Preserving Assamese Heritage through the Wikisource Loves Manuscripts Project!

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Meet Animesh Borah, an Assamese Wikimedian hailing from the Indian state of Assam, and a member of the Wikisource Loves Manuscripts Learning Partners Network—a community of practice dedicated to preserving cultural heritage through digitization and transcription efforts on Wikisource. As we delve into Animesh’s journey, we witness the profound impact of collaborative learning in safeguarding our shared history. Join us as we uncover Animesh’s experiences and aspirations within this dynamic network, highlighting the invaluable contributions of Wikisource Loves Manuscripts.

Traditional Assamese Xaasi paat puthi. CC-BY-SA 4.0, Bhrigu Bayan.

Sailesh: Animesh, what motivated you to join the Learning Partners Network cohort?

Animesh Borah: My journey into the Learning Partners Network cohort began with a simple yet profound desire: to collaborate with experienced individuals in the Wikimedia movement and collaborate for cultural preservation and digitization. This journey was sparked by learning about the Javanese Palm Leaves project from a fellow Assamese Wikimedian. Realizing the potential for similar efforts in preserving Assamese Xasi paat puthi, I was eager to contribute. However, I lacked the necessary awareness of preservation techniques and digitization methods for these documents. The Learning Partners Network cohort presented itself as the perfect platform to collaborate with like-minded individuals, gain insights from past projects, and contribute to the preservation and accessibility of cultural heritage materials.

Sailesh: What were some key learnings from the cohort?

Animesh Borah: The Learning Partners Network cohort proved to be a treasure trove of knowledge and collaboration opportunities. It brought together stakeholders from diverse linguistic backgrounds, creating a vibrant exchange of best practices and collaboration opportunities. I gained valuable insights into the digitization of manuscripts using specific methods, learning from both ongoing and completed projects. Discussions about creating a new hand text recognition model on Transkribus, along with training models and workflows, provided crucial information for my own initiatives. Additionally, I was introduced to the British Library Endangered Archives Programme, which sparked my interest and motivated me to explore potential collaborations and resources further.

Sailesh: Can you share any upcoming projects or initiatives you’re excited about that have been influenced by your participation in the network?

Animesh Borah: Inspired by the Learning Partners Network cohort, I embarked on a personal initiative to explore the cultural richness of several villages in my hometown, Jorhat, Assam. These villages have deep-rooted cultural connections, including ties to Thailand. During my exploration, I discovered a historical document written by the first village headman, detailing the village’s migration and history.

Following this inspiration, we are planning a documentation program for manuscripts in Assam, working closely with stakeholders to build capacity in manuscript preservation and digitization techniques. We are also preparing a comprehensive database of manuscripts from across Assam, which will serve as a valuable resource for researchers and enthusiasts. To address challenges in manuscript preservation, we will launch a pilot project to map out problems and work towards effective solutions. Once the pilot project provides valuable insights, we will extend the documentation program to other regions of Assam.

Recognizing the importance of understanding linguistic and cultural aspects, we will collaborate with linguists and researchers. We plan to leverage the Assam government’s Xasi Paat Puthi digitization project, maximizing resources and collaborating with a broader range of stakeholders. We envision developing a handwriting character recognition tool to facilitate the digitization process. Beyond manuscripts, we are excited to digitize other historical documents, such as letters, offering valuable insights into societal changes over time.

Sailesh: How do you see the network take shape in the future, especially for cross-language collaborations?

Animesh Borah: Envisioning the future of the network, especially regarding cross-language collaborations, several key developments can shape its trajectory. The network can evolve to include more multilingual platforms and tools that facilitate communication and collaboration across diverse linguistic backgrounds. Investing in language learning and cultural exchange initiatives will enhance participants’ language skills and understanding of different cultural contexts. Collaborating with language experts, linguists, and cultural scholars will enrich the network’s understanding of linguistic diversity and cultural heritage. Working with policymakers and advocacy groups, the network can advocate for initiatives recognizing the importance of linguistic diversity in cultural preservation and education.

Sailesh: Reflecting on your experience, what are the most valuable aspects of being part of a global learning network like this?

Animesh Borah: Being part of a global learning network has been an invaluable experience, enriching my journey in cultural heritage preservation. The most valuable aspects include learning from others’ experiences and insights, which have shaped my approach to my projects. The network provides a platform for exchanging knowledge, best practices, and innovative ideas related to cultural preservation and digitization. This exchange of information has helped me stay updated on the latest developments in the field and discover new techniques and methodologies. Additionally, the network has opened up opportunities for collaboration with like-minded individuals and organizations. Access to training, workshops, and resources has enhanced my skills and knowledge in cultural heritage preservation. Lastly, belonging to a global community of passionate individuals dedicated to preserving cultural heritage is immensely rewarding. Knowing that I am part of a larger network of individuals committed to a common cause fosters a sense of solidarity and mutual support.

Sailesh: Thank you, Animesh, for sharing your valuable experiences and insights. We wish you the best of luck in all your future endeavors, and may your work continue to inspire and contribute to the preservation of our rich cultural heritage.

Reflecting on the insights shared by Animesh, it’s clear that being part of a global learning network offers immense value, especially in the field of cultural heritage preservation. The ability to learn from others’ experiences, access a wealth of knowledge, and engage in collaborative efforts are just a few of the many benefits he highlighted. This network not only keeps professionals updated on the latest developments and methodologies but also provides a strong sense of community and mutual support.

Animesh’s journey underscores the importance of such networks in fostering growth and innovation. His experience reminds us of the power of collective effort in preserving our cultural heritage for future generations.

If you are interested in being a part of the Wikisource Loves Manuscripts Learning Partners Network, sign up here to join the network and contribute to shaping a future where cultural heritage is just a click away.

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