Mission and activities

preserving our collective history

Our Mission

The 1947 Partition Archive is a non-profit non-governmental organization dedicated to institutionalizing the people’s history of Partition, Independence and World War II in South Asia through:

Documenting, preserving and sharing eye witness

Documenting, preserving and sharing eye witness accounts from all ethnic, religious and economic communities affected by the Partition of British India in 1947.

Collecting, preserving and sharing personal items

Collecting, preserving and sharing personal items and artifacts associated with the people's memory of the 1947 Partition.

Bringing knowledge of Partition

Bringing knowledge of Partition into widespread public consciousness through
i) creative and scholarly expression including but not limited to literature, film, theater, visual arts, other creative medium, and academic research
ii) proactive world-wide primary education curricula,
iii) traveling exhibits as well as physical 'Centers for Learning' designed to memorialize the people's history of Partition and serve the public for research and educational purposes.

PRESERVING PARTITION

By Sean Patrick Farrell and Somini Sengupta

What We Do

What began as an idea in 2008 to acknowledge and popularize the people’s history of Partition has been accomplished through the founding and building of The 1947 Partition Archive, a grassroots community based documentation effort. To date, we have together preserved over 11,500 oral history interviews with Partition witnesses. Much to the credit of the thousands of individuals who have come together to document and share lived histories, Partition is no longer a forgotten memory as it was in 2008, and witnesses’ plight is being amplified the world over. Through the sharing of thousands of witness accounts millions of times via public history curations over the last decade, the ‘people’s history’ of Partition has been established and is now a growing and active area of research as well as new documentation efforts. We are proud to have accomplished this, as part of our first goal of ‘popularizing’ recognition for this important chapter in our global history. We look forward to working with you in ensuring that the lessons of Partition are taught in textbooks around the world, so that we do not repeat history.

Main Activities

Our flagship community-based oral history project has helped preserve over 11,500 memories of Partition witnesses. Browse stories by visiting collections. Oral history excerpts are widely distributed on social media for public education and are available for access to researchers. Our work is not purely academic but is public history with humanitarian undertones. We are devoting our lives to serving witnesses and to creating a more empathetic world.

Democratizing historical documentation

We are a contemporary digital archive that is dedicated to documenting everyone’s history.  We continuously innovate techniques in crowdsourcing, community based archiving and other non-traditional methods that allow us to reach all segments of society, including those that are often ‘left out’ and don’t fall under the radar of conventional studies. Many of our techniques and innovative methods have inspired new projects on digital documentation of Partition, on documenting history, and even crowdsourcing humanities data. We empower people to document their own histories. You can think of The 1947 Partition Archive as a global digital museum built by everyone, everywhere.
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Crowdsourcing oral history

The 1947 Partition Archive began preserving oral histories of Partition witnesses in 2010 and continues today through a combined program that includes an innovative technique for crowdsourcing by Citizen Historians, as well as collection by dedicated field work scholars. Over 11,500 oral histories have been preserved on digital video, making The Archive the first and largest documentation effort focused exclusively on Partition.  Oral histories have been recorded from nearly 5,000 cities and villages in 17 countries across the world. A tiny staff supported by nearly 1,000 volunteers have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to support 130 digital oral history archivists who are helping to preserve oral history interviews, 200+ Story Scholars who are and have contributed oral histories, and over 850 certified Citizen Historian volunteers who have devoted an estimated 250,000 hours in volunteer labor towards recording stories. In addition to oral histories, The Archive also digitizes and preserves antiquated and current photographs of significance, family portraits, as well as objects of significance from the time of Partition.  In total, the collected works amount to over 7,000,000 digital artifacts preserved with meticulous care.

Public education on partition

Over 1,000,000 followers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have shared witness stories millions of times every year, resulting in many reunions of old families and friends. The 1947 Partition Archive’s effort to bring lived memories to the public also include hosting “Voices of Partition,” witness storytelling events across the world, free oral history workshops, as well as pop-up audio visual traveling exhibits that bring stories to art and culture spaces.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, The 1947 Partition Archive also launched its first web series, Sunday Stories Live, streaming on Sundays via Facebook and YouTube, live.

Turning the tide on public acceptance

The sharing of lived memories over social media, has helped create a “critical mass” acknowledgement of the human suffering that resulted from Partition.  Because of this, we are observing a shift in public consciousness.  Memories of Partition are becoming accepted in the mainstream and drawing attention from popular filmmakers, media makers, news organizations, educators and even politicians.  An honest look at our past, with scrutiny will help us move toward a more just future.

The Archive is truly a labor of love, built for people, by people from diverse backgrounds. You too can join us. Learn how to record and share a story from your community now!  Or support another story through your donation.

How you can help

A brief timeline history of The 1947 Partition Archive

2008 - The idea for building a crowdsourced community-based repository, The 1947 Partition Archive, is born during a visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial’s oral testimony archive, in Hiroshima, Japan.
2009 - Oral history documentation begins in Faridkot, Punjab, India, with an old fashioned hobby camcorder that uses tapes.
2010 - Team building for the volunteer-run, community-based documentation effort begins taking shape in Berkeley, California.
2011 - An unsolicited donation check for $194.70 prompts volunteers to register The 1947 Partition Archive in California as a non-profit organization. The organization quickly achieves 501(c)3 tax exemption status.
2012 - Recognizing the digital divide, and that crowdsourcing is most accessible to urban families with means, The 1947 Partition Archive, launches its Story Scholars field work program, with support from the American India Foundation and the Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar. The first scholar is recruited and focuses in rural regions around Amritsar, and especially District Gurdaspur. Since 2012, the program has continued to evolve and grow, having graduated over 225 scholars by 2024.
2012 - The 1947 Partition Archives launches its first public history exhibits and hands-on programs in California, Voices of Partition, Indus Heritage Day and Art for Partition.
2013 - Some community members and the founder begin volunteering full time at The 1947 Partition Archive, and the organization joins the inaugural class at the University of California at Berkeley’s Skydeck Accelerator.
2016 - A sister organization, The 1947 Partition Archive in India, is registered as a not-for-profit trust in Delhi, with founding support from Arun Seth, Sanjeev Bikhchandani and Ashish Dhawan.
2016 - The 1947 Partition Archive launches its first series of exhibits in India: Memory through the ages, My heart belongs in Delhi and Women During Partition
2016 - The 1947 Partition Archive acquires one million followers across its social media pages, forever changing public perception on Partition through the sharing of thousands of witness stories millions of times. Partition is no longer a forgotten public memory.
2018 - The 1947 Partition Archive in India receives tax exemption.
2019 - The 1947 Partition Archive in India works with Tata Trusts to launch its first research residency program for academic scholars.
2020 - The 1947 Partition Archive achieves its first founding goal of documenting 10,000 oral history interviews.
2022 - The 1947 Partition Archive receives prestigious grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences towards establishing its first paid internship program for training the next generation of information science and preservation professionals: The Digital Oral History Archivist Internships and Apprenticeships program.
2024 - The 1947 Partition Archive in India partners with Tata Trusts to launch the first post-graduate certificate program on Partition Studies.
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