed in the Archives Southasia Database on its website; this is an on-going process aimed at being a useful service, especially for research in Southasia. Hri also organised the first-ever meeting of archivists from across the region, which acted as a unique platform to work toward ensuring that archives do not become morgues. Archivists, scholars and collectors from Bangalore, Chennai, Dhaka, Ernakulum, Kathmandu, Kolkata, Lahore,Mumbai, New Delhi and Yangon, shared experiences and valuable insights on the possibilities of making archives dynamic spaces to not only re-look at history, but redefine it.
Inspired by the rich diversity and depth of experience and knowledge in the group, we hope to continue the work and facilitate more exchanges in the future.
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