Preserving History

Conservator Prem Kumar Nagta restores fragments of history, from Gupta-era coins to paintings in ParliamentM

The zeal to conserve national heritage for future generations and an office that resembles a chemistry laboratory of a government school is all that Prem Kumar Nagta, a conservator at the National Museum, needs to have a meaningful life. Nagta has been preserving and conserving national and international pieces of historical importance for the past 10 years.

For Nagta, conserving every item that comes to the National Museum is not just part of his job. "Every piece, article that we restore here in this lab comes to us because of its historical importance. We know that richness of every dynasty is depicted through its arts and culture. To conserve those fragments of history, which would give us a chance to know what kind of rulers we had, is an honour and a great responsibility," says Nagta, who started his career with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in 1984.

A tattered flag of Turkey which could break with a single touch has been conserved beautifully. The technique used was darning with full lining. According to the conservator, the scientists have to study the material closely before darning. "We need to use the same material for darning, stitching or for the full lining below the piece to conserve it in its originality. The real challenge lies in how we save it in its original form without disturbing it," says Nagta.

Nagta remembers receiving a mud-covered excavated pot with coins from Gupta dynasty. When the preservation started, it became green and blue. "Copper turned green and blue which is called patina, a protective layer. We did not touch patina as tampering with it can cause loss of the historical treasure we had," he said while showing photographs of the pot before and after conservation.

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