An archive of any kind is not only a country’s heritage but is also the world’s historic, economic and cultural legacy. To organize a systematic archive reflects the wealth of the country and its sound government and keeping that in mind each country has done its share because without its orderly mechanism, governance would be imperfect. Thus, without a strong archive, the country is affected some way or the other.
To keep the books at the Basantapur Durbar in a systematic order and to preserve them, Giwarnayuddha Bikram Shah in the year 1812 ordered its decree. The books were later transferred to Thapathali Durbar by Janga Bahadur in 1847 and later shifted to Durbar School after its completion in 1853. Then in 1900, after Bir Samsher constructed a library at Ghanta Ghar (Watch Tower), the books were shifted there and the library was named the Bir Library.
Most archives evolved in due time through the collection of handwritten documents. As with the American National Archives which was under the Library of Congress before its establishment, the present National Archives of Nepal is also an extension of Bir Library and has an important place in its history. Thus, on 3rd October 1967 the National Archives of Nepal was established under the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation and was inaugurated by King Mahendra. The Archives Preservation Act of 1989 substantiated the importance and role of such an institution.
The National Archives of Nepal consists of four main sections: Administrative, Archival, Manuscript and Preservation, which are again divided into two main divisions – conservation and microfilm.
The Archival Section possesses varieties of documents collected from government offices like the Shaya Mohar, Lal Mohor, Khadganisan, Sanad, Sawals, Chitthipatras, Sandhipatras, Ek-chappes, Dwi-chappes, Kukkas, Eshitihars and so on. A huge collection of copper plates, rubbings of the stone inscriptions, records of the Government civil servants, government publications and newspapers are also in its custody.
A vast and varied collection of more than 35,000 manuscripts of the Hindu, Buddhist and Tibetan treatises, related with oriental history and culture sits preserved at the Manuscript section. They are of different languages and scripts, some written on palm-leaves, birch-barks and Nepali paper, and on different color-coated Nepal papers such as the Harital and Nilpatra. Most of the manuscripts contain beautiful miniature paintings. Several manuscripts are written in gold and silver, and Buddhist manuscripts preserved herein are considered as the foremost and probably the oldest Buddhist manuscripts in the world. But probably the largest and most valuable are the collections on Tantra and Ayurveda.
Under the Nepal German Manuscript Preservation Project, the Microfilm Division has microfilmed all the manuscripts in possession of the National Archives. It has also done the same with the documents belonging to civilian institutions and monasteries. They are well equipped and the microfilms are well preserved and every facility is conferred to researchers of all categories. The Conservation Laboratory at the National Archives carries out fumigation, repair and binding works of manuscripts and documents. It also owns a reference library on various subjects.
In order to use the resources of the National Archives, one has to fill an application form with a five-rupee stamp and state the required manuscript. Applications dropped by the readers and the researchers for the study of the manuscripts are dispatched to the concerned section immediately, and the required materials are bestowed upon them. The National Archives is located at Maithi Ghar, Kathmandu.
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