Gandhi memorabilia get new life in Lucknow

As Vijay Mallya prepares to bring home the Mahatma’s belongings auctioned in the US last week,the Indian Conservation Institute in Lucknow is busy giving a ‘new life’ to other Gandhi memorabilia.....

Written by Mohd Arshi Rafique | Lucknow | Published: March 11, 2009 12:25 am

As Vijay Mallya prepares to bring home the Mahatma’s belongings auctioned in the US last week,the Indian Conservation Institute in Lucknow is busy giving a ‘new life’ to other Gandhi memorabilia.

Articles related to or used by Gandhi,as many as 174 of them,are being given a facelift by conservators at the ICI. “We are through with giving a new life to a rare khadi kurta and dhoti used by Gandhiji and purses and sarees used by Ba (Kasturba Gandhi),” says Mamta Mishra,director of ICA as she shows the acknowledgment draft from client Sevagram Ashram,Wardha.

“The memorabilia seem to be infused with a new life,thanks to the touch-up by the experts,” says Kanakmal Gandhi from the Wardha Ashram.

Mishra explains the process: “The objects need to be treated chemically. We remove the acidity of the chemicals acquired because of neglect and change in weather over the years. Then the needful is done without affecting any difference or damage. The process is reversible,so in case the results are not satisfactory,it can be undone.”

“In some badly damaged items,support is provided,” says Haji Sarfraz Ahmed,textile restorer,ICI.

Experts at the institute have to their credit restoration of a number of Gandhi objects. “We have treated dozens of photographs,personal letters written by Mahatma Gandhi,his bedsheet,maanpatras (letters of appreciation) given to him and the aasan used by Ba,” says Mishra as she explains why ICI Lucknow is the first and last choice of clients like Sevagram Ashram,Wardha,Sabarmati Ashram,Ahmedabad,Gandhi Museum,New Delhi among other museums across India.

The ICI is also credited with giving new life to dozens of letters personally signed by Mahatma Gandhi.

“We got them in 2006 and most of them have been handed over to Sevagram Ashram,” says Mishra. Also,rare photographs of the Mahatma with freedom fighters including Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan have been treated here. “They are now adorning the galleries of museums across the country,” says Mishra.

The centre is also working on the original copies of registers,books associated with Mahatma Gandhi,says Ahmed hoping the task ends by July.

“Papers are toughest to preserve but we have specialised in it,” he adds,showing a rare document on national education. “It was written by Zakir Husain and the foreword was by Mahatma Gandhi,” says Ahmed.

A wing of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage,the institute has the distinction of being the first specialised conservation centre in India.

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