A sixteenth century Bombay map,a rare Latin travelogue published in 1490,the first Marathi to English dictionary published in the 17th century by William Cavey and many such ancient manuscripts housed in the 130-year-old University of Mumbai library at the Fort campus will now be available in digital formats to students and researchers.
The university has recently taken up an ambitious project to convert around 300 important manuscripts in the library into DVD formats to enhance the life of the rare works. The manuscripts that were hitherto frayed and infested with insects will thereafter be available at the click of a button.
The project,called the Comprehensive Presevation Programme,has got a funding of Rs 25 lakhs from Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). The restoration work is being done by Mumbai-based Sarvottam Infotech which has set up a full-fledged preservation lab in the library.
While the university undertakes restoration of books from time to time,the amount set aside for this purpose has been less and it took a lot of time. We were on the lookout for a better technique. Then I came across the work Sarvottam had done for an educational institution using the Japanese tissue lamination and decided to approach it for the manuscripts in our library, said Tilaka Joseph,librarian and in charge of the preservation project. Accordingly,the company presented a demonstration of its restoration work.
However,to carry out the work on a larger scale,the university required persons who specialised in this work. So,Sarvottam employed artisans from Nainital,and at present,around 12 artisans including eight from Nainital are working on the project. Till now,restoration of as many as 100 books has been completed.
Joseph said that they did not plan to restore all the 4 lakh books in the Fort campus library and only important manuscripts (about 300) would be laminated by this procedure. Dr Amol Divkar,director,Sarvottam Infotech said that the selection of manuscripts has been done on the basis of damage and rarity. The lifetime of manuscripts is expected to increase by 100-150 years,Joesph said.