Chennai: Indian Institute of Technology Madras has a proud heritage, stretching back to 1959, when it was founded, to 2019, the Diamond Jubilee year of its existence. The institute marled its 60 years with several achievements including getting the status of ‘Institution of Eminence’ status in addition to being ranked # 1 among Overall Institutions category in India Rankings 2019 released by National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF), Ministry of Human Resources Development, Government of India and crowned as the top innovative education institute in Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARIIA) 2019 launched by Innovation Cell of MHRD, among many others.
Showcasing the 60 years of growth that led to all these achievements, IIT Madras’ Heritage Centre launched the Official Historical Archive today (12th September 2019) and a decade-wise exhibit highlighting the Institute’s history.
Addressing the event, Prof. Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director, IIT Madras, said, “In India, we do not have the tradition of carefully archiving our history, as is done in many other countries. IIT Madras is now making a serious effort towards setting up archive for the Institute following the best practices of other universities.”
The Heritage Centre was conceived by Prof. R. Natarajan, former Director of the Institute, and supported by the next Director, Prof. MS Ananth. Planning and creation were assigned to Prof. Ajit Kumar Kolar. The Centre was inaugurated in 2006. In order to celebrate the three creators of the Heritage Centre, their portraits were unveiled on the occasion by Prof. Bhaskar Ramamurthi.
Speaking about the portraits, Prof. R. Nagarajan, Faculty In-charge, IIT Madras Heritage Centre, and Head, Department of Chemical Engineering, IIT Madras, said, “This is a proud moment for the Heritage Centre. Even as we cherish the storied history of the Institute, so must we recognise the champions of the Centre who made this celebration possible. They recognised the central role that such a Centre can play in an academic campus and gave it a life”.
The Centre plans to have thematic displays on an on-going basis. The first of these is a decade-wise walk-through of IIT Madras’ history. This exhibit was also inaugurated by the Director today.
Mr. Kumaran Sathasivam, an IIT Madras alumnus and Operation Director, IIT Madras Heritage Centre, points out, “The decadal exhibition is the most ambitious exhibition curated by the Heritage Centre to date. Visitors may expect an eclectic collection of artefacts, photographs and publications related to the heritage of IIT Madras.”
The Archive will be the official repository of all relevant documents pertaining to the organisation of IIT Madras. It will also be a potential repository for the personal papers of former IIT Madras faculty and alumni. This collection of historical records plays an important role in ensuring that institutional memory is not lost.
According to Prof. Roland Wittje, Faculty In-charge of the Archive and Associate Professor, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Madras,, “This archive will be important not only for IIT Madras but also for the history of science and technology in India and beyond.”
IIT Madras’ efforts in this realm will be led by Dr. S. Ponnarasu, who has been appointed as the Archive Project Leader. Till recently, he was affiliated with the French Institute of Pondicherry as a researcher.
In addition to the records of the central administration and the academic departments and centres, the IIT Madras Historical Archive will collect personal papers of professors and other key members at IIT Madras. This will be done in collaboration with the oral history interviews that are already conducted by the Heritage Centre. Archival material of the departments and centres, oral history interviews and personal papers will be complementary to the archival records of the central administration. Together, administrative records, department records, oral histories and personal papers will facilitate a comprehensive history of science and technology as well as an institutional history of IIT Madras.
IIT Madras was founded with the assistance of the Federal Republic of Germany. As a result, German archives hold large amounts of archival material related to the establishment of IIT Madras and the different stages of the Indo-German collaboration. These include the German Federal Archives in Koblenz, the Archive of the Foreign Office in Berlin and the university archives of the mentor universities, the technical universities of Aachen, Berlin, Brunswig and Stuttgart. The archive documents in Germany will complement the documents in the Historical Archive of IIT Madras.