Updated: July 4, 2021 4:15:37 am
While the main building of the National Archives of India (NAI) is a heritage building and will not be demolished, the annexe will make way for a new building as part of the Central Vista project — a bigger one than the present one, to be built on a vacant plot close to the NAI on Janpath, according to officials.
The present NAI annexe “has not been built keeping international best practices in mind”, an official in the Ministry of Culture told The Sunday Express.
“There are seepage issues; the water outlet and basement has some problems. There is no conference facility or reading rooms; library and collection facilities are also inadequate,” the official said.
The new building, a source said, “will be bigger than the present annexe building and will be built on a plot on Janpath, contiguous to the main NAI building. More collections will be added in the next 50 years. The new building will be built keeping in mind present and future requirements, besides adequate facilities for security, conservation, restoration, digitisation and fumigation.”
On the deadline, the ministry official said, “The present annexe building will be razed only when the new building has been built and all material safely housed in it. This may take three to four years, depending on several factors, since the Central Vista project is being executed in phases.”
Last month, more than a hundred historians from across India and abroad had written to Chandan Sinha, Director-General, NAI, with concerns about the planned redevelopment of the Archives under the Central Vista project. They had sought transparency on how documents in the annexe will be preserved during the transition period.
In the letter, they had also asked how the proposed changes will affect historical research, since the Archives’ redevelopment is estimated to finish in 2024 — or even 2026.
According to sources in the Culture Ministry, some rearrangements are likely to be made inside the main heritage building as well. The ASI library housed on the top floor has been shifted out, while administration and officials occupy most of the building. The upper floor can be put to adaptive reuse for important exhibitions from time to time, they said.
On concerns whether all material in NAI collection will be available for scholars and researchers in the new building, an NAI official said, “We put important documents on display as part of exhibitions during landmark events. For instance, extensive exhibitions on the Indian National Army, the Champaran Satyagraha and 1942 movement were held in the recent past. There is also a way to request for specific documents digitally. So nothing will be amiss.”
The significance of NAI
The National Archives of India is the custodian of government records. Established on March 11, 1891 in Kolkata (then Calcutta) as the Imperial Record Department, it is the biggest archival repository in South Asia. It has a vast corpus of records — public records, private papers, oriental records, cartographic records and microfilms — that constitute invaluable source of information for scholars, administrators and users of archives.
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