SAIIER 2016:Auroville Archives

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Oli School
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Arka
Auroville Archives


Introduction

Auroville Archives is Auroville’s memory. It is a repository of all sorts of documents which together tell Auroville’s history: Audio and video recordings, photos, all sorts of written documents (books, brochures, periodicals, reports, minutes of meetings, letters, etc.). Among its most precious documents are copies of the Mother’s messages and letters on Auroville.

Activities of the year

  • Construction of the RCC structure of the ground floor of the new Archives Building.
  • Receiving very interesting new documents from Piero (on Matrimandir), from Alain G. (Ruud’s Matrimandir Diary), from Poppo (hundreds of photos of the early days) and from others. Were also received: soft copies of books and photos from M. Theon and from P. Richard as well as a soft copy of J. Hohlenberg’s diary of his days with Mother in Paris.
  • Adding new cupboards and sorting better out all documents. Making a list of the contents of all cupboards.
  • Digitizing existing documents: scanning and labeling thousands of old photos and sorting them. Scanning hundreds of pages of reports, brochures, books, letters, etc. Digitizing old audio and video tapes so that they can be played on computers.
  • Posting serially (one posting a week) on Auronet research documents on Matrimandir’s early history (up to 1974) and Auroville’s early history (up to 1974). Such research documents are necessary for the publication/production of films and books on these topics. Many Aurovilians and friends of Auroville read these documents every week and are very interested to learn more on the intention behind this “intentional community” and how Mother went about guiding its development. This document is long overdue and should help dispel some confusion on how to proceed with Auroville.

Outcomes

Archives everywhere are here for future generations to know the history of a particular place. Interested parties are residents and others interested in this very unique experiment.

  • A new building is being built for the Archives.
  • More documents are being received and stored. More documents are being digitized.
  • The beginning of Auroville’s and Matrimandir’s history is being shared with Aurovilians and friends of Auroville. The documents which are being posted serially are far more comprehensive than anything published before.

Reflections

Auroville Archives is in a transition period: from a repository of old documents; it has to become Auroville’s active memory, which means that more documents need to be digitized and made easily available online (via Auronet and/or internet). This requires digitizing documents, sorting them out and posting them in a properly structured manner on a website so that what one is looking for is easy to find.

Creating such a site is far easier said than done and requires skills which are not available in the Archives team at present. What are the most important documents? At what resolution should various photos (and other documents) be scanned? How to structure properly the website and create links...? (The more information is available, the more difficult it is to find what one is looking for. High definition cannot be shared easily via internet…)

There would be better coordination with working groups working in related fields (i.e.: Outreach Media, Auroville Radio, Auroville video producers, Auroville Statistics Initiative) if they would share the same building. Hopefully such will be the case in the future.

Looking further into the future

Discussions need to take place between the various branches of Auroville’s administration to better understand their respective needs in terms of past information. Hard and soft copies of their respective documents need to be stored in such a way that one is able to retrieve them easily online. There is also the need of an access policy to these documents: need to sort out documents by categories and to decide on who should have access to which category of documents.

Let us note that, at present, most of these working groups do not have the time and competence to file properly many of their documents (and that these documents are often not even kept in safe places – important documents do disappear whereas hard copies should be kept safely at the Archives).

As documents produced today are tomorrow’s archival material, ideally, all documents produced today should be produced according to a proper filing system. Some of these documents need to be entered in the Archives’ computers in such a way that statistics can be easily produced from them.

Conclusion

Auroville Archives is going through a very interesting transition period. Moving into the new building will provide very much needed new opportunities.