Written and facilitated by
Farah Yameen and Divij Joshi
Anjali JR, Deepika S and Venkat Srinivasan
Anoopa John and Gerleo Nimalan
Web Design and Development by
Cover Art by
Archives at NCBS
In collaboration with
Milli Archives Collective
Version 1, published for public comment, January 23 2023
Archive of IIT Madras, Indian Statistical Institute Archives, QAMRA Archival Project at NLSIU
International Council on Archives (ICA) Fund for the International Development of Archives (FIDA) , National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) and by TNQ Technologies grant that supports the operations of the Archives at NCBS
Creative Commons License - CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
Overview and Feedback
The project, "Archives, Ethics and the Law in India", anchored by the Archives at NCBS, aims to learn from and train archivists and users of archives in India to respond to questions of archives, copyright, ownership and access, and the public’s rights to information and privacy. We embarked on an early version of this project in 2019-20 because we could not find a similar resource in India for archivists.
The guidebook is a product of collaborative work. We hope it is useful, and hope that it will pave the way for broader discussions among archivists, archives and their users on the intersection between archives, ethics and law in India, especially through the Milli Archives Collective. We welcome feedback, which shall feed into future revisions of the text. Please drop your comments on the online form
Making of the Guidebook
This guidebook has been supported by the Fund for the International Development of Archives granted by the International Council on the Archives (ICA) in 2022 to the Archives at NCBS, and by the TNQ Technologies grant that supports the operations of the Archives at NCBS. The resources of the ICA, its Universal Declaration on Archives, its 1996 Code of Ethics have underpinned the principles of this guidebook, especially its code of ethics. As part of this project, the Archives at NCBS undertook two distinct tasks. The first was the development of guides on the legal frameworks that apply to archives in India. The second was the development of an ethical code that works together with the legal framework to help archivists make decisions in archival work that are both legal and ethical.
The guidebook is the culmination of several months of seminars, workshops, roundtables and expert consultation. Between March 28-31, 2022, NCBS hosted an online seminar covering issues related to ethics, copyright, ownership and access, rights to information and privacy, among others. The seminar used a range of formats to represent different approaches to ethics and law in archives while also inviting more detailed discussions. The 4-day seminar included:
- Speakers from 8 different archival organisations in India presenting ethical and legal encounters specific to their archival environment.
- Talks from archival researchers on being in the archive.
- Presentations from information policy law experts in India and abroad on existing and impending legal frameworks that affect Indian archives.
- Panel discussions on archival ethics, access, privacy, data protection and subject rights.
- Open discussions on case specific ethical and legal questions in archives, which were collated in a document with answers where seminar participants drew on their own experience to advise on best practices.
The seminar had 101 registrations (cumulative, across the four days, with about 50 – 60 percent actual presence) with participation from both individuals in leadership positions in private and public archives besides early career professionals and archival researchers. The discussion document from the seminar became the principal point of reference for a second consultative seminar in June.
A professional ethics working group met between June 8 – 10, 2022 during International Archives Week as part of Milli Sessions 20221 (of which the Archives at NCBS is an incubator) to deliberate upon ethical questions in archives in India. The committee reviewed ethical standards documents from ICA and its various regional offices in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, UK and USA. It also deliberated upon principles of ethically archiving indigenous knowledge by reviewing current global practices as articulated in the Tandanya Declaration, the FAIR principles of data governance together with the CARE principles for indigenous data governance, and the First Nations Principles of OCAP (ownership, control, access and possession). We thank our speakers – Anubha Sinha, Deepa Bhatnagar, Elizabeth Lomas, Faisal Rahman, Jaya Ravindran, Lalitha Poluru, Madhura Wairkar, Padmini Ray Murray, Prashant Reddy, Ranjani Prasad, Roland Wittje, Sanjay Garg, Shaina Anand, Sarath Pillai, Siddharth Narrain and Vrunda Pathare – for sharing their insight into law and ethics from their archival contexts.
The 12-member Milli working group, which comprised of archival practitioners and researchers from all over the country, met over three days at NCBS, Bengaluru (and online), and discussed ethical principles associated with different stages of the archival workflow: Creation/Documentation, Appraisal, Acquisition, Accessioning, Description/Information, Custody/Preservation, Access/Outreach. A Code of Ethics that was unanimously agreed upon was drafted during the three days with accompanying commentary from the members of the working group. This working group met again later to develop areas that needed detailed attention such as digital ethics and has continued to develop the commentary for final publication in the guidebook.
This guidebook was also made possible by the advice and collaboration of archivists who guided and participated in its development, and reviewed the drafts. Their contribution has enabled the creation of a document that considers archival laws and ethics from a range of diverse perspectives. Thanks are owed to Arvind Narrain (QAMRA Archival Project at NLSIU), Bharat Iyer (French Institute of Pondicherry), Biswadeep Chakraborty (India Foundation for the Arts), Deepika S (Archives at NCBS), Faisal Rehman (Keystone Foundation), Kishor Satpathy (ISI Archives), PP Sneha (Centre for Internet and Society), Padmini Ray Murray (Design Beku), Ponnarasu Subramanian (IIT Madras), Priyanka Seshadri, Ranjani Prasad (Keystone Foundation), Rochelle Pinto, Roland Wittje (IIT Madras), Sanjna GY (Archives at NCBS), Sharmila Sontakke (Sparrow Archives), Siddharth Narrain (QAMRA Archival Project at NLSIU), Smitha K Prasad (Georgetown University School of Law), Sumanto Mondal, T Jayashree (QAMRA Archival Project at NLSIU), T Prashant Reddy (Thakur Foundation) and Vrunda Pathare (Godrej Archives).
We are very grateful to Arun Thiruvengadam and Mariella Soprano for endorsing this project when we sent our first proposal to the ICA for review, and to Arul George Scaria, Jaya Ravindran, Shubha Chauduri, Smitha Krishna Prasad and Srijoni Sen for reviewing the final draft of this guidebook. We also express our gratitude to our partners at the Archive of IIT Madras, Indian Statistical Institute Archives, and QAMRA Archival Project at NLSIU.
A note about the institutions and people behind the guidebook:
The Archives at NCBS is a public collecting centre for the history of science in contemporary India. Besides its role as a collecting centre, the Archives at NCBS also aims to push the frontiers of research in archival sciences in India, forging intersections with scholarship in law and ethics, and work with a diverse community of practitioners.
Milli is a collective of individuals and communities interested in the nurturing of archives, especially in South Asia.2 Milli was partly incubated at the Archives at NCBS. The collective was instrumental in facilitating discussions and feedback on all aspects of the guidebook.
Farah Yameen acted as a consulting expert to lead the development of the ethical code. Yameen has been working with archives in India for 7 years and was reading for an M.A. in Archives and Records Management at University College London at the time that she was working on this guidebook. The project also supported Yameen's dissertation on archival ethics in India by facilitating access to networks of archivists for data collection. The findings of her published research have been incorporated into the development of the guidebook.
Divij Joshi acted as the legal consultant responsible for drafting the legal analysis of archival law in India for the guidebook for archivists. Divij is an India-qualified lawyer pursuing his PhD in law and information systems at UCL. He also helped with the conceptualisation of the workshop and led some of the workshop sessions.