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May 7, 2012

Newly discovered images give rare glimpse of life in India during British Raj

London: A shoe box full of images, which document life in India at least a century ago, has been discovered in one of Scotland’s national collections. All 178 of the plate-glass negatives were found by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) in Edinburgh, the BBC reported. They include pictures commemorating a British royal visit and ships docking on the Hooghly River . They are believed to have been captured in the country at the time of the British Raj. It is said that the negatives remained untouched for nearly 100 years. Archivists at RCAHMS have already confirmed that some of the images were certainly taken in 1912, when King George V and Queen Mary visited Calcutta . It was the only visit by a British monarch to India as emperor of the subcontinent. Some of the images show the city’s buildings lit up at night in tribute to the royal visit. Little else is known about the images and the photographer, triggering a search for clues as to his or her identity. One theory states that the photographer was a British civil servant in Calcutta , or was connected to the jute trade, as many Scots were said to be at the time. There is a Scottish cemetery in the city that dates back to the time of the British Raj, which has lately been cleaned up and recorded. RCAHMS expects that members of the public and photography enthusiasts might be able to shed more light on the finding. “We don't know for sure how they came to be in our collection because we receive archive material from countless different sources, ranging from the archives kept by architectural practices to generous public donations,” RCAHMS architectural historian Claire Sorensen said. “Over time all this new material will be inspected and catalogued as part of our collection - undergoing conservation work where necessary - and then made available to the public. “It’s fantastic that a small shoe box contained such a treasure-trove of photographic imagery, but in some ways it’s not unusual. Our experience as an archive has shown us that some of the most interesting discoveries can be made in the most unlikely of places,” Sorensen added.

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