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Keep history on palm leaf alive
- Conservators learn to preserve manuscripts at two-week workshop
(From top) The old palm leaf manuscripts on display, students participate in the national workshop on the preservation of the palm leaf. Pictures by Ashwinee Pati

Bhubaneswar, Nov. 23: A group of conservators from all over the country is here in the capital to attend a two-week long training programme on the latest techniques of preserving palm leaf manuscripts.

The programme is going on at the Indian National Trust For Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach) Indian Conservation Institute (ICI) Orissa centre at the state museum in the city.

Professionals from museums, libraries and archives of Tripura, Manipur, Calcutta, Chennai, Bangalore, Tirupati and Orissa are attending the training programme on curative conservation of palm leaf as well as paper manuscripts.

“The deterioration of palm leaf and paper manuscripts occurs due to effects of light, temperature, insects, fungus, improper storage, inappropriate transportation and lack of overall maintenance,” said project co-ordinator Mallika Mitra, the chief conservator of Intach, Bhubaneswar.

The course focuses on scientific as well as indigenous methods of curative conservation of the manuscripts. “The preservation is done both technically and chemically.

There’s only one kind of technique they react to and it is a dedicated procedure,” added Mitra.

The deteriorated palm leaves should be kept away from those already preserved. The manuscript’s condition is to be documented by tracing paper and then repaired, filled and reintegrated, said another instructor.

Apart from regular exposure of morning sunlight to the manuscripts, they need to be kept in a well-ventilated place. The palm leaf manuscripts should be treated with dried neem leaves, mixture of sweet flag, black cumin seeds and rest. Paper on the other hand is even more fragile and these manuscripts are taken care chemically at the conservation laboratories, said the resource persons at the course.

The conservators are also being taught with practical sessions wherein they themselves preserve a number of manuscripts during the course to pick up the latest techniques of preservation.

“In our library we have over 45,000 manuscripts most of which need urgent attention. This theory cum practical course is very important for learning the art of conservation,” said a conservator from the manuscripts library of the Venkateswara University Oriental Research Institute, Tirupati, and Andhra Pradesh. “The theory classes followed by practical sessions are immensely helpful for us to learn the technique to preserve both the illustrated as well as non-illustrated manuscripts found in various regions of the country,” said Elina Mishra another trainee and a research scholar from the Utkal University of Culture.

Organised by the National Mission for Manuscripts, Government of India and INTACH-ICI, the training will continue till December 7.

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