BUDHAN THEATRE GROUP ARCHIVE: ACTIVISM WITHIN THE CHHARA COMMUNITY IN AHMEDABAD
Dr Kevin Greenbank, Archivist
Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge
The archive component of The Other from Within project has as its focus the collections of the Budhan Theatre Group. The Group was formed to use theatre and dramatic performance to highlight the plight of de-notified tribes throughout India and in particular as a focus of activism within the Chhara community in Ahmedabad.
Throughout the course of its twenty-five year history, the Theatre Group has amassed a large collection of video footage of rehearsals and performances, as well as other, less formal material showing the working and social function of the Group. This footage is currently (mostly) held on the original camera DVC-Pro and DVCam tapes on which it was recorded. These are becoming obsolete (as the equipment to view them on is increasingly rare) and insecure (because the tapes are fragile and can easily be damaged simply by being watched). It is imperative that they are transferred to a more secure and easily accessible format as a matter of urgency.
The principal aim of the archive project is, therefore, to undertake a programme of training, preservation, storage and dissemination of the material in the collection to ensure that the originals are preserved and that their contents are available to artists, activists and researchers. This will be done by:
Training: the existing team of film makers and editors will be the focus of the training programme for the project. Training will be provided in cataloguing methods, as well as in the technical details of the transfer and storage of the existing footage to new formats which can be used in the online delivery of material and the storage of an archive master copy.
Transfer: the footage stored on tapes will be transferred to files held on disks which can be used for long-term archive storage.
Delivery: these files would then be copied and migrated to a new, more manageable format to allow their use on a website which will provide a permanent resource for researchers and for other artists. The material will be streamed alongside the new catalogue, making the whole collection searchable and much easier to access.
Storage: all formats of the footage will be stored in multiple copies for security. A migration protocol will ensure that they are transferred to new file formats as and when required to ensure continued access as technology changes in the future.
These aims are being met through two principal partnerships. The Centre of South Asian Studies at the University of Cambridge will undertake the training programme, as well as offering assistance and advice throughout the cataloguing and transfer stages of the project. Sahapedia, the Indian online research portal, has undertaken to stream the footage and look after the presentation of the material in terms of future migration and storage of the viewing files.
As well as the footage of performances, rehearsals and group interactions, the collection the Theatre Group holds also includes a number of interviews with leading figures from Chharanagar in Ahmedabad, detailing the long history of activism in the community. The Group’s Director has also gathered a significant library of published works and documents which are a valuable resource for research into the people of the area. The interviews will be transferred and streamed alongside the performance footage, and it is hoped that this will encourage the creation of new interview material as well. Initial discussions have led to a recognition that the collection of documents also needs to be preserved and made available for research, and we are seeking ways for this to be done in a way that will see the collections hosted within the Chharanagar district in which they belong.
Pictures courtesy: Dr Kevin Greenbank during his trip to Chharanagar, Gujarat.