Friday, 6 August, 2021

Preserve The Archives

Nepal is an ancient civilisational state, with vibrant cultural and intellectual traditions. It takes pride in enlightenment, bravery, art, social and spiritual life, and unique festivals. The wood and bricks used in historic monuments and structures across the country tell a lot about myths, ethics, love and spiritualism of Nepali folks since time immemorial. Numerous historical documents and artefacts preserved safely in the National Archives (NA) stand as solid evidence of Nepal’s glorious past. They do not only mention the chronicles of the past rulers but also serve as the institutional memory of state and the people’s collective consciousness handed down from their ancestors. The Archives has a collection of 30,000 original scripts, 20,000 records and 8,000 Tibetan texts in addition to genuine materials in Sanskrit, Newari, Maithali, Hindi, Tibetan and Bengali languages. Its religious and philosophical books dating back to the 7th century and rare documents from around the world provide authentic sources about Nepali history and society.

Located at Ramshah Path in the capital city, the National Archives and the Department of Archaeology were reeling from uncertainty after a cabinet meeting on May 8, 2014 had decided to shift these offices to another place. The land where these buildings stand belongs to the adjacent building of the Supreme Court. The government had asked the department to vacate the office area so that the SC could use it as parking lot. This decision was tough for the authorities of both institutions- the NA and the Archaeology Department - because it was virtually impossible to relocate the old texts to the new sites. The concerned officials had warned that around 50,000 hand-written texts could be damaged if they are relocated to another archive centres. Despite the fragile condition of the ancient manuscripts, the past government took short-sighted decision to the chagrin of many culture experts and historians.

But now, this dilemma has come to an end. A cabinet meeting on June 16 decided not to move the two buildings from the present location. The present government deserves kudos for correcting the defective decision after seven years. As per the new step, the DoA will get the ownership of certificate of the current location while the SC will be compensated with an equal area of land of Cavalry Battalion. The NA officials have commended the government for showing awareness of the archives which are the big asset of nation but can be damaged if they are taken to new sites. The government has also decided to evaluate the importance of documents preserved inside the NA office. After overcoming long-running uncertainty, the NA is set to chart new plan for the enhancement and protection of the historic archives and national property. It has completed the task of scanning and preserving around 2 million digital images.

According to the news report of this daily, the ancient texts and scripts written in multiple languages depict legends, moral stories, dramas, hymns, astrology, medicine and philosophy. They inform us about our distinct identity and status in the past while giving clues of evolution of Nepali society, culture and enlightenment heritage. It is imperative for the government to allocate additional fund to digitise the texts and artefacts and preserve them more systematically and safely.