The Pictorial Archives of the Maharanas of Mewar are comprised of photographic materials ranging from glass-plate negatives, card photographs, photomontages, and painted photographs. Photographic processes like albumen, platinum and gelatin silver prints extending from the mid 19th to the early 20th century are well represented. The collection also includes cameras and other photographic equipment from this period. Photographs in a variety of evolving technologies continue to be added to the Archives on a regular basis, extending the scope of the collection to the contemporary digital age.
The documenting and digitizing of this visual material has meant that increased access to collections is now possible for the wider public with the distinct possibility of online access in the near future. These initiatives at Udaipur and at other former Princely States of India has meant that archives are no longer restricted to the written word and has consequently greatly expanded their scope. A further step would be to link these various archives into a virtual collective, holding immense possibilities for the future.
Pramod Kumar KG has wide-ranging experience in the cultural field, from establishing the Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing to instituting the Jaipur Literature Festival. He has worked extensively with textile and photographic collections, and is currently the Managing Director of Eka Archiving Services, New Delhi. He is also Consulting Editor from India for the Textiles Asia Journal and is the author of Posing for Posterity - Royal Indian Portraits (2012, Roli Books).
Mrinalini Venkateswaran has a formal background in archaeology as well as museum studies, and experience on site in West Asia and in museums in India and the UK. She has developed and implemented documentation and collections management systems for major museums and collections in India, including at the City Palace Museum, Udaipur. She is currently the Projects Manager of Eka Archiving Services, New Delhi and is also the author of the children's book Monuments of India (2009, Scholastic India).
S. Girikumar is an independent conservator who has consulted for various institutions in India for over fifteen years. In addition to the City Palace Museum, Udaipur, these include a number of photographic collections in the country such as the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi; HEH the Nizam's Private Collection, Hyderabad; and the Alkazi Foundation for the Arts, New Delhi. He often guest lectures on theoretical and practical aspects of conservation of a variety of materials at the National Museum Institute, New Delhi. He has also published a number of articles on numerous conservation-related issues.
Lauren Power completed her Bachelor of Arts in History at the University of Western Australia. For her Honours dissertation she researched Indian photographic practice and visual culture at the Photographic Archive of the Maharanas of Mewar. She has a keen interest in colonial and post-colonial visual cultures and the role of the camera in the construction of systems of knowledge.
Udaipur was amongst the earliest places to record the appearance of a camera, in the form of the camera obscura, an optical device meant to assist in the creation of realistic painting. Predating the arrival of photography in India in 1840 AD, it was used as early as 1818 AD by Colonel James Tod, the British political agent at the Court of Mewar, during the reign of Maharana Bhim Singh (r. 1778 - 1828).
From such unassuming beginnings the camera went on to provide the greatest impetus to the collecting and preservationist impulses of the Mewar family in the 19th and 20th centuries. Each successive generation developed a greater level of familiarity with the camera, and invited it further into the private domain. The photographic collections of the House of Mewar, carefully nurtured, promoted, and conserved by generations of the family, constitute one of the largest and most significant private archives in India, with close to 30,000 individual objects. Today, the historic collections comprise a part of the Pictorial Archives of the Maharanas ofMewar (PAMM), Udaipur, administered by Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation, Udaipur, which also manages the City Palace Museum, Udaipur. Selections from the Archive were first showcased during the exhibition Long Exposure: The Camera at Udaipur, 1857-1957, which opened in 2009. With it, the new Bhagwat Prakash Gallery in a previously unused wing of the Zenana Mahal was also inaugurated, our first step towards refurbishing and overhauling the museum in totality.
In keeping with our endeavour to make Udaipur a centre for learning, I am delighted to introduce the current publication co-authored by Pramod Kumar KG and Mrinalini Venkateswaran, with contributions from S. Girikumar and Lauren Power, highlighting the photographic treasures of PAMM. The volume uses the premise of the first exhibition as a springboard from which to introduce the collection in its entirety. However, it is more than merely a catalogue, reflecting the years spent by the authors in reviewing every image. Pramod discusses the history of collecting photography at Udaipur, revealing for us - both literally and figuratively - the people behind the images. Mrinalini delineates the essential task of documentation with which we began the whole exercise at Udaipur, and which was key to facilitating the exhibition. It has set the benchmark for subsequent documentation efforts at the Archive and indeed, for the region. The narrative is both a record for posterity as well as potentially useful to others who might wish to learn from our challenges. S. Girikumar, our materials conservator, brings his vast expertise on photographic technology to bear in the technical note on the collections. It gives me particular pleasure that we have been able to include an essay by a graduate student from Australia, Lauren Power, whose curiosity was piqued by a casual visit to our exhibition as a tourist - she returned to focus on the Archive for her thesis, and through her work, has been able to highlight the evolving nature of the Archive as not only a repository but a source of knowledge generation. It is what we set out to do, and I am delighted we have begun to see the results.
In addition to images used to illustrate the essays, all the images from the exhibition have been lavishly reproduced, reflecting the original conception of the show and presented along with insightful commentary that ties each section together for the reader. Individual images have also been annotated with a wealth of detail that was impossible to include in the show for want of space, a result of the spirit of enquiry with which the collections were approached.
As the custodian of Mewar's living heritage, it is a matter of great pride and value to me to be able to share with others not only the stories of our trials, tribulations and triumphs, but the fruits of our labours - here, an archive of images documented, and ready for access for research and scholarship. We hope this is only the first of a series on the varied collections of Udaipur.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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