Around 60 students from schools all over Kerala assembled at the Kanakakkunnu palace on Tuesday morning. Their serious demeanour makes one assume that the kids are well aware of the gravity of the cause of which they are stakeholders. The students and teachers are members of the Heritage Clubs in their respective schools and will be in the capital city to attend a three-day workshop on improving the functioning of the clubs. The workshop, jointly organized by the Culture Department and State Archives Department, is expected to go a long way in furthering the cause of preserving the heritage of the state. Culture minister K C Joseph inaugurated the workshop on Tuesday morning.
Ramachandran Nair, former head of Department of History, Sree Sankaracharya University, spoke to the gathering in the introductory session. The one-hour session was a foreword to the three-day workshop in which he summed up a number of points that the students could later take up with the experts. He began the talk with a brief summary on the three wide categories that constitute documentary heritage – antique/monuments, heritage and legacy. He also said that archives the world over are maintained both by private individuals as well as governments.
“There is a wide spread assumption that archives are of no importance in daily life and contemporary society. However, this is a misconception. While knowing the past is an important aspect of living a fuller life as a human being, its relevance can never be underestimated,” he said.
Citing the example of Mullapperiyar Dam dispute to illustrate the point, he said, “It is on the basis of century-old documents that a case is built by both the states staking claim to the water. The Archives department has preserved documents which have helped us substantiate our claims.”
Documented heritage thus serves more purpose than helping the writing of history. “As it is often said, it is always in the interest of the posterity that heritage is preserved. It is rightly called the collective memory of human race.”
He urged students to start a register of heritage documents in line with UNESCO’s Memory of the World project. The international initiative aims at safeguarding the documentary heritage of humanity through efforts at the regional, national and international levels. “As members of the heritage club, you should strive to raise the awareness among the public about preserving archival holdings - both library collections and individual possessions. It also includes the upkeep of monuments and heritage sites,” he said.
S Raimon, Executive Director, State Heritage Museum, also spoke in the forenoon session. Students were enouraged to interact with the speakers and raise doubts. The three-day workshop will conclude on Thursday.