Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What is a repository?

Genealogists or family historians usually use a repository to look up information regarding their ancestors and it's common practice to note down the source for the information that you find. So what exactly is a repository?

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines it as:

a place, room, or container where something is deposited or stored. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

A genealogical repository is where historical records are kept and preserved that are useful for information such as births, marriages, deaths, wills etc. There may be archives and libraries for example that provide original documents like these. It's easy to think that everything you'll need to find out about your ancestors will be online but that's not the case. I've seen many posts on genealogical forums asking for a person's whole family tree when all they've provided is their name. It's as if they're expecting someone else to have done all the hard work for them and will be willing to share it all with them. Even if that were true, how would you prove that the information you find (or is shared with you) is true unless you knew that information was from a credible source. I guess that's where repositories come in to the picture.

A few weeks ago, I came across this article on Sarhad Conservation Network about the imposed demolition of an 150 year old
Muhafiz Khana (records office) in Peshawar, Pakistan. The article states that the 'Muhafiz Khana has served as a repository of priceless (British-era and post independence) historic records of lands and court verdicts in criminal, civil and revenue cases among others'. Apparently record keeping was suspended in June 2003 as the building needed maintenance with the building in poor condition and the government planned to demolish it. Further digging found that because of a petition in 2006 by the Sarhad Conservation Network and the Hindokush Conservation Association UK, the building had been saved from its destruction. (The Dawn). This is great work by these organizations.

I'm unsure about the building's status as of now but it seems such a shame that the government intended to demolish it. Because of it's poor condition some of the records that were kept there were damaged. Some questions that arise from hearing about this historically important building are:

1) What records, specifically, are kept at Muhafiz Khana?
2) What is being done to preserve the records?
3) How are the records organized?
4) Are the records available to the public?

..which brings me to my next question:

What needs to be done?

1) The building should be maintained properly so that the building itself is not dilapidated as well as the records
2) The damaged records should be repaired or restored if possible
3) The records should be microfilmed for preservation
4) The records should be indexed.

Yes, this means investing money and that is the problem I guess. But we also need to make people aware that our heritage and history is slipping away. If we don't do something - it will be gone forever.

If you live in Peshawar or if you're passing by, take a look at the records office at:

Muhafiz Khana
Khyber Road

What are your opinions? Do you live in Peshawar? What do you know about the building?

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