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  • Writer's pictureTrupti Lyndon

Navigating Archival Research at the British Library

Updated: Apr 26

The British Library, an institution steeped in history, offered me the opportunity to embark on a captivating journey through time and knowledge. I found myself immersed in the magnificent halls of the British Library, eagerly exploring the rich tapestry of Indian folklore and British Indian history. My experience with archival research has been eye-opening, educational, and inspiring. In this reflection, I will share the profound impact that my time spent at the British Library has had on my perspective and understanding of history, culture, and the art of research.

The grandeur of the building and the sheer volume of knowledge within its walls was overwhelming, my initial encounter with archival research was daunting. But the moment I uncovered my first manuscript of Indian folklore, the words seemed to leap off the page, painting vivid images in my mind. The legends of gods and goddesses, mythical creatures, and everyday heroes unfolded like colourful canvases, and I realized that, as a writer, I could now illustrate with words. My goal was to breathe life into forgotten stories and bring them back to the forefront of literature.

As I delved into the archives, I found myself travelling through time. Letters written by historical figures, ancient maps, and centuries-old manuscripts revealed the stories of bygone eras. It was as if I had a time machine at my disposal, allowing me to witness the thoughts, dreams, and events of people who had long departed from this world. Each page seemed to resonate with the vibrant cultures and traditions that have shaped India for millennia.

I soon realized that archival research is an art and a science in itself. It's not just about flipping through pages and deciphering old handwriting; it's about connecting with the past, understanding the context of the documents, and piecing together the intricate puzzle of history. It's like being a detective, uncovering hidden truths and unravelling the mysteries of the past.

My exploration at the British Library was two-fold, a path I decided to embark on to create a nuanced narrative that encompasses both Indian folklore and British Indian history. It was a decision born out of a desire to understand how these worlds intersected and to breathe life into stories that had been forgotten by many. Initially, I grappled with the idea of moving from illustrating these stories to becoming a writer. However, as I dug deeper into the documents, manuscripts, and records, I realized that this transition was an evolution of my art rather than a departure from it.

The archives gave me a new palette to work with: words, historical context, and an in-depth understanding of the cultures I aimed to portray. Through this process, I aim to bring these narratives to life, intertwining the threads of Indian folklore and British Indian history to craft stories that resonate with a global audience. This journey has been a transformation of my artistic and literary identity, and I am eager to continue exploring the intersection of these two worlds.

My time at the British Library was funded by Arts Council England.

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Another great post from you Trupti! I love following along each step of your project. Really enjoying these updates.

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