Delhi Public Library rewinds on 60th anniversary

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A view of the Gramophone section at the Delhi Public Library in New Delhi. Photo: S. Subramanium

To mark 60 years of its existence, the Delhi Public Library is organising a unique six-day exhibition that opens at the Lalit Kala Akademi’s premises here this coming Monday.

“Delhi Public Library Rewinds: A Saga of Times Gone By” looks back at history highlighting the changing face of the print and television media. It showcases rare books and discusses the changing roles of public libraries. The exhibition will display the first ever “Newseum” for India created from the newspaper archives of DPL.

The exhibition promises to be a unique potpourri of events, archival and musical exhibits that will engage the interest of academicians, curious readers and students.

“DPL wants to showcase its role as an institution that provides the public with a wealth of information and gives insights into the country’s polity, society and culture. We are showcasing exciting events like how Bollywood has changed over the years and how the concept of fitness has changed in advertisements. We are not showcasing achievements of any political party,” says DPL Board Chairperson Shailaja Chandra.

Described as a first of its kind in the country, the Newseum draws on the DPL’s rare collection of Hindi and English newspapers between 1952 and 1972 to explore significant moments in modern Indian history. This unique display gives a glimpse of visual history of newspaper advertisements from 1952 to 2002 along with an assortment of lesser known but memorable photographs, cartoons and articles from 1952 to 1972 depicting events and current happenings in the country as reflected by newspapers of the day.

Tracing the wide range of products used by Indians and how these were altered, diversified and replaced over time, the display reveals exactly how advertisements were shaped and influenced events and long-term trends in Independent India. A trip down memory lane for some, the display will also be of interest to the younger generation which is inquisitive to see how things existed in the country.

The exhibition’s audio section has a diverse selection of 40 rare titles dating as far back as 1951 for city’s music connoisseurs. From DPL’s rich collection of over 4,000 gramophone records, the selection covers four categories namely Indian classical and semi-classical, Hindi films and religious and devotional music.

The selection includes titles such as “The magnificent O. P. Nayyar”, “All time favourites of S. D. Burman”, “Kishore Kumar sings for 16 Heroes”, “Lata Mangeshkar Live at Royal Albert Hall in 1974”, “The multifaceted genius of Ameer Khusro”and “Geetanjali, Tagore Songs: Gems Forever”. The selected records have been digitalised into audio CDs and can be played on demand.

Offering a rich fare for bibliophiles, the exclusive book section includes books from earlier centuries sourced from the Hardayal Municipal Library and the Marwari Library. On display is DPL’s own wide ranging collection of books including those on Delhi, award-winning fiction and non-fiction titles, best selling children’s books, speeches of great Indian personalities and books on gardening and bonsai, health and fitness, cooking, computer and art, painting and music.

Also on view will be a series of exceptional photographs of New Delhi, depicting select policy decisions and events that encapsulate crucial moments in Indian history from 1951. These photographs have been meticulously selected by a historian, featured with copies of Government files specially obtained from the National Archives.

A documentary on the formative years of Doordarshan, informal authors’ meets, a seminar on “Changing expectations of users of public libraries”, the finals of a storytelling competition for children and a bonsai demonstration to promote hobbies make this into a unique exhibition.

Located at S. P. Mookerjee Marg opposite the Old Delhi railway station, DPL boats a collection of 17 lakh books in Hindi, English, Punjabi and Urdu. It offers its catalogue online and anyone can check the availability of books online without travelling to library.

As Delhi has grown exponentially, DPL has made an attempt to reach out to the people through mobile points, resettlement colony library, community library and deposit stations. The DPL also operates a Braille library for the visually impaired and a prison library for the inmates of the Tihar Central Jail.

The selection on DPL through the years showcases its journey from a pilot project started in 1951 to its emergence as the busiest public library in South-East Asia.


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