Tales from the world’s largest refugee crisis find a home at Stanford

Partition document
Seventy years later, tales from the world’s largest refugee crisis find a home at Stanford Libraries. (Photo courtesy Stanford Libraries)

To mark the 70th anniversary of Partition, the creation of modern India and Pakistan, the 1947 Partition Archive in partnership with Stanford Libraries has made thousands of unheard stories from witnesses and survivors available online.  The online collection will bring more than 4,300 oral histories and 30,000 digital photos and documents into the public domain.

The oral histories provide glimpses into the vastly disruptive Partition of Punjab and Bengal in 1947.  The Partition accompanied an unprecedented exchange of populations and mass upheaval of civil society when hundreds of native kingdoms were merged with British India in the process of creating modern India and Pakistan in 1947.  As many as 15 million individuals were displaced, while millions others perished in a frenzy of communal violence and accompanying lawlessness.

Priya Satia
Priya Satia

“This is such a unique collection that opens a window not only on Partition itself but onto historical anthropology of culture, pre-Partition culture and about post-Partition politics and identity,” said PRIYA SATIA, associate professor of history. “The research it will allow on Partition itself is momentous … we can now get a sense of what happened on the ground, how it affected people and how those effects changed over time.”

A portion of the oral histories will be streamed from Stanford Libraries’ digital repository and made accessible to anyone with an internet collection.  The remaining collection, deemed too delicate or sensitive for open accessibility, will be available for viewing by visiting Stanford and select partner libraries, including Ashoka University, University of Delhi and Guru Nanak Dev University in India, along with Lahore University of Management Sciences and Habib University in Pakistan.

Stanford  Libraries’ digital repository and discovery environment includes a video preservation program that ensures enduring access to the interviews despite changes to browser or the worldwide web.

“In a dynamic web infrastructure, it is important to ensure web resources are not lost,” said MICHAEL KELLER, the Ida M. Green University Librarian at Stanford. “Stanford Libraries achieves this within the Stanford Digital Repository by assigning each asset a persistent URL, or PURL, which allows the underlying web addresses of resources to change over time without negatively impacting the systems that depend on them.”

Visit the web pages of the Stanford Libraries for more.