The Dutch Cemetery in Chinsurah: A Digital Archive of Memories

About the Project

This database of the Dutch Cemetery in Bengal is part of a Digital Humanities resource that can be accessed over the Internet to enable researchers to explore connections with various aspects of life in colonial India and the Dutch East India Company. The focus of this project is the Dutch Cemetery at Chinsurah (22.90°N 88.39°E, situated 35 miles north of Calcutta). The database is  fully searchable and contains information such as short biographies, headstone inscriptions, architectural information, geotagging, hyperlinks to relevant information available elsewhere both online and offline. It also has Advanced Search options based on customisable parameters. Funded by the Embassy of The Netherlands, the project has been completed with the help of students of Presidency University under the supervision of Dr Souvik Mukherjee. While such databases form the very bedrock of current research on the Medieval, Early-Modern, Victorian and later periods in the USA and Europe, this project is, arguably, the first such venture in exploring the rich colonial heritage that India and Europe share.

The aims of the project were as follows:

1. To photograph the gravestones and tombs in as much detail as possible.

2. To access and digitise related research from offline sources.

3. To transcribe headstone inscriptions and insert architectural, biographical, geographical, demographic, literary and historical metadata.

4. To record such data in a digital database with facilities for framing flexible and comparative searches, the building of timelines and creating map locators.

5. Link the information that is at present available only in scattered fragments across information repositories, cemetery databases and genealogy websites.

 

Digital Humanities (DH) in India

The) Digital Humanities or DH, amid much debate and ever eluding any definition, comprise research involving the coming together of computing and IT with traditional Humanities. So one aspect of DH would be the creation of digital texts and editions or cultural archives.The other aspect is the exploration of digital culture: for example, how Facebook affects our culture and whether videogames are art. As eminent DH scholar, Matthew Kirschenbaum, puts it:"[W]e support work from “Shakespeare to Second Life,” as we’re fond of saying." In India, DH is a fairly new field and Presidency University has been one of the first institutions to introduce DH research through conferences, courses and now this projects. DH at Presidency also works closely with the School of Cultural Texts and Records (SCTR) at Jadavpur University. Recently, the DH research group at Presidency has been awarded the prestigious UK-India Research Initiative grant to build a similar database for the Scottish presence in Bengal. Currently, with the setting up of the South Asia Digital Humanities research group, plans are underway to explore possibilities of collaboration on a national level. 

 

Other DH Activities @ Presidency

DH Conference in September 2012: https://www.facebook.com/events/304534309654325/

DH Workshop in September 2013: https://sites.google.com/site/digitalhumanitiespresi2013/

'The Dutch in Bengal' workshop in February 2014; http://presiuniv.ac.in/web/dutchbengal.php/

DH gen-ed undergraduate course (every alternate semester): http://dhgenedpresi.blogspot.in/2014/01/welcome-to-digital-humanities-pr...