Chinsurah 2021: the best documented Dutch cemetery in India

The Dutch cemetery in Chinsurah is since 2014 the best documented cemetery in India. On the site http://dutchcemeterychinsura.com a wealth of information is available on 169 Dutch and British who were buried here in the 17th to the 19th century. This digital archive of memories is fully searchable and contains information such as short biographies, headstone inscriptions, architectural information, geotagging, hyperlinks to relevant information available elsewhere both online and offline.

Students from the Presidency University Calcutta gained study points in a six-month project doing the various tasks needed. Dr Souvik Mukherjee was supervisor under funding by the Dutch Embassy in New Delhi. The other part of the Dutch funding went into the documenting and preserving of the Dutch buildings and elements from the Dutch presence (!635-1825) in Chinsurah. This was done by Aishwarya Tipnis Architects (ATA),  specialized in heritage building and making that relevant to local communities.

The databases from these projects can be used to plan for future restoration works. Community engagement activities, such as heritage walks and training of local historians have been successful in creating awareness. Ten signage plaques tell the shared heritage story between the Dutch and Indian locals and visitors to Chinsurah. Explore the site http://dutchinchinsurah.in.

In 2020 I was shocked to find out that both sites did not exist anymore under their original URLs. Fortunately the one by ATA only changed their .com extension to.in. From Souvik Mukherjee I heard by e-mail that his university did not want to continue to pay the hosting costs for the site anymore. He is now paying the costs from his own pocket and he could not keep the same URL.

These Indian experiences show how difficult it is to keep these great resources accessible online years after the projects from which they originated. Both Indian and Dutch cultural heritage funds should be made available for the long future.