In the basement of the University of Mumbai's Fort Campus library, a towering Gothic-style cathedral to knowledge built by the British in the mid-19th century, half-a-dozen people are hard at work. Some are hunched over computers and a state-of-the-art scanner. Others busy themselves in an air-conditioned laboratory, surrounded by fumigation units, bell jars of chemicals, trays of clear liquids and metal drying racks.
This is the institution's rare books restoration project, which aims to return ancient and hard-to-find works to their former glory, so the scholars of the future can learn from those of the past. Everyone involved shares the same enthusiasm for the task - making damaged books fit for another 100 years. "Future generations should know what our history is," said Kirti Joshi, an assistant conservator, wiping her hands on a white apron. "To do so we have to preserve it."
The 2.5 million rupee project began early last year and is nearing completion.So far 100,000 pages - or around 300 books -- have been digitised to UNESCO standards and 88,000 pages cut, cleaned, laminated with chemical-free Japanese tissue paper and rebound in red leather covers with gold-embossed lettering.
Those involved want to extend the project, hoping that if money is found, 500,000 books from the university's 800,000-strong collection can be saved.
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