Management of Text & Graphic Manuscripts

Code No:TMS169Price:Rs1500/-Category:Communication and Information


Summary  : Modern Technologies help a great deal in retrieving traditional knowledge and disseminating them. Such traditional knowledge base are imbedded in texts, manuscripts and languages. As a beginning TIFAC has conducted a very major study: `Management of Text and Graphics Manuscripts’. Mr. Vijay Bhargav has played a key role in shaping out this document for TIFAC. This special TIFAC report surveys the world wide scientific and technological knowledge available such as opto-electronic, imaging and digital technologies and provides options and directions for preserving old texts and manuscripts in electronic digital forms and making the knowledge contained in the various manuscripts widely and easily available to the users. It provides a full action plan for the country.

Year of Publication : 2001

Table Of Contents : Introduction; Management of Manuscripts in India; World Status; Technology for Document Management; Conclusions & Recommendations; Annexures: Press / Newspaper, Academic Institutions, Royal Families, State Governments, Business Associates, Artists, Preservation and Access Activities Around the Globe – A Glimpse, Standards, Bibliography, References; Tables & Charts: Inventions for Managing Information, Manuscripts Information – State Wise, Master List of Scripts & Subjects, Master List of Subjects, Likely Custodians of Intellectual Heritage, Year Wise Expenditure on Art and Culture, 8th Plan: Allocation & Expenditure and 9th Plan : Allocation, Mission Statement of the Department of Culture, Microfilm Output of National Archives of India, Condition of Documents in Asiatic Society, Classificaiton of European Countries as Per their Preservation Practices, Technologies for Document Management, Comparison of an Ordinary Camera with Flow Camera, Test Samples for Comparing Outputs from Flow Camera & Microfilm, Phases of Information Management and their Characteristics, Preservation & Access Technology Options for Image Transfer, Access Technology

tms169.jpg (28845 bytes) The Cover

Documents-large format or small size-are perishable. With the age, the text fades and the backgound color tends to become yellow. This is depicted by the question mark in the cover design.

The background of the cover, comprising the equipment for analog and digital copying, indicates the technological answer to the issue of preserving the knowledge content of such old documents

Importance of the Topic

The history of our cultural heritage may be found in manuscripts, palm leaves, tamrapatras, books and other forms of documents, and we need to preserve such documents.

Unfortunately, many such precious documents are decaying, could be found on the pavement shops or find their way to foreign countries, where people recognize their worth. Without appropriate action, this information shall continue to deteriorate, be lost forever or be patented by foreigners as has been done with neem, haldi and basmati.

In the past, the invaders destroyed such knowledge by burning and pillaging. Today, we are doing it ourselves, and perhaps more effectively, by sheer indifference and ignorance.

Urgent and concerted effort is required to conserving such documents and providing wider access to them.

Scope and Objectives of the study.

Manuscripts and other old documents, often hand written, have been conserved in the same manner as other artefacts like buildings, sculptures or paintings. These manuscripts have been packed and kept in "museum mode" (one can see them, but cannot touch them). The major difference between manuscripts and other artefacts is that other artefacts do not have such a huge quantum of information content that manuscripts do.

What is needed is information content is preserved. If information content has been extracted, then the original can be in "museum code" for long time preservation. With the technology available today, it is possible to make faithful Analog or Digital copies of the original.

In the developed world "preservation" is used along with the word "access". Access is the methodology to get the required information to those who need it in the shortest possible time. Technologies, such as the internet, CD-ROMs, powerful search software etc. are useful here.

This study is making the information contained in the various manuscripts widely and easily available to the users. The study is based on consultation of several prestigious universities in the world and other organisations and the objectives of this study were:

  • To understand the present status of management of manuscripts in India and around the world
  • To explore the technology alternatives that can help the desk of management of manuscripts
  • To suggest a structural and institutional architecture to improve the situation

Methodology Followed

For assessing the present state of management of manuscripts in India and worldwide, the following were undertaken:

  • An extensive literature search, which included Annual Reports of Department of Culture, National Archives of India, Indian Archivist and the Directory of Custodial Institutions
  • Questionnaires were sent to state Governments, Universities, Business Associations, Ex-Royal families and film personalities. The selection of the sample was based on the available administrative, academic and monetary resources
  • Discussions were held with some key people in the various Government departments and others from different sectors.

For assessing the situation extensive search was conducted on the Internet. This involved nearly 400 hrs of surfing.

Limitation if Any

The response to questionnaire was from only one state government, six universities, three royal families and one business house. Thus, the conclusion is that the Management of Manuscripts is a low priority item for Indian Educated Society.

Major Observation/Findings and Analysis Thereof

  Situation in India and the World

India has a long history and therefore the availability of manuscripts is in large numbers. Only few organisations under Central Government and some private bodies seem to be concerned about manuscripts. National Archives of India has attempted the preparation of a National/Register but validation is needed. Recently, the Department of Culture is attempting to prepare an inventory of manuscripts.

However, by and large, the effort is limited in scope, under-funded and lacks structural and institutional support.

U.S. Canada and Australia have done a great amount of work in this field. It also happens that they have relatively short history. As such, their concern is old books (printed) getting brittle and not so much the manuscripts.

Some salient features of the efforts of the other countries in managing their old intellectual heritage are as follows:

  • Private initiative has worked very well in the U.S.A. with support from universities, foundations and the U.S. congress.
  • Parliament has taken initiative in Canada
  • France has followed Canadian model
  • National Library is the lead institution in Australia
  • German universities are supporting the national effort
  • U.K. has old history and concern about conserving and preserving the manuscripts has existed since 1869, when a commission was formed
  • For many countries in Europe, the management of manuscripts is a low priority area
  • The collection of mauscripts is deteriorating in most of South East Asia


Paper has been the repository of documented knowledge for at least 15 countries. Computers show the possibility of having alternate media for storage of documented knowledge. Magnetic Tape and photographic films also have been storage media for sound and images. Technology has made it possible to transfer these non-written forms of information to computer media.

The developed world has conducted many experiments to suitably modify technology for improved involvement in this area. It has been generally agreed by experts that photographic film is the best media, at present for long time preservation. The digital technology is excellent but the fast pace of development has itself become deterrent for the purpose of long term preservation.

Filming and scanning are two important technologies for preservation & access. Microfilming is an established technology and is again importance.

Scanners are becoming cheaper and better. The invention of scanners has revolutionized the input of data to computer media. Another alternative is Digital Camera but at present, it press t, it is not suitable for documents. However, a camera, which is suitable for this purpose, could be developed soon.

Findings also reveal that ‘standards’ have not been prepared for scanning. One of the reasons is that the technology is still under development.

Important institutions like Library of Congress are working on ‘search system’ suitable for digital storage and access from anywhere by any authorised person. Many search Engines are working on the Internet. The problem appears to be that of "Excess of Information". It is forecasted that the combination of digital document, search engine and Internet will provide great facility to scholars and for growth of knowledge.

The present level of technology and its availability in India, availability of required inputs, and the necessary expertise available in India are enough to convert information on paper copy to a computer media. Academic and monetary resources are required.

There are many areas, vital for Indian economy, where, even the concept of electronic document management has yet to take root. For example, how the available technology and skills can assist in improving management decisions. Similarly, management of large format graphics, such as technical drawings, remains a neglected area in India.


The report has suggested a model, which could motivate the relevant sections of Indian society to attach more importance to the management of artefact aspect and more importantly to the knowledge content of manuscripts. A very important feature of the model is that major monetary support should come from private sponsors like business houses, religious bodies and individuals. The model suggests that the part of the work be done in universities and other research institutions.

System of sharing the benefits is recommended to be worked out amongst owner of manuscript, sponsor, and university.

The translated information in English or other modern languages will enable subject experts to get links to the knowledge of our ancestors. Translation will be one of the major activities. The Service Bureaus will be important to make Analog or Digital Copies. Even the massive job of translation could be given to specialised service bureaus. These activities could result in substantial employment.

It is expected that world would soon switch over from information age to knowledge based activities. Knowledge will become key to competitive edge and therefore survival, in this world, which is moving at ever faster pace.