Conserving a glimpse of State’s political history

Nearly 3,000 cartographs in the possession of Archives dept. to be digitised by Keralam Museum

Thiruvananthapuram Much before GIS, cartographic maps were what aided navigation and demarcated boundaries. In a first in the State, nearly 3,000 cartographs in the possession of the Archives Department are set to be scientifically conserved and digitised by Keralam Museum, the nodal agency of all museums in the State.

The maps — handwritten, litho maps, boundary maps, railway, forest, and postal maps and of different sizes and materials – go as far back as the 19th century, and a comprehensive conservation is being taken up as part of a ₹69-lakh pilot project, says Archives Director J. Reji Kumar.

Some of the oldest are Travancore British boundary maps that demarcate Travancore from areas governed by the British such as parts of Madurai district, maps of Travancore and Cochin and their boundaries, and a foldable Malabar district map that was used by survey officials and others on tours.

A huge collection of railway maps, including that of the entire Indian Railways; maps depicting railway stations along various lines; and a sketch of the Thampanoor railway station and the Central station building are also among the records. Postal maps earmarking locations of post offices in erstwhile Travancore, district maps with boundaries, and village maps are also available.

Some of the maps are made of paper, others of cloth. Some are made of heterogenous materials, such as paper maps reinforced by cloth. Some of them are huge and can be folded into book-size for convenience.

Exclusive for maps

This is the first time that a conservation scheme is being prepared by the Archives Department for maps alone. The attempt is to conserve maximum maps this financial year, though the project is expected to be an ongoing one.

The conservation will be taken up by experienced local talent under the supervision of the department’s conservators after adequate capacity building. Depending on the material used for the map, problems will be identified. For instance, acidification in the case of a paper map. To neutralise it, deacidification is done and if the paper is torn or crumbling, support by means of archiving principles will be given. The maps will then be stored flat in pouches inside archival drawers to reduce atmospheric exposure to the maximum extent possible.

Mr. Reji Kumar says that after the Survey Department, the Archives Department has the largest collection of maps. Though geographical representations, they also provide a glimpse of the State’s political history. Once conserved and digitised, these will be of immense benefit to research scholars and those keen on cartography.

Minister for Museums Kadannappally Ramachandran will inaugurate the conservation and digitisation of the cartographic maps at a function in Vyloppilly Samskrithi Bhavan at 2 p.m. on Wednesday.

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