About the cause
The Heritage Centre was inaugurated in 2006. It was the result of an endeavour that had started several years earlier with the goal of ‘collection, preservation and exhibition of material of heritage value pertaining to the origin, establishment and development of IIT Madras.
The Heritage Centre started with a number of display panels depicting interesting information on a range of aspects: early history, campus development, facilities, German cooperation, events, convocations, natural heritage. It also had a few artifacts.
The displays at the Heritage Centre have developed over the 12 years of its existence. Visitors can now view the foundation stone of IIT Madras, a life-size painting of Prof. Sengupto (first Director) and a replica of the Inter-IIT Sports Trophy (celebrating the record of winning the championship for 10 years consecutively set by the institute). They can try their hand at the legendary fitting-room exercise of the institute’s workshop. They can browse through copies of Campastimes or Spectator. And they can admire a model of the first version of Gajendra Circle, which had four elephants and not two.
The Heritage Centre has an archive of rare photographs as well as a unique collection of student publications of IIT Madras. Most of this material has been digitized and made available at the Heritage Centre’s website. The centre also has a nascent library of books authored by IITians and books about the IITs.
The Heritage Centre has hundreds of visitors each month. The visitors include guests of the Institute; faculty members, students, parents and alumni of IIT Madras; school children; college students; and participants of conferences. The Heritage Centre is usually the starting point of any organized tour of the institute.
The Heritage Centre also hosts thematic exhibitions and organizes workshops, competitions and talks for the extended IIT Madras community. The annual Heritage Centre Day program (held on 3 March, the date when the Heritage Centre was inaugurated) has featured speakers such as Mr. R. Natarajan (first Registrar) and Mr. K.R.A. Narasiah (writer), and is growing into a popular event.
Thus, the Heritage Centre has grown into a source of authentic information about IIT Madras and presents the best of the institute tastefully to visitors and the community at large apart from catering to feelings of nostalgia. It is probably the only dedicated centre of its kind in any major educational and research institute in India.
There are plans to develop the collections, to reach out and to make the displays more engaging, dynamic and interactive in the future so that each visit is enriching for each visitor, and so that the Heritage Centre is always worth revisiting.
Whereas the maintenance, routine expenses and staff salaries of the Heritage Centre are currently met by IIT Madras, alumni can support it in many ways. Alumni can contribute photographs, books, institute publications and other artifacts to its collections.
In the past, alumni funding has supported the Heritage Centre in restoration of old photographic albums and in digitizing them. Financial help will enable the Heritage Centre to carry out other meaningful and valuable projects and activities.
The most ambitious undertaking yet of the Heritage Centre yet is the Oral History project-- a series of talks, interviews and discussions in which senior IITM faculty members and alumni participate to document IIT Madras history. The programs are recorded as videos of approximately 1 hour’s duration. A total of 40 videos have already been recorded, with the audios of most available online from the website of the Heritage Centre (heritage.iitm.ac.in). A few have been hosted recently on YouTube. More programs are planned in 2018–2019.
It is planned to use the Oral History videos to create an electronic story of IIT Madras so that it will be available as an App on mobile devices and on the Internet before the end of the Diamond Jubilee year (31 July 2019). The App will permit each user to choose a personalized look at the early IITM story. Our Distinguished Alumnus Kris Gopalakrishnan has contributed the platform created by him to narrate the story of information technology in India (www.itihaasa.com
). Various production expenses amounting to around Rs. 35 lakhs
will need to be incurred to complete the project.
This is an appeal to alumni to contribute to an Endowment of Rs. 3.25 crores($ 500K) that will support the IIT Madras Oral History Project in the first year. In subsequent years, the Endowment will support similar major initiatives beyond the scope of operational expenses met by the Institute. Examples include:
- Redesigning the layout of the interior of Heritage Centre to optimize the visitor experience
- Establishment of an Archive that will formally capture the history of IIT Madras in records
- Creation of a hands-on Tech Exhibit that will showcase IITM’s societal interventions, etc.
We welcome the continued support of alumni in executing on these plans to celebrate the history of India’s # 1 ranked engineering institution—IIT Madras.