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Taking Care of Manuscripts


Our ancestors have been writing on palm leaves and birch bark for thousands of years.  The practice is now restricted to ritualistic and artistic purposes.  The practice is now restricted to ritualistic and artistic purposes.  The Government of India launched a National Mission for Manuscripts (NMM) in 2002, under which a campaign to create awareness about the manuscript wealth of the nation and the urgent need to preserve them had been undertaken.

The IGNCA, as the national nodal agency for the NMM, had been conducting workshops all over the country for this purpose.  A week-long workshop was conducted on "Preventive Conservation of Manuscripts" from 1st to 7th November, 2004.  It was essentially meant for the library staff who handle these manuscripts regularly.

The participants were from various old libraries in Delhi, like Marwari Library, Mahavir Jain Library, Lal Bahadur Shastri Vidyapeeth, Jamia Milia Library, Bhogilal Leherchand Institute of Indology and Delhi Archives and from outside Delhi, Shimla Archives, Shimla Museum, SRS Library, Jammu Kashmir University and Institute of Buddhist Studies, Dharmashala.  Academic sessions were supported by demonstrations and live practicals.  There was a session on the material and technique of making of paper and palm leaf manuscripts.  This was to help understand the basic know-how of making theses manuscripts which would help in diagnosing the defect or damage.  This also would be useful in recognising the factors of deterioration.  It provides the custodians of the institutions the knowledge to detect the basic damages in their collections.  The sessions on control of light, humidity and bio-deterioration with practicals were also held.

An introduction to digitization of manuscripts was also a part of the workshop.  Making of acid free folders, boxes and other containers for storage of manuscripts were taught during the session.  Ms. Ritu Jain, Asst. Conservator, IGNCA was the Course Coordinator.  The final session was in the form of practical exercise on a collection of book in the IGNCA library, where the participants worked and learnt the basics of preventive conservation.


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