The Taj Mahal Conservation Collaborative

In India, under the responsibility of the minister of culture, the government agency responsible for the care and restoration of national historic monuments and sites is the Archaeological Survey of India. It is responsible for thousands of monuments and sites. It employs more than 1,300 professional employees and thousands of workers. The task is immense and the financial resources are scarce. At the beginning of the second millennium the Ministry of Culture decided to begin a new initiative. It decided to team up with carefully selected private sector companies and foundations to further the restoration of a small group of very important historic monuments and sites.

[click] To download a pdf copy of the Taj Mahal Site Management Plan

[click] The Taj Mahal Survey and Data Collection (September 2001)

[click] The Taj Mahal Collaborative 2001 - Meeting background documents

[click] The Taj Mahal Collaborative 2001 - Garden and Water Works Conservation: Major Points & Next Steps

[click] Taj Hotels, Resorts & Palaces announces project to restore one of the seven wonders of the world (press communique)

[click] The Taj Mahal Collaborative 2002 - Meeting background documents

[click] The Taj Mahal Collaborative 2003-3004 - Progress of work

On June 21, 2001, the Archaeological Survey of India, the National Culture Fund and the Tata Group of Companies through the Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL) signed a major agreement to undertake the conservation, restoration, upgrade and beautification of the Taj Mahal and the surrounding areas.

The Archaeological Survey of India

Under this agreement, the Archaeological Survey of India maintains the full responsibility and control for the management and execution of the restoration work for the projects identified and described in the Agreement.

The Tata Group of Companies

The Tata Group of Companies is one of the most important corporate groups in India. It owns and operates a wide variety of companies among which a major chain of hotels. The Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL) is the entity that signed the agreement on behalf of the Tata Group of Companies. Under the Agreement, it is responsible for financing the restoration work identified for the Taj Mahal and for gathering a group of "global" experts to review and comment on the proposed restoration work.

The National Culture Fund

The National Culture Fund is an entity created by the government of India to encourage and facilitate private sector donations that are 100% tax deductible. The funds for the restoration projects of the Taj Mahal were managed by this agency.

To fulfill its responsibilities, the Indian Hotels Company Limited created The Taj Mahal Conservation Collaborative. It is a small group of professionals who ensured that the project moved along smoothly and met all objectives.

This Collaborative organized several workshops of experts to review the projects proposed by the Archaeological Survey of India. The workshops gathered experts and managers from the Archaeological Survey of India and conservation professionals from India selected by IHCL. Four "global" experts participated to these workshops. They were:

  • Dr. Ebba Koch from Vienna, expert in Moghul art and architecture history. She has published several works this subject and on the Taj Mahal.
  • Professor James L. Wescoat Jr. from University of Colorado at Boulder, Department of Geography. He is an expert in landscape architecture and particularly in the history and development of Moghul gardens.
  • Dr. Martand Singh from New Delhi, a private sector consultant who has a lengthy experience in museum development in India and is an internationally renowed clothing designer.
  • François LeBlanc, conservation architect from The Getty Conservation Institute.

This new initiative was considered to be of such high priority by all parties that the Minister of Culture personally met the participants at the beginning of the first workshop. Mr. Krishna Kumar, the Managing Director of the India Hotels Company Limited also greeted the participants and reiterated Tata Group's full support for this initiative. The recently appointed Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India, Ms Kasturi Gupta Menon, participated to several sessions and accompanied the group during the visits, thus showing also how important this project was to her agency. The highest ranking officers within the Archaeological Survey of India agency participated to this workshop and guided participants through the site, identifying the conservation issues that needed to be addressed. Mr. Navneet Soni, responsible for the National Culture Fund was also present.

The first workshop was coordinated by renowned architect Rahul Mehrotra from Bombay, with the support of Amita Baig, heritage consultant from New Delhi who also headed the office of the World Monuments Fund in Asia at that time. The organizing group did an extraordinary job. Also part of the group assembled by the IHCL were the following persons:

  • Tara Sharma, architectural historian and specialist in Indian art and culture
  • Abha Narain Lambah, architect
  • Annabel Lopez, architect
  • Dilip Shanker, media and website specialist
  • S. K. Mathur, consultant horticulturist

The Getty Conservation Institute was proud to be part of the Taj Mahal Conservation Collaborative and contribute to the preparation of the Taj Mahal Site Management Plan.

Participants to the first Taj Mahal Conservation Collaborative workshop in New Delhi, India, September 2001.
Taj Mahal Conservation Collaborative participants at Taj Mahal Main Gate. Photo: F. LeBlanc
Taj Mahal Main Gate. Photo: F. LeBlanc 2001
New stones to be used for restoration projects. Photo: F. LeBlanc 2001
Taj Mahal (bottom right) location plan next to Red Fort facing Yamuna River.
Taj Mahal at dusk. Photo: F. LeBlanc
Taj Mahal Mosque. Photo: F. LeBlanc
Taj Mahal marble inlay, before & after restoration. Photo: F. LeBlanc
Taj Mahal: view from Mahtab-Bagh (across the Yamuna River). Photo: F. LeBlanc
Yamuna River as seen from the Taj Mahal. Photo: F. LeBlanc
Taj Mahal environment monitoring office and equipment. Photo: F. LeBlanc
Taj Mahal Pinacle and stone inlay reproduction to show actual size to visitors.