The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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History hub on stock-take lap
- 52 years later, inventory of lost & found

Almost 52 years after a similar exercise was terminated midway, the Asiatic Society of Calcutta has started taking stock of the entire collection of books, manuscripts and coins belonging to this 'institute of national importance'.

This may appear to be a knee-jerk reaction to the recent theft of the Buddha statue from Indian Museum, but the authorities say it is a realistic exercise to create an inventory of the Society's treasure trove, while bringing to light the actual status of items, missing or otherwise.

And it's about time. The last such attempt was made by scholars Sukumar Sen and Nihar Ranjan Ray way back in 1952 but it was, somehow, left incomplete.

'There are around 47,000 manuscripts, of which around 40,000 are listed. The library alone boasts 1.5 lakh books. If you leave aside other items, including the gold coins, it remains extremely important for us to know whether anything is missing. As of now, we are clueless,' claims general secretary Dilip Coomar Ghose.

As a first step, the Society has started off with the physical verification of the contents of its library and plans to round it off by February. Of the 1.5-lakh-odd books, some 65,000-70,000 are hard-bound journals. The entire collection will be thoroughly cross-checked with the data stored in the computers.

As for the manuscripts, the Society plans to find out the status of the 7,000 not listed, out of its total collection of 47,000. Besides, after cross-checking the 28,000 manuscripts, the Society plans to get in touch with the National Manuscripts Mission, an initiative of the Union government's department of culture, aimed at putting together valuable manuscripts from different corners of the country.

'The physical verification and the cataloguing of the manuscripts is a herculean task that demands the involvement of experts. Hopefully, we should be able to pull it off this time,' says Subhadra Kumar Sen, the Society's treasurer.

Seventy-eight paintings will be restored and put up in a new gallery.

The Society's concern over its invaluable collection is not unfounded, for items have gone missing in the past and some have been lost without trace. Besides, allegations surface from time to time of the theft of valuable items.

The Society is going in for a hi-tech security system. Apart from installing CCTVs, computerised records of all visitors will be maintained.

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