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Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Puducherry: The Department of Social Sciences of the 62-year-old French Institute of Pondicherry has set up a 'Digital Archive of Tamil Agrarian History' (DATAH).

It will present highlights of the project and hold a seminar at a three-day meet from today which will see historians, scientists and anthropologists present their personal readings of the archive.

The institute undertook the five-year project (2011-16) to set up this archive to have a glimpse of a variety of aspects of social history of village life in remote parts of Tamilnadu, a release from the institute said yesterday.

The project was funded by British Library's Endangered Archives Program (Arcadia).

Dr Ponnarasu, a researcher attached to the project, told PTI that the project was a unique experiment and a team from the Institute's Social Sciences department set up the archive.

DATAH is aimed creating a repository of documents of socio-historical relevance to historians, anthropologists, sociologists and linguists, he said.

"Most of the documents digitised during the five-year period are destined to disappear in the near future given both the very humid climate of the southern part of the country and the state of neglect in which the documents have been stored in the households," the release said.

The documents recorded on paper, palm leaves and copper plates are a treasure as they provide a rare and unique opportunity to have a peep into various aspects of social history of village life in remote parts of the Tamil region at a time when a new power structure and social identities were being forged both with and against local traditional and feudal systems and British colonial  legislations, it said.

The digitised documents were scattered in the homes of villagers, more particularly descendants of traditional power holders. They were not aware of their importance and scholarly value to understand the social history and not prepared to part with their forefathers' documents such as depositing them in local archives.

DATAH now has 82 collections comprising 5,314 digitised documents of 83,378 images, Dr Ponnarasu said. 

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