Private and institutional collections in southern West Bengal hold manuscripts and books that show the literary multilingual culture, along with runs of the newspaper Nihar, which provides valuable insights into the history and politics of the region. To allow public access and preservation, it is imperative to digitise these collections.
The manuscripts of Sanskrit and Bangla texts, as well as the printed versions of the Odia ones, are valuable resources for the study of multilingual literary cultures in medieval and early-modern South Asia, covering nine languages: Bangla, Sanskrit, Hindi, Farsi, Urdu, Arabic, Hindi, English, and Pali. Similarly, the Bangla newspaper Nihar is a key source for understanding the local dynamics of colonialism, Gandhian nationalism, and post-colonial development. The Bauddha Dharmankur Sabha collection and Sadharan Brahmo Samaj Library are of vital importance as they represent the best extant archives of two minority religions that crucially shaped modern South Asian public life: the Buddhist and the Brahmo.
Housed in decrepit buildings, the Odia books, the complete run of the newspaper Nihar, and the manuscripts of the Medinipur Sahitya Parishat are all in various stages of decay. There were no resources available for their further restoration or digitisation.
The project digitised over 300 manuscripts, 100 books and 500 periodicals from six private and public collections. Catalogues and basic equipment was given to some of the institutions to help them preserve the material, which will enable them to initiate basic programmes in the dissemination of digital knowledge at a local level.