The digital archives of the Urban History Documentation Archives of the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences available for open access:
Most of the printed documents archived by the CSSSC are available online for unrestricted access in collaboration with University of Heidelberg,
The Endangered Archives Programme of the British Library and the Center for Research Libraries. The process of uploading of rest of the content
is moving ahead and they will be available either on CrossAsia
on Endangered Archives Programme server
Early Bengali Periodicals on CrossAsia Digital Collection of the University of Heidelberg.
Early Assamese Periodicals on CrossAsia Digital Collection of the University of Heidelberg.
Early Bengali books on CrossAsia Digital Collection of the University of Heidelberg.
English language books from British India.
Manuscripts, official records, books and journals in Eastern Indian languages digitised from public libraries in remote areas in West Bengal and available from the server of the Endangered Archives Programme:
a) Project description.
b) Full text archive.
Bengali books digitised from public libraries in remote areas in West Bengal and available from the server of the Endangered Archives Programme:
a) Project description.
b) Full text archive.
Online archive of Amrita Bazar Patrika (1870 to 1949) on Endangered Archives programme server:
a) Project Description.
b) Full text archive.
The Project EAP341 has been nominated for World Summit for Information Society Award 2015
Searchable database of Amrita Bazar Patrika on World Newspaper Archives
in collaboration with Center for Research Libraries (Available only against subscription).
In the year 1993 the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences initiated a programme to
preserve primary source documents on the social and cultural history of modern
Bengal. This was part of a collaborative project on between Roskilde University
Centre, Denmark, Centre for Basic Research, Uganda and the CSSSC with financial
assistance through the ENRECA programme of DANIDA. The task of preservation began
with microfilming rare Bangla periodicals of the 19th and early
20th centuries from the holdings of the library of the Bangiya Sahitya
Parishat, the hundred–year–old public institution of letters. This
priceless collection of old periodicals and books was fast becoming unusable through
the lack of preservation. From 1994 the Centre collaborated with the Parishat in
archiving a selection of periodicals in microform. This was the core of the
collection of non–conventional historical sources that is named after
Hitesranjan Sanyal, who, until his sudden death in 1988, was at the forefront of the
Centre’s researchers on the social and cultural history of Bengal.
Moving on from the preservation programme of 1993, the archive has become the focus
of many major academic activities at the Centre including research, publications and
exhibitions. The archive is mainly dependent on grants from different projects.
Besides DANIDA the archive has received financial support from the Asia Centre of
the Japan Foundation, and two consecutive small grants from the India Foundation for
the Arts of Bangalore to develop the visual archive and to carry on research and
documentation on the history of advertisements in Bengal. The collection now
contains, in addition to 19th and early 20th century
periodicals and books in microform, images from early popular culture to the
paintings of the modern Bengal school, family, studio, amateur and professional
photographers’ work in transparencies, textual and visual documents relating
to commodity culture and advertisement in Bengal and private papers and personal
collections gifted to the archive.
Textual Documents in Microform:
The microform collection at the archive has now reached a total of 577 original
negative microfilm rolls 100ft./35mm
of about 820,000 pages of Bangla periodicals and books, including major Bangla
periodicals on science, society, literature and regional history. Most of the
periodicals on microfilm are from the collections of the Bangiya Sahitya Parishat,
the Konnagar Public Library (estd. 1854, Konnagar, Hooghly), the Mohiary Public
Library (estd. 1886; Andul–Mouri, Howrah) and a few private collections. We
also acquired about 300 early textbooks published by Fort William College, Srirampur
Baptist Mission, School Book Society and other institutes of learning in colonial
Bengal and a few volumes of periodicals form the private collections of Indranath
Majumder, Uttara Chakrabarti and Amit Ranjan Basu.
With microfilming we also began digitising documents belonging to one of our
collaborators, the Roja Mutthiah Research Library of Chennai, to facilitate easier
access, wider dissemination and better preservation of the master–negatives.
As we microfilmed Bengali printed texts, primarily periodicals from the
to the first decades of the 20th
became interested in 1996 in accessing a parallel body of pictorial and photographic
genres from the
same region and period and developing the collection as an adjunct to the microfilm
archive. It is as a composite collection of texts and images that the archive today
seeks to conserve and create a new repository of sources on the cultural history of
Our prime interest lies in recovering this visual material not merely as
‘art’ but also as ingredients of social and cultural history. Thus,
works of both ‘elite’ and ‘bazaar’ painters have been
documented with equal emphasis, as have visuals of varying and uneven aesthetic
merit alongside canonical works. Popular paintings and prints, new varieties of
religious and mythological imagery, journal illustrations and cover designs,
commercial art–work and advertisements in the middle–class press, early
studio and family photographs, as well as ‘high’ art — all this
material has been sought out from different private Collections in Calcutta and
brought together in the archive through a collection of
transparencies and negatives. The visual archive consists now of nearly 14,000
images, covering a variety of paintings, prints, illustrations, advertisements,
commercial design and photographs, produced by local artists and photographers of
Bengal over a period stretching from the 1840s to the 1990s.
The main sources for the visual archive have been private and family collections in
Calcutta. An extraordinary and eclectic range of imagery from the period exists in
the city outside institutional sites in these little–known individual
holdings, for which we have no records, lists or inventories. The CSSSC’s
archive project was propelled by the urgent need for the collation and documentation
of this material, to put together a visual record of a lost world of images out of
fragments that lie dispersed in many hands. Where commercial art or family
photographs are concerned, we are dealing with items that have hardly been
considered collectible and have survived largely by accident as family or
institutional memorabilia. The CSSSC’s archive has made it a point to bring
into its scope such under–valued ephemeral imagery alongside the more well
known genres of paintings and photographs.
The core of the collection in 1996 came from our initiative to preserve early
popular visual cultural components in Bengal, so the archive first copied the
legendary collection of Radha Prasad Gupta from which it acquired about 200
century Battala prints, Kalighat patas, European
lithographers’ work and many more. We also accessed early oil paintings and
academic works of art from the private collections of Nandalal Kanoria, P.C.
Art Gallery and many others who generously opened their collections to us. To
preserve some examples of the work at the Government College of Art and Craft from
its inception till the early 20th
century the archive copied a number of
paintings and prints from an exhibition of ex–teachers’ and
students’ work, titled Legacy. During the period when Amitabha (better known
as Siddhartha) Ghosh, a well–known historian of technology, was attached to
the Centre we were able to frame our approach to photographic documentation and to
access many collections. We began with family photographs from Siddhartha Ghosh,
then those from the collections of Sevati Mitra, Debasis Bose and others.
Barun De gifted about 2000 original photographs from his family album. We also
documented photographs taken by Parimal Goswami from the private collection of
Himanish Goswami, and many by Kamakshi Prasad Chattopadhya, and by Ahmed Ali, a
renowned Calcutta–based professional who captured several important moments in
the development of the Calcutta metropolis through his lenses. Another significant
collection of over 2000 photographs is of Bengal temples taken by Hitesranjan Sanyal
and David McCutchion, which was gifted to the archive by Manaswita Sanyal and proved
a valuable primary source for scholars working on temple architecture or the history
of architecture in general.
History of Advertisement in Bengal:
The ongoing documentation of Bangla advertisements from 1800–1950 began with
support from IFA, Bangalore. So far the archive has acquired copies of many early
century Bangla advertisements samples of posters, handbills and
labels of various consumer products, advertisements published in periodicals and
journals etc. Some significant additions to the collection are the digitally
retrieved and stored sketches of Kafi Khan, early Bangla
Cinema promotional pamphlets in their original form from the private collections of Gautam
Bhadra and Prabir Mukhopadhyay, and copies of all major gramophone company promotional
literature of 1930s, 40s and 50s from the collection of Barada Gupta.
After the IFA project was completed we got another grant from SEPHIS to carry on the
work of documentation for a further two years starting from December 2002. In this
second phase the archive is documenting an interesting collection of old billboards
from Parimal Ray, a huge range of film–posters, match–box labels, book
covers and other publicity material.
Private Papers and Special Collections:
Some private papers have recently found accommodation in the archives. Though we are
interested in acquiring such collections and some potential donors are also keen to
house their collections at the archive for better maintenance and access, lack of
adequate infrastructure and space limits our ability to take them in. The archive
has housed only a few such sources. The private papers and correspondences of
Shivnath Shastri, Bijaychandra Majumder, Priyanath Bhattacharya, Madhusudan Rao,
Hemlata Sarkar and their extended families have been acquired from Sevati Mitra. We
also have some early 20th century history textbooks, some rare books on regional
history, and the private papers of the historian Jadunath Sarkar from his family
with a great deal of personal and business correspondence. An interesting collection
of rare fiction for children from the 1930s and 40s has been acquired from Prof.
Arun Dasgupta. The private papers have been classified and sorted and are awaiting
final documentation and publication of the catalogues. The special collections will
be housed in the new Resource Centre, from where scholars can access them in the
Documentation and Dissemination:
The Centre has undertaken a systematic publication programme of writings in old
Bengali periodicals from the archival holdings, under the series title Samayiki. The
first volume in the series, Bijnan o Samaj (edited by Pradip Kumar Bose and
published by Ananda Publishers, Calcutta in 1998), has been published; work on two
other volumes titled Griha o Paribar and Prajukti o Bijnan is in progress, and an
English translation of the first volume is
awaiting publication. A descriptive catalogue of the periodical holding at the
archive acquired till 1998, A Guide to the Hitesranjan Sanyal Memorial Collection,
compiled by Abhijit Bhattacharya and published by the Centre in 1998 is one primary
entry point to the textual collection at the archive.
Work on an updated edition of the same is in progress. The earlier guide is
available in PDF format To access the complete guide please follow the
. To see the index of
Bangla periodicals at the archive of the Centre please follow the
. For wider
dissemination the archive organised an exhibition of a selection of visual materials
from the archive, Visual Worlds of Modern Bengal
in collaboration with
Seagull Media Resource Centre at the latter’s gallery from 1 March to 3 April
2002. An introduction to the visual documents at the Centre’s archive was
published on that occasion. The illustrated book authored by Tapati
Guha–Thakurta and published jointly by the Centre and the Seagull Books in
2002 titled Visual Worlds of Modern Bengal: An Introduction to the Pictorial and
Photographic Material in the Documentation Archive of the CSSSC.
At present the archive is in the process of preparation of a searchable electronic
database of all the archival documents and expected to be completed by next year. On
completion the database will be added to the online public access catalogue system.
Terms of setting a collaborative programme for wider access is in progress with
for South Asia Libraries
, Columbia University and University of Chicago for
preparation of a comprehensive database of available vernacular literatures from
West Bengal and Bangladesh.
Exhibition of Visual Materials from the holding of the archive of the Centre, March
1 – April 3, 2002:
VISUAL WORLDS OF MODERN BENGAL: SELECTIONS FROM THE DOCUMENTATION ARCHIVE OF THE
Part I: Paintings, Prints and Commercial Art (March 1–16)
Part II: Photographs (March 19–April 3)
The Centre curated this exhibition of selected materials from the visual archive in
March – April 2002, and also published an introduction to the pictorial and
photographic materials at the archive by Tapati Guha–Thakurta jointly with
Seagull Books (Visual Worlds of Modern Bengal: An Introduction to the Pictorial and
Photographic Materials in the Documentation Archive of the CSSSC, 2002). The
exhibition was held at the gallery of the Seagull Arts and Media Resource Centre,
36 C, S.P.Mukherjee Road, Calcutta – 700025. The exhibition and the book were
funded by the Asia Centre of the Japan Foundation and the ENRECA programme of
The exhibition placed on display a selection from the diverse material documented in
the visual archive of the CSSSC. The extensive and wide range of images necessitated
the division of the exhibition into two parts, each containing between 90 and 100
exhibits, each covering broadly the same timeframe. Together the two parts of the
exhibition were able to feature nearly 250 of the items in the CSSSC’s visual
Part I of the exhibition was devoted to non–photographic pictorial and print
genres covering the period from the mid 19th
century to the mid
century. It was divided into the following main themes:
The Changing Art of the “Black Town”
Kalighat paintings and Bat–tala prints
Lithography, oleography and the new print culture
Mythological oil paintings
Academic Training and the New Commercial Art
The Government School of Art
Illustrations and journal reproductions
Advertisements, cinema and gramophone booklets, and the rise of commercial design
Modern Art in Bengal
Works of a selection of modern Bengali artists, running from the early academic
phase through the nationalist movement of the early 20th
century into the
various modernist trends of the 1940s and 50s.
Part II of the exhibition was devoted entirely to photographs from the archive,
covering the period from the late 19th
century into the 1970s. Here, the
exhibits were categorised as follows:
The early studios
Amateur and family photography in the early 20th
Professional photography and public personalities, 1940s–1960s
Images of Calcutta
The city in early colonial photography
The city in the mid and later 20th
Industrial Photography, 1940s–1960s
Advertisement and Commercial Photography, 1940s–1960s
Studies of the temples of Orissa and Bengal, 1960s
Profiles of Pioneering Amateurs and Professionals
As a parallel to the display of a selection of modern Bengali artists, this section
featured the works of some of the region’s most talented photographers,
ranging from the works of the self–trained Maharaja Birchandra of Tripura of
the 1880s and 1890s to the works of two exceptional woman photographers of Calcutta
of the 20th
century, Annapurna Datta and Debaleena Majumdar.
This exhibition was the first major publicity event organized by the Centre around
its archival project, and it proved to be tremendously successful and was
extensively reported in all the major newspapers and local television channels in
Calcutta. There were over 1500 visitors to the exhibition, which included experts,
scholars and students as well as a large popular viewership. It made the
CSSSC’s visual archive collection known to a wide section of the city’s
intellectual, art and media world. One of its great benefits have been the many
offers and inquiries that have followed from private collectors, artists and
photographers in the city who wish to make their collections available for
documentation in the CSSSC archive. The interest of students and researchers in this
material has also grown since the exhibition.