One of the specificities of the DATAH project is that the documents we are seeking to digitize are scattered in the homes of Tamil villagers, especially the descendants of traditional power holders, who are unaware of the importance such documents can have for understanding social history. Though unaware of the scholarly value, the document holders are not prepared to part with their forefathers’ documents, such as depositing them in the local archives- as was recently demonstrated by the failure of the Madurai District Archives and Historical Records office to collect such documents despite repeated appeals to the public. Furthermore, the local archives do not have the means to carry out fieldwork and will not pursue digital preservation of documents that are not destined to be in their keep. The archive we are proposing to constitute will open a new avenue of analysis at the level of micro-history of rural India, a field for which there is a lack of research material since the colonial Revenue Records as well as the “Village Notes” of the Settlement Surveys do not contain the types of documents we are proposing to digitize.
This project brings was carried out in three phases funded by the Endangered Archives Programme and hosted by the French Institute of Pondicherry.