This summer, I spent a week in Ahmedabad, India starting off my research for my Woodrow Wilson Fellowship project (which also doubles as my History of Medicine honors thesis). I’ve written about my plans a bit more extensively here, but, long story short, my research focuses on the ways in which household medicine changed in Gujarat, India during the late 19th century under British colonialism. My exact argument is still in the works, but spending the week in Ahmedabad to get my hands dusty with my first real archival research was a formative start, I think.
I spent every day of the week at MJ Library, which is one of the largest public libraries in the city of Ahmedabad. In fact, I found out soon after I ran into it that it was the library my mom and her siblings used to spend their summers in when they were little, which was pretty cool. While the library itself is a regular lending library at the surface, it’s been around for a long, long time, and it’s amassed quite a collection of records over the decades. Deciding to go there was definitely a leap of faith, because there was a very real chance that there wouldn’t be the rich collection of primary sources I so very much needed as a starting point for my research. But it seemed more promising than a lot of the other libraries I had looked at in the area, so I decided to leap anyways.
The first day in the library wasn’t too eventful; the librarian showed me around to a couple of racks of secondary sources on Ayurveda, and I felt a bit disappointed that that was what my research would be on for the week. The next day, I wandered into this “Reference Room” they had on the top floor tucked away in a corner, and I hit the treasure. The place wasn’t organized too well, but spread across the floor were piles and piles of early 20th century and late 19th century records and gazetteers – a lot of which were in English. I spent the rest of the week crawling around the room and coating my hands in a gray dust as I photographed as much as I could, including inparient/outpatient data across different districts in Bombay and Gujarat and Bombay directories that listed all the different medical institutions, organizations, and individual physicians. I still have a lot to sort through on that end.