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Textual Transformations: ancient scriptures in a digital age

Tibetan and Mongolian texts are being rediscovered catalogued and scanned in libraries, museums and monasteries around the world as part of the revival of Buddhism and the preservation of cultural heritage. This exhibition, first opened at the University of Cambridge in 2008, shows some of the work of recent research projects funded by the AHRC. The exhibition puts the books and manuscripts involved into a wider context, showing some of the different media and techniques used to produce, and now to reproduce, them, and presents some of the dilemmas of digitisation as a medium for archiving and dissemination.
text monastery library scraps of text stone inscriptions
paper making
Top row:  a) New technology and new skills are increasingly being utilised to transfer thousand-year old texts into digital form – inputting text, Lhasa, Tibet; b) Karma Phuntsho wrapping a sacred text in its protective ‘clothing’ ( Buddhist texts, like revered masters are worshipped, circumabulated, prostrated to and touched with the head to receive blessings); c) Monks at Samding Monastery studying photocopies of the original text of the biography of Chokyi Dronma; d) Monk reading a ritual text illuminated by the sun streaming through a small window, Northeastern Nepal
Middle row:  a) Cover and folios of a Buddhist teaching on the eating of meat. From the library of Danzan Ravjaa, the great Mongolian mystic, recently rediscovered in the Gobi Desert and now deposited in digital form in the British Library and MIASU; b) library books at Gangtey monastery; c) Scattered fragments of rare twelfth-century illuminated Tibetan texts from Keru Lhakang Temple, Central Tibet – before being digitised, restored and re-ordered;  d) ‘Om mani padme hum’. Mantra in Sanskrit and Tibetan, followed by Chinese wish and the name of the Mongolian writer, inscribed on rock in the Mongolian countryside
Bottom row: a) making daphne bark paper; b) A group of monks and scholars setting up texts for digital photography, Bhutan; c) A group of learned monks and scholars have trained students, nuns and monks to input texts from rare collections of manuscripts that have survived the Cultural Revolution. Lhasa, Tibet; d) Burkhard Quessel, Curator of the Tibetan Collection at the British Library presenting a CD of digitised texts and print-outs to monks at Samding Monastery, Tibet
Permanance and impermanence
Words in motion
Images and text created in the framework of the AHRC funded Tibetan-Mongolian Rare Books and Manuscripts Project

gcolor="#000000">T<span class="header1"> TEXTUAL TRANSFORMATIONS: </span></td>
</tr>MIASU 2009
last updated 13.3.2009