The pilot project has been initiated by IIT Kharagpur's department of humanities and social sciences, in association with the University of Liverpool, UK.
IIT Kharagpur, the oldest and largest one in the country, has initiated a pilot project to protect the rich cultural heritage of the cities and towns along the Hoogly river. The project would focus on five former trading posts and garrison settlements near Kolkata along the Hooghly river – Bandel, Chinsurah, Chandernagore, Serampore and Barrackpore, an IIT KGP statement said here today. The pockets bear traces of Portugese (Bandel), Dutch (Chinsurah), British (Barrackpore), French (Chandernagore), Danish (Serampore) presence, as well as India’s own rich culture. The pilot project has been initiated by IIT Kharagpur’s department of humanities and social sciences, in association with the University of Liverpool, UK, the statement said. Principal Investigator on behalf of IIT KGP, Prof Jenia Mukherjee said, “These places, being peripheral cities surrounding Kolkata, are not getting enough exposure. And yet, in these cities too, heritage buildings are making way for apartments, multiplexes and so on.”
Among the top priorities of the project is the conservation of centuries-old buildings, which are mainly private houses, she said. Lack of funds makes maintenance difficult for even those willing to preserve their properties, Mukherjee said adding, “We will be seeing if it is possible to build up a public-private-partnership for the upkeep of these structures.” The project is being jointly funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, UK, and the Indian Council for Historical Research and the idea is to involve the people of the region as “owner-custodians” of this heritage, she said.
The project team recently held an exhibition at Chandernagore with the Institut de Chandernagore which got an overwhelming public response. The Institut de Chandernagore is one of the oldest museums of the region and boasts a collection of French antiques such as cannons used in Anglo-French war, wooden furniture of the 18th century which are difficult to find anywhere else in the world. She will be working with Prof Ian Magedera, the Principal Investigator from the University of Liverpool, Antara Mukherjee, an assistant professor in West Bengal Education Services as lead honorary researcher and a team of architects and city planners.
A multi-stakeholder round-table conference was conducted at the British Council, Kolkata on April 6 involving the project team, the state government, planning officers, secretary of the West Bengal Heritage Commission among others. At that meeting, IIT KGP Director Partha Pratim Chakrabarti underscored that modernity and heritage should have a “harmonious and caring relationship”. The project aims to draw up a Heritage Management Strategy, an hour-long documentary film among its other efforts to preserve the collective history. An annual Hoogly Heritage Day is also being planned, IIT sources said.