where tomorrow’s science begins today
An Autonomous Institution, Ministry of Education, Govt. of India
Seminars and Colloquia


The archive as crucible: Pedagogy in the interplay of memory, database and narrative 
Wed, Mar 20, 2019,   04:30 PM to 05:30 PM at Seminar Room 34, 2nd Floor, Main Building

Dr. Venkat Srinivasan
Visiting researcher and archivist at NCBS


Archives enable diverse stories. This aim shapes the purpose of an archive and what environments it could nourish in the future. And it serves as our beacon for most steps in the life cycle of a historical record – from sourcing material to making sense of it, and then in making it visible to the public. This talk will review the place of the archive in the age of Instagram and the unique opportunity that is in each of our hands as custodians of personal and professional histories.


The talk will use material from the Archives at the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), a new public collecting centre for the history of contemporary biology in India that opened in February 2019 (http://archives.ncbs.res.in/). We hope that a living, breathing archive can bridge the gaps between four silos: the scientists, historians of science, storytellers for a non academic audience, and the public.


At the heart of an archive – both for the archivist and for the user – is an attempt to find meaning in the data stream. This data can arrive at the archive in various containers: a custom-built lab contraption, a four-hour-long audio interview, an annotated album of photographs. Within each object lie many stories waiting to be interpreted, each a reflection of the interpreter. We will try and unpack this idea.


For the archives to be continuously relevant, it also has to listen to and speak to those who will be custodians in the next generation. So, during the setup starting in August 2018, the Archives decided to involve students at an early stage. We positioned the archives as an ecosystem for learning for students across disciplines. In the first year of this experiment, the Archives has been host to over 30 students from across India and from various disciplines: physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, education, history, art, design, journalism, communication, sociology, and law. They all work independently or with each other and develop projects around their specific interests.


The talk will also briefly allude to a couple of other collaborative projects the Archives is undertaking over the coming three years: an open source storytelling and annotation template as an additional layer to the Archives digital portal, and the development of a global interconnected digital archive of science through standards across archival material.