She believes that through household heritage, one will get to learn more about local history. “My grandfather’s box is a treasure box — I found his belongings like old passport, coins, letters, etc, inside the box. I started documenting them and while doing it, I understood how important they are. Preservation of household heritage plays a key role in knowing not just the local history but also the history of the state. This will also help one in knowing his/her family history and details like how our ancestors lived, what kind of lifestyle they followed and so on. Again, preserving household heritage is a personal choice — one should have an interest in doing it. I consider anything that was used by my grandparents as heritage objects and preserve them. I used to collect coins when I was young. After college, I did courses in preservation to get a better understanding of it,” Sivagamasundari says.
She started curating exhibitions and also has done a few online sessions. “Earlier, many didn’t know the value of household heritage. But now, people are showing interest in it. When I do physical exhibitions, visitors often ask me how to preserve antiques, I explain the basic techniques that one can do at home. If it is beyond repair, you have to go to a professional for a proper restoration.”
At present, she is doing a series on Ephemera. “It means printed or written materials (collectibles like tickets, bills) that were originally expected to have short-term use. I found my grandfather’s eye hospital patient card from 1952. It also has detailed instructions on how to prevent or take care of eye infections for kids. Another thing I found is a record or a memo of an event that happened in my ancestral village on 28/11/1933. Initially, I thought it was a letter. But then I realised it was my grandfather’s handwriting. I learned from my dad that as an active congressman and a patriot with a deep belief in the freedom movement, my grandfather was strongly against the menaces doled out on the peasants by the zamindari system muscled by the British,” remarks Sivagamasundari.
Urban conservationist Prathyaksha Krishna Prasad attended a workshop on the preservation of heritage and she got interested in the subject. “We have inherited so many things from our parents and grandparents. I grew up with my grandparents in Anna Nagar. Even today, we use the same golu dolls and golu padi that used by my grandmother. Recently, I found two iron boxes that my great grandfather handed over to my grandmother when she got married. The iron boxes will be more than 70 years old. As her kalyana seer, my grandmother got a small makeup box, utensils, silver jewellery among other things. All are unique and there is a huge value to it,” says Prathyaksha.
Instead of just keeping them in the almirah, she has been putting those things to good use. “The designs on some of the utensils are very similar to the art deco designs. Some people have this tendency to give away old things. I would suggest keeping them within the family or give to someone who will be interested in it. One has to gain knowledge about household heritage so that he/she can pass them on to the next generation,” she tells us.
Not just preserving and documenting for personal use, Prathyaksha stresses that one should also share it on social media. “Even though it is your family’s heritage, other people might be able to relate to it. Social media helps in creating awareness on the preservation of household heritage. If you know how to identify and preserve things, then it has to be shared so that others can appreciate the heritage, conserve and document it,” she sums up.