The Archival Book as an Experimental Dialogue in Public History

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Indira Chowdhury


This article argues for a new genre of book making which I call an archival book that is created to present archival material to the public. The book discussed here was published as a commemorative volume in 2010, soon after the centenary of the Indian physicist, Homi Bhabha. The archival book described here attempted to move away from the celebratory coffee table format and focused instead on the archives of the scientist. The article tries to define the key characteristics of the archival book that is meant for the public and not exclusively for a scholarly community and the challenges of presenting archival material in this form. Finally, the article focuses the inter-disciplinary nature of the archival book-making project and the collaborative way in which the writers and designer can work together in order to make the archives accessible, especially in countries where archives remain inaccessible to the general public.

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Author Biography

Indira Chowdhury, Centre for Public History, Srishti-Manipal Institute

Indira Chowdhury is a Scholar-in-Residence at the Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology in Bangalore, where she started the Center for Public History. She has a Ph.D. in History from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. Formerly a Professor of English at Jadavpur University, Kolkata, Dr. Chowdhury’s academic interests have included history, women’s studies, science history, cultural studies, translation, and lexicography.