The South Asian Studies Council Lecture Series presents:
Venkat Srinivasan, Researcher & archivist, National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore, India: “Archives as Interpretation”.
At the heart of an archive – both for the archivist and for the user – is an attempt to find meaning in the data stream. This data can arrive at the archive in various containers: a custom-built lab contraption, a four-hour-long audio interview, an annotated album of photographs. Within each object lie many stories waiting to be interpreted, each a reflection of the interpreter. We will try and unpack this idea.
The Archives at NCBS is a new space for the history of contemporary biology in India (http://archives.ncbs.res.in/). Archives enable diverse stories. This aim shapes the purpose of an archive and what environments it could nourish in the future. We have three main objectives going forward: continuing to build up the archive as a space to strengthen the commons, a focus on education through archival material, and to build a broader consortium of science archives with a discovery layer for the public to find, describe and share archival material and stories. The talk will focus on this last point.
Digital archives afford us the ability to see connections between memory, database, and the narrative. Over the coming three years, the Archives at NCBS is undertaking two collaborative projects: an open-source storytelling and annotation template as an additional layer to the Archives digital portal, and the development of a global interconnected digital archive of science. By building such an ecosystem, we also hope to bridge the gaps between four existing communities: the scientists, historians of science, storytellers for a non-academic audience, and the public.
We built a pilot project on multiples ways to reflect upon and assemble the history of NCBS (http://stories.archives.ncbs.res.in/exhibit/13ways/). In the next phase, we are collaborating with the Science History Institute on a layered story around the history of smell using a similar framework, but with more complexity and linkages between physical and digital narrations. We see these as steps toward a consortium of interconnected science archives with three meshed spaces: discovery (a catalog of catalogs), interpretation (annotation tools), and narrative (storytelling widgets).