A first-of-its-kind digital repository, which is a treasure trove of 23,000 hours of rare cultural pieces — encompassing music, dance, drama and cinema — has recently been awarded an ISO certification. The pilot project, called National Cultural Audiovisual Archive (NCAA), is a joint effort between the city-based Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) and the Indira Gandhi National Culture for Arts (IGNCA).
‘Digitalay’, a tool conceived and developed by C-DAC, was used to develop the digital repository that today includes over 9,600 audiovisual files. The invaluable pieces of music, dance and more were contributed by as many as 21 national institutions, including Kalakshetra Foundation, National Archives of India, Natya Shodh Sanstha, Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalay, Kerala Kalamandalam, Regional Resources Centre for Folk Performing Arts, Sahitya Akademi, Sangeet Natak Akademi and Shri Kashi Sangeet Samaj. By March 2018, the team aims to finish compiling and digitising 30,000 hours of cultural events.
“As technology and software are being upgraded at such a rapid pace, many digital files and documents will become obsolete soon, if not appropriately archived digitally,” said Dinesh Katre, associate director of human-centred design and computing at C-DAC, Pune. The task before the team — sourcing, reading and digitising vast amounts of audiovisual content — was not an easy one, said project director from IGNCA, Pratapanand Jha.
“Sourcing some of the rare audiovisual content, like the music compositions provided by Kashi Sangeet Samaj or interviews of key writers, has been extremely difficult, given that they are almost a 100 years old… content with no copyright restrictions was carefully sourced,” said Jha.
As they were flooded with art forms from all parts of the country, the archival team had to synchronise the content in a manner that any keyword, in any language, could be easily skimmed and recognised by the software. The team, which started working on the project in 2014, today has over 2 petabytes of audiovisual content, covering over 1,000 artistes and hundreds of Indian languages and dialects. A majority of the content was contributed by the Bhopal-based Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalay, said Jha.
In addition to the digital repository, there is a ‘back-up’ as well, as all the audiovisual content has been saved on tapes. “These tapes have been preserved at two seismically different zones, one at Delhi and another at Bengaluru, to ensure that they are permanently preserved,” said Jha. In the next phase, the project aims to digitise content upto 5 lakh hours, within the next five years.
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