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Paper No: 2006/4 - Institutional History, Collective Memory and the Institutional Archives

Institutional History, Collective Memory and the Institutional  Archives


Indira Chowdhury


The relationship between institutional history, collective memory and an institutional archives is not a self-evident one. Their dependence on institutional funding make archived particularly vulnerable to portraying a narcissistic image of the institution they are a part of Science institutions in India face special problems in this regard on account of nascent ‘presentism’ and the ‘temple of science’ paradigm. The inclusion of oral histories to tap into the collective memory of institutional life, the building of collaborative research networks with disciplines like science studies and the creation of outreach and dissemination programmes in the form of exhibitions and publications might enable archives to overcome demands to display official, narcissistic self-portrayals. A case-study of the setting up of the Archives of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai reveals the challenges in setting up institutional archives. The shortcomings of the ‘project-based’ approach in setting up institutional archives are discussed, especially with regard to the problems of integration and ‘parallel archiving’ practices. Legal and copyright issues are also discussed.

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