Tata Central Archives
"The Tata Central Archives (TCA), Pune, India, as its 2016 silver jubilee brochure proudly proclaims, is the 'custodian of the Tata story'."
The Tata Central Archives (TCA), Pune, India, as its 2016 silver jubilee brochure proudly proclaims, is the 'custodian of the Tata story'. This story began more than 150 years ago. The TCA, however, was formally inaugurated only three decades ago. J.R.D. Tata (JRD) who inaugurated TCA on January 7, 1991, had deep respect for preserving historical records, originating perhaps from the advice he received from his father in 1922 to "write down and note everything he saw or heard, so it could serve as a useful record and reference for the future." This respect for records may have remained confined to his own personal collections had he not been denied access to information about Tata Airlines, an airlines that he had founded and nurtured, just a couple of years after its nationalization. He referred to this experience in a note to the Tata directors in 1978, and during the centenary celebrations that year of the Empress Mills, a mill of the Central India Spinning, Weaving and Manufacturing Company, J.N. Tata's first venture, he came up with the idea of starting a central repository. It took another decade for the idea to mature, and it was during the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of J.N. Tata in 1989 that TCA's formation was announced. The credit for translating the idea of a repository into an archives goes to the chronicler of the Tata Group's history and Tata veteran, R.M. Lala.
TCA's collection of paper documents includes formation papers, annual reports, board minutes, business and trade and accounting records, labour welfare measures and biographies. TCA also has a vast collection of newspaper clippings. The 250,000-strong photograph collection includes images dating back to the late 1800s. TCA also holds about 200 awards, medals and citations presented to Sir Dorabji Tata, Lady Meherbai Tata, R.D. Tata, J.R.D. Tata, R.N. Tata and other Tata luminaries. Over 20 valuable paintings and over 20 articles of clothing form part of the material collections. The furniture collection includes antique furniture from 'The Homestead', Sir Ratan Tata's manor at Matheran, a hill station near Mumbai. The multimedia collection includes over 1000 audio-video recordings related to various Tata companies, institutions, and personalities.
The 'JRD Tata Home Workshop Incorporated', as JRD used to jokingly call it, was a 250 square foot workshop at his residence in Mumbai. It had rows of shelves, with instruments neatly arranged on them. The entire workshop has been relocated to TCA, and a part of it has been recreated at the TCA exhibition gallery with the help of Telco (now Tata Motors) apprentices.
TCA has spent a lot of effort in developing its skills in preserving and conserving records. It has also invested in the latest state-of-the-art infrastructure, storage and security systems. Records are stored in acid-free files, enclosures and boxes in climate controlled repositories. As part of its outreach activities, TCA holds thematic exhibitions regularly for the general public. In addition, in-house exhibitions on Tata personalities, companies and institutions are held at its premises. There is a Mobile Exhibition on J.N. Tata that is taken to different cities in India.
TCA has become a valuable resource for researchers and students, who are interested not just in Tata history, but also in India's industrialisation development, and the conversations between Tata personalities and the nation's leaders like Dadabhai Naoroji and Mahatma Gandhi.
Over the last three decades, TCA has tried, even as it preserves the history of the Group, to help its stakeholders understand the Tata Group's culture and ethos and the values it stood for. The history of the Tata Group provides a window into the history of modern manufacturing in India. TCA, as the 'custodian of the Tata story', therefore, is also a custodian of the story of India's industrialization.
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