The Archives at NCBS (https://archives.ncbs.res.in/) is a public collecting centre for the history of science in contemporary India. Over 150,000 processed objects across 24 collections are in various forms, ranging from paper-based manuscripts to negatives to photographs, books, fine art, audio recordings, scientific equipment, letters, and field and lab notes. The 2000-square-feet state-of-the-art physical centre at NCBS includes space for research, processing, exhibitions, recording, and a leading-edge storage facility with monitors for temperature, light, humidity, air quality, water, fire, pests, and noise. In addition to the collections visible on the website such as the Ravi Sankaran Papers and Obaid Siddiqi Papers, we hold other valuable material like the papers of TSG Sastry, a physicist who worked on the Thumba rocket programme, Leslie Coleman, an early 20th century agricultural scientist in Mysore state, and the renowned agricultural scientist, MS Swaminathan. We are also leading efforts in developing legal and ethical standards, and digital annotation tools for archival material. A full range of activities undertaken by the archives is in the annual report, https://www.ncbs.res.in/annual-report.

The Archives has one underlying philosophy—of enabling diverse stories—and operates on four broad verticals. One is to strengthen research collections and access in the history of science in contemporary India. The second is to push the frontiers of research in archival sciences in India, forging intersections with scholarship in law, ethics, information theory and the semantic web, for instance. This is also done through collaborations with other archival bodies across the world, including the International Council on Archives, and the SNAC Cooperative (Social Networks and Archival Context. 

Besides these dual roles, the Archives at NCBS seeks to collaborate with a variety of individuals in rethinking archives as vibrant public spaces, as sites of education and critical inquiry. This is the third vertical, anchored by building capacity and public awareness through education, training and programming, from high school to professional practice. The Archives at NCBS has an active internship programme. Over the past five years, it has trained over 60 students from across the country, from high school students to postdoctoral researchers, and from over a dozen disciplines. 

All of this leads to its fourth and most critical effort: to reimagine the archives as part of the commons through vibrant public engagement. The Archives at NCBS is a founding member of Milli, a new collective of individuals and communities dedicated to the nurturing of archives, and to help the public find, describe and share archival material and stories (https://www.milli.link). One of the upcoming projects will link archival material and individual’s private papers and collections and make it available through a digital platform to historians, journalists, scientific researchers and the general public.

The Archives is governed by a guiding Archives Policy, an internal Archives Review Committee, and an external review board. The Archives adheres to the philosophy of archiving and the policies laid by the International Council on Archives (ICA) in the Universal Declaration on Archives (2011), the Code of Ethics (1996) and the Principles of Access to Archives (2012).

The Archives team can be reached at archives@ncbs.res.in.

September 2022