Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Make Muslim Heritage More Accessible

Why Don’t We Just Talk to Each Other? – Building Cross-Sector Connections to Make Muslim Heritage More Accessible.

Saturday 26th September, 10:30 am – 2pm at Bishopsgate Institute.

Are you collecting materials or carrying out research on Muslim history or heritage? Do you want to develop a manifesto of cross-sector collaboration with others working in this expanding field? If yes, join us for an event aimed at artists, journalists, academics, curators, librarians, archivists and activists. This informal event explores issues such as funding, accessibility and engagement through group discussions, short presentations and networking opportunities. 

Based on the feedback from the delegates of our successful inaugural symposium earlier this year, the Everyday Muslim team has organised a half-day session for you to network, share and discuss the issues you face regarding cross-sector collaboration in the context of Muslim heritage in the UK.

Free admission; advance booking required:


About the Everyday Muslim Project:

Highlights from the Symposium 2015:!symposium-online-2015/cv3a

Topics for discussion


To what extent is your sector accessible and who is it accessible to in reality?
How do you evaluate the level of accessibility?
What steps are being taken to increase accessibility within your sectors? What else can be done?

Community Engagement

Does your organisation engage with the Muslim community?
Who is responsible for community engagement in your organisation?
Do you feel your organisation is accessible to your local community?
How useful is community engagement to your organisation?
How is the success of community engagement evaluated?


Does your organisation collaborate with organisations within and outside of your sector? With individuals, local groups, wider community? If not, why?
What are the motivations to collaborate?
What barriers do you face, if any, from within your sector when embarking on possible collaborations?
What conditions are needed to make collaboration effective?
What practical measures are there in your sector that promotes collaboration?


What methods and approaches have you found to be most successful/effective in securing funding?
Do present funders reflect your sector’s needs?
How do you make the most of funding opportunities in your sector?
Which funding organisations are you aware of?

(Draft) Programme Schedule

10:30 - 11:00 Networking with refreshments

11:00 - 11:15 Intro by Everyday Muslim Team and news of new Collaboration tools

11:15 – 11:45 Open mic style 5 min presentations
This will be your chance to talk in more detail about your organisation’s experience of collaboration. The presentation can reflect issues or solutions you would like to share.
(Sign-up on the day)

11:45 - 12:45 Small group topic discussions

12:45 - 1: 15 Feedback from group discussions

1:15 – 1:45   Funders Presentations (TBC)

1:45 – 2:00   Feedback and Close.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Our next conference is in Paris, 3rd-4th July 2015. All welcome!

We are delighted to announce that on Friday July 3rd and Saturday July 4th 2015 SAALG will be holding a joint conference with the Southeast Asia Library Group (SEALG) in Paris.

The conference will give participants the chance to explore France's collections and connections with South and Southeast Asia.

On Friday we will be based at École française d'Extrême-Orient (EFEO), Maison de l'Asie, 22, avenue du President Wilson, 75116, Paris - when we will have a selection of talks and a tour of the EFEO as well as a chance to view items from their collections.

Talks include:

Rachel Guidoni - Major South Asia Collections in French Libraries

Arundhati Virmani -  South Asia Collections at the Marseille's Chamber of Commerce

Mrs J. Filliozat  - The odyssey of the Pali manuscript EFEO collection

Holger Warnk - The Nachlass of Maurice Durand in the Library of Southeast Asian Studies in Frankfurt
Cécile Capot  - The history of the EFEO library

Isabelle Dion and Olivia Pelletier  - Archives about Indochina in the national overseas archives (ANOM)

Jérôme Petit  - Missionaries, travelers and scholars: the building of an Indian manuscripts collection at the National Library of France

On Friday evening there will be the chance to meet socially at the conference dinner (not included in the fee, venue to be confirmed).

On Saturday at 10am there will be a visit to the Musée Guimet, 6, Place d'Iéna- 75116, Paris: including a guided tour of selected collections and a visit to the library.

On Saturday afternoon SEALG will hold another session of talks which you are welcome to attend also held at Musée Guimet.

Participants are welcome to book for Friday only, Friday and Saturday morning, or Friday and Saturday all day.   The fee for the whole conference is £30 and includes talks, lunch and refreshments on Friday plus the visit to Musee Guimet on Saturday morning and additional SEALG talks on the Saturday afternoon.  

This year to help with planning we will be asking participants to pay the conference fee in advance but at this stage if you would like to book a place simply email, specifying which sessions you plan to attend, and whether you would like to attend the Saturday evening dinner (excluded from the conference fee).  The final day for booking will be 22nd June and payment will be required by Friday 26th June.

To book a place or for further information about recommended accommodation email:

Images of the Library at the École française d'Extrême-Orient, courtesy of Maïté Hurel.

The SAALG steering committee looks forward to welcoming you to our Paris conference.

Helen Porter (SAALG Chair, and Digital Services Support Officer, SOAS, University of London)
and Maïté Hurel (Head of South Asian collections, École française d'Extrême-Orient)

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Parallel publics: an Indian history of democracy

You are warmly invited to attend the 2015 Smuts Memorial Fund Lecture, this year is being given by Dr Ramnarayan Rawat, Smuts Research Fellow in Commonwealth Studies at the Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge. His lecture 'Parallel publics: an Indian history of democracy' will take place on Thursday, 21 May 2015, at 5 pm in The Old Combination Room, Trinity College, Cambridge, with a reception afterwards.

Dalit (former untouchable) groups in early twentieth century North India gave democracy an Indic genealogy by drawing from existing devotional and collective forms of practice to fashion a set of new ideological and spatial interventions. Through print and public activism, Dalit activists utilized the fifteenth century saints Raidas and Kabir, key figures of the heterodox Nirgun Bhakti tradition, as spokespersons for ‘human equality’, offering a spiritual critique of caste inequality. These initiatives enabled Dalit activists to engage creatively with liberal ideologies of representation to create novel forms of political practice at the turn of the twentieth century. Counter-demonstrations by Dalit groups from 1922 onwards sought to intervene in debates on democracy by parading with untouchable bodies and capturing public spaces in prominent towns of North India. The term ‘parallel publics’ registers the absence of evidence of these struggles and narratives within dominant Indian archives and academic discourse and recognizes the continued circulation of these histories, discursive forms and practices within Dalit neighbourhoods.

Ramnarayan Rawat is currently Smuts Visiting Fellow in Commonwealth Studies based at the Centre of South Asian Studies.  Dr Rawat is also Associate Professor in the Department of History, University of Delaware.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Next SAALG Conference - Friday 30th January 2015 - Salvation Army International Heritage Centre

We are pleased to announce that the next South Asia Archive and Library Group conference will take place on Friday 30th January at the Salvation Army International Heritage Centre  in South London. 

Some of you may remember Hari Jonkers' talk at our February 2014 conference which introduced us to South Asia related material held in the Salvation Army's archives. 

Image copyright: The Salvation Army International Heritage Centre

The conference will include the following talks plus a chance to view such items from the Salvation Army's archive collection and museum displays, as well as the SAALG Business Meeting. 

Cataloguing the Michael Stokes Indian postcard collection’ Rosie Llewellyn-Jones (Archivist, Royal Society for Asian Affairs)

Searching for Mahabharatas: An inquiry into the modern adaptations of an Indian 'national epic' in Hindi and English cultural spheres’ Chimnay Sharma (PhD Candidate, SOAS University of London)

Three books about South India in the days of the Raj.  Discovering the life and work of the photographer A. T. W. Penn’ - Christopher Penn (Independent Researcher, Author)

Digitising with volunteers: the experience of the Centre of South Asian Studies’ – Dr. Kevin Greenbank (Archivist, Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge).

The conference fee is £20 including lunch and refreshments and is payable on the day. If you would like to attend please simply fill in our online booking form at the following link

For a full programme or further information please don't hesitate to contact Helen Porter at or 

We hope to see you there in January!

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Stein-Arnold Exploration Fund: Call for Proposals
Application forms for this special fund scheme are now available on e-GAP.

Intending applicants need to register themselves in the system, if not already registered, and should access full details by following the links to 'funding schemes' from the personal welcome page.

Stein-Arnold Exploration Fund
The Fund was established according to the terms of the Will of Sir Aurel Stein, FBA, to commemorate his friendship with Sir Thomas Arnold, FBA, for 'the encouragement of research on the antiquities or historical geography or early history or arts of those parts of Asia which come within the sphere of the ancient civilisations of India, China, and Iran, including Central Asia, or of one or more of these and so that special consideration shall be paid, if possible, to research of this character bearing upon the territories comprised in the present Kingdom of Afghanistan including the region of ancient Bactria and in the north-western frontier region of India'.

Research should be 'so far as possible by means of exploratory work', and applicants must be British or Hungarian subjects.

Level of grant: Awards do not normally exceed £2,500.
Deadline for submission of applications: 3 December 2014.
Results expected: end March 2015.
Earliest Start Date for Research: 1 April 2015.
The first two ‘Visual Constructions of South Asia’ seminars are now available as podcasts:

The Iconography of Alterity: Simla and the Visualisation of ‘British’ Enclaves in Indian Highlands (Siddharth Pandey)

‘For a little amusement’: A Brutal Look at Leisure in Early Modern Indo-Danish Relations (Josefine Baark)

For further information about this seminar series see Also, please circulate to others who may be interested.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture

The Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture
Special Lecture to mark the 125th anniversary of the birth of Jawaharlal Nehru in November 1889

Tuesday 25th November 2014

Shivshankar Menon
Formerly National Security Adviser to the Prime Minister of India

‘Jawaharlal Nehru and World Order’

Edmond J Safra Memorial Theatre at King's College London WC2R 2LS (entrance in the Strand) at 6.30pm

Kindly sponsored by
India Advisory Partners Limited

The Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Trust

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Kollam in Cambridge: a ninth century Indian document and its nineteenth century rediscovery

In pre-modern South Asia, important legal documents were inscribed onto copper sheets; known as copper plate grants, these are one of the main sources for medieval Indian history. The Kollam plates record endowments and privileges awarded in 849 CE to an Eastern (Syrian) Christian church at the port of the same name in Kerala and are among the most fascinating medieval grant documents from South Asia.

Europeans had known of the existence of the Kollam plates since the sixteenth century, but for a few centuries their whereabouts remained unknown, until they were rediscovered in the Cochin Fort in 1806. It is in this context that Claudius Buchanan, a Cambridge alumnus and Vice-Provost of Fort William College in Calcutta, commissioned a set of copper printing plates to produce prints of what he termed “the Christian tablets of Malabar”. In the pre-photographic era prints were one of the main means of disseminating epigraphic records or other historical documents. While the Kollam plates have recently been studied within an Indian Ocean context, in the nineteenth century missionaries and scholars like Buchanan sought in them evidence for the history of Indian Christianity and the potential for expanded missionary activity in the sub-continent.

Buchanan’s are the earliest reproductions of this important document and sets of prints were circulated to Indian ‘pandits’ and “learned societies in Asia and Europe” in an effort to decipher the main text of the grant.

You can view these incredible copper plates in a free exhibition, Kollam in Cambridge, in the entrance hall of Cambridge University Library until 8th November 2014, where Buchanan's plates are complemented by informative banners produced by De Montfort University and the British Museum.

More information about the copper plates from Kollam, and their value to historians of early and medieval Indian history, is available on the project website: .   The project was led by De Montfort University in collaboration with The British Museum and was funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (grant number AH/I025948/1).

Monday, 13 October 2014

Visual Rhetoric and Modern South Asian history seminar series, University of Cambridge, Michaelmas 2014

Please find below the schedule for the ‘Visual Rhetoric and Modern South Asian history’ seminar series organised as part of the ‘Visual Language and South Asian History’ Programme led by Dr Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes, University of Cambridge. Seminars will take place in Michaelmas Term 2014 on Tuesdays between 4:30 - 6:00p.m. in S3 Seminar Room, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DP. 

This seminar series introduces postgraduate students and researchers to media research skills required when exploring the visual dimension of modern South Asian history. For details see

14th October 
Colonial South Asia: cultural conflicts and racial hierarchies

21st October   
Visual anthropological perspectives on South Asian society

28th October  
Gendered politics in the visual representation of South Asia

4th November  
The Indian National Movement

11th November  
Partition: politics, memory and experience

18th November 
After Independence: India, Pakistan and Bangladesh

25th November     
Sri Lanka on film: Ceylon tea and Tamil Tigers

2nd December      
Contemporary South Asian visual constructions of Self & Nation

Contact: Dr Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes, amm230[at]

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Visual Constructions of South Asia new seminar series, University of Cambridge, 2014-15

'Visual Constructions of South Asia' is an annual seminar series launched in 2014 as part of the Visual Language and South Asian History Program led by Dr Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes at the University of Cambridge. The series is supported by the Thriplow Charitable Trust and the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH).  For further information see 

Please see below the programme and poster for the Michaelmas term. 
Location and Time: Mondays, 4:00 – 6:00 p.m., S2 Seminar Room, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road. CB3 9DT.

13th October:  The Iconography of Alterity: Simla and the Visualisation of ‘British’Enclaves in Indian Highlands (Siddharth Pandey)
27th October:  ‘For a little amusement’: A Brutal Look at Leisure in Early Modern Indo-Danish Relations (Josefine Baark)
10th November:  Death and sanitation: Imperial representations of The Ganges (Cleo Roberts)
24th November:  Before East was East: British Pakistani Cinema in the 1980s (Hamza Beg)

Sunday, 28 September 2014

South Asia @ Cambridge Festival of Ideas 20 Oct-2 Nov 2014
This autumn's Festival of Ideas in Cambridge has several events likely to interest followers of the SAALG blog.  Booking is essential for many and some are already booked up.

FULLY BOOKED - Envoy: the experiences of a diplomat in Asia

Ancient India and Iran Trust, Friday 24th October, 5.00 pm. Event 77.
Fully Booked

Friday 24 October: 5:00pm

Sir Nicholas Barrington served as a career diplomat in five Asian countries, including Afghanistan and Iran, ending as Ambassador to Pakistan. With memoirs now published, he will discuss some of the interesting problems he had to face and the need to build bridges between East and West.

10 seconds of film: colonial identity exhibited in archival footage

Alison Richard Building, SG1/2, Saturday 25 October: 7:00pm - 8:00pm, Event 123

Archives of colonial documents often challenge conventional historical narratives. This joint presentation considers some remarkable examples of written, visual and aural archival records held by the Centre of South Asian Studies.

India-Pakistan: the common ground

Lady Mitchell Hall, Saturday 1st November, 3.00 pm.  Event 222

A panel discussion looking at commonalities between the two countries in the India/Pakistan divide, finding common ground in terms of development, economic growth and research, where a spirit of co-operation brings benefits for all. With Professor Joya Chatterji, Dr Ornit Shani, Dr Bhaskar Vira and Dr Kamal Munir.
Chatterji, Dr Ornit Shani, Dr Bhaskar Vira and Dr Kamal Munir. - See more at:

Sovereignty at sea: identity politics of Asian territorial disputes in East and South China Seas

Alison Richard Building, SG1/2, Saturday 1 November: 3:00pm - 4:00pm, Event 221

The risk of conflict escalating from relatively minor events has increased in the South and East China Seas over the past years with disputes now seemingly less amenable to negotiation or resolution. The panel discusses discourses in China, Japan, and Southeast Asian countries, and suggests implications for issue areas of potential mutual benefits. With additional perspectives on maritime relations of rising powers and post-colonial contests in Europe and the Middle Eastern/North Africa.

Negotiating identities? Cultural encounters in Bend it Like Beckham

Anglia Ruskin University, East Road, CB1 1PT , Wednesday 22 October: 7:00pm - 9:00pm, Event 55

Wednesday 22 October: 7:00pm - 9:00pm

Probably more than most other European countries, contemporary Britain has been shaped by mass immigration, in particular from South Asia, and British-Asian Cinema has joined the often polemic media debate about the country’s ‘multiculturalism’. Be it as a potential mirror of popular attitudes, ideas and preoccupations, or as regards the likely impact on common views and opinions on migration, we cannot afford to ignore the filmic portrayals. In this context, Professor Guido Rings will explore the negotiation of identities in one popular example of British-Asian cinema: Chadha's Bend it like Beckham. Professor Guido Rings will raise questions such as: How does the film express cultural differences and to what extent does this follow traditional concepts of culture? How is the interconnectedness of cultures articulated and how does this relate to current notions of interculturality and transculturality? Professor Guido Rings is Professor of Postcolonial Studies, Director of Research Unit for Intercultural and Transcultural Studies (RUITS), Anglia Ruskin University.
Be it as a potential mirror of popular attitudes, ideas and preoccupations, or as regards the likely impact on common views and opinions on migration, we cannot afford to ignore the filmic portrayals. In this context, Professor Guido Rings will explore the negotiation of identities in one popular example of British-Asian cinema: Chadha's Bend it like Beckham. Professor Guido Rings will raise questions such as: How does the film express cultural differences and to what extent does this follow traditional concepts of culture? How is the interconnectedness of cultures articulated and how does this relate to current notions of interculturality and transculturality? Professor Guido Rings is Professor of Postcolonial Studies, Director of Research Unit for Intercultural and Transcultural Studies (RUITS), Anglia Ruskin University - See more at:
Those interested in Southeast Asia may also wish to attend...

Hidden Hong Kong

Cambridge University Library, Map Room, Saturday 25th October, at 10.00 am, 11.00 am and Noon.  Event 84

An opportunity to study spectacular photographs and maps of Hong Kong in the collections of Cambridge University Library, with Rachel Rowe of the Royal Commonwealth Society Library and Anne Taylor, Map Librarian.

To book an event, click on the relevant link above, and then follow the booking information on the right-hand side of the screen.

For a full listing of Festival events, visit:

Friday, 29 August 2014

Calling all Burmese scholars

Applications are invited for the Charles Wallace Burma Trust Visiting Fellowship which will
be hosted by the Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge, in partnership with
the Charles Wallace Burma Trust and the British Council in Burma.

The Fellowship is intended to enable a Burmese scholar to conduct research on any aspect of
modern Burmese history and society, and is open to scholars working in all disciplines
related to this field.

The Fellowship is for a period of three months during the Lent Term, 2015 (13 January to 13

The aim of the Fellowship is to advance the scholarly achievements of the visiting fellow,
and thereby establish productive academic links between Cambridge and Burma.

Candidates who have had financial support from the Charles Wallace Burma Trust in the past
five years will not be eligible.

Provided they are qualified in other respects, candidates with little or no prior international
experience are strongly encouraged to apply.

At the conclusion of the Fellowship period, the Fellow will be required to submit a report to
the Committee of Management of the Centre of South Asian Studies and to the Secretary of
the Charles Wallace Burma Trust outlining what he or she has achieved.

An all-inclusive monthly stipend of £1,400 is offered by the Trust to cover costs at
Cambridge, together with a contribution towards a return economy air fare from Burma, and
the cost of the candidate’s UK visa. The Fellow is expected to make his/her own travel

The British Council in Burma will offer advice to the Fellow about securing a UK visa, and
provide some pre-departure briefing.

If you know of anyone from Myanmar (Burma) who might be interested in applying, please direct them to the relevant part of the Centre's website:

Deadline for applications is 31 October 2014

Candidates are invited to submit the following by email to:
  • a letter of application setting out as precisely and as clearly as possible the programme of research to be undertaken
  • the names of scholars already in Cambridge working in a similar or adjacent/related subject and with whom the fellow would hope to work
  •  a full CV with a list of publications; and
  •  ask not more than two academic referees to email directly in support of his or her application by the closing date of 31 October 2014.
Please note that, in order to comply with work permit regulations, the successful applicant
will be asked to submit a signed, original copy of his/her application and original, signed

The selection will follow the Centre of South Asian Studies’ policy and procedure for
Academic Visitors and is subject to the approval of the Charles Wallace Burma Trust and the
British Council in Burma.

The closing date for applications is 31 October, 2014. The Fellow is expected to take up the
post at the beginning of the Lent Term 2015 (13 January 2015).

Applications and enquiries should be sent to:
The Administrator, Centre of South Asian Studies, Alison Richard Building, 7 West
Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT, UK

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Archives of art curator Donald Bowen

RCMS 360_4_1 Indian quarters, 1943
Cambridge University Library's Royal Commonwealth Society Collection has published an on-line catalogue of an important recent acquisition, the archives of Donald Bowen (1917-), artist and Curator of the Commonwealth Institute’s Art Gallery. The collection includes memoirs and correspondence documenting Bowen’s early training at the Chelsea School of Art, the Byam Shaw School of Drawing and Painting, and tuition with the artist and occultist Austin Osman Spare. Bowen describes his military training and service during the Second World War, including the Battle of Arras and evacuation at Dunkirk, and his commissioning into the Royal Engineers. Bowen served in India between 1943 and 1947, travelling widely. One of the treasures of the collection is an album of drawings in pencil and related media depicting India’s people, landscapes, architecture, plants and animals.

RCMS 360_3 Exhibition of Oshogbo and West Nigeria artists, 1974
In 1953, Bowen joined the Imperial Institute (later the Commonwealth Institute), initially as Exhibitions Officer, and became Curator of its Art Gallery in 1962. He provides an insider’s view of the institute’s move to its iconic new building in Kensington High Street, which opened in the same year. Its purpose built galleries soon won a central position in the contemporary London art scene. Between 1962 and his retirement in 1979, Bowen organised more than 200 exhibitions of paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, the crafts and other media, working with established and emerging Commonwealth artists, many of whom had never exhibited in Britain before. Correspondence, memoirs and other material vividly reflect the planning, organisation and impact of the exhibitions.

RCMS 360_5 Trafalgar Cemetery, Gibraltar, 1988

As an acknowledged expert on Commonwealth Art, Bowen travelled extensively, and the collection records an educational visit to West Africa in 1968, and a lecture tour of Canada in 1969, undertaken after an invitation to address the Canadian Society for Education through Art. A second volume of original art work includes pencil drawings executed during the visits to West Africa and Canada.

To view the collection catalogue, please follow the link:

For information about accessing the archive in Cambridge University Library, please see:

Post by John Cardwell, RCS Archivist.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Gujarati Textiles - an exhibition at the SADACC Trust

Held at the Old Skating Rink Gallery, Bethel Street, Norwich
Open 9:30 - 5:00pm Mon to Sat, Closed Sunday
Copyright © 2014 The SADACC Trust, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
The SADACC Trust
The Old Skating Rink,
34-36 Bethel Street
Norwich, Norfolk NR2 1NR
United Kingdom

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Cambridge's first Tibetan exhibition

Buddha’s Word: The Life of Books in Tibet and Beyond
28 May 2014 – 17 January 2015
Buddha’s Word: The Life of Books in Tibet and Beyond is the first exhibition of Tibetan material in Cambridge. It will display some of the world’s oldest Sanskrit and Buddhist manuscripts – and a gift from the 13th Dalai Lama – in a special exhibition on Buddhist books at Cambridge University from May 28th 2014.
Buddha’s Word: The Life of Books in Tibet and Beyond
28 May 2014 – 17 January 2015

It puts on display for the first time the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology’s astonishing Buddhist artefacts and brings together collections and research from three of the University of Cambridge Museums; the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences and the Fitzwilliam Museum – as well as the University Library, the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, and Emmanuel and Pembroke Colleges.

Historians, anthropologists, linguists, art historians, chemists and material scientists have all contributed to this unique view into the complex world of the book in Buddhism.

Exhibits of particular note include some of the oldest illuminated Buddhist manuscripts from the first decades of the eleventh century, specimens of skilfully illuminated wooden covers and a quartet of scroll paintings brought back from the controversial Younghusband Expedition.

Dr Hildegard Diemberger, Co-Curator, describes the exhibition as “telling the story of the incredible journeys that the words of the Buddha have taken – crossing mountains and oceans and taking different material forms in different places.”

This story is told through the curation of three distinct spaces within the Li Ka Shing gallery at the museum. First to greet visitors will be a Himalayan Buddhist Altar which demonstrates an exploration of the text as sacred object, as a relic of the Buddha. Secondly, the Laboratory shows how Tibetan books are made and analysed, investigating the long history of printing in Tibet and the recent discoveries made by Cambridge scientists and scholars about the pigments used in illuminations. The final section, the Library, traces the journeys taken by Buddha’s word from India, across Asia, to places as far apart as Sri Lanka and Japan, Mongolia and Taiwan.

“It’s a real first,” said Dr Mark Elliott, Senior Curator in Anthropology at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. “A lot of these artefacts have never been seen on display before, and certainly not together. But we’re also looking at Tibetan books, and Tibetan Buddhist art, in a completely new way. There have been some real surprises during the development of the exhibition and we’re looking forward to sharing some of those with visitors.”

This exhibition is one outcome of a series of Cambridge-based, linked projects carried out over the past decade. These projects include Tibetan and Mongolian Rare Books and Manuscripts; Transforming Technology and Buddhist Book Culture: The Introduction of Printing and Digital Text Reproduction in Tibetan Societies; and the Sanskrit Manuscript Project, all funded by the British Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), and Tibetan Books Evolution and Technology (TiBET), supported by the Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship. Thanks to exchange schemes run by the Mongolia & Inner Asia Studies Unit, Tibetan scholars have been able to engage with these materials providing new insights and understandings of their cultural significance.

Professor Nicholas Thomas, Director of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, said: “This is a truly collaborative project that exemplifies the research strengths of the University of Cambridge and the extraordinary potential of the Arts Council-funded Connecting Collections programme, that brings together the collections and expertise of all the University of Cambridge Museums. This particular project has also been generously supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.”
From the Buddhist Altar, to the Library, to the Laboratory, this exhibition promises to be an inspiration for scholars, Buddhists and curious people of all ages and backgrounds. It is the story of the transformation of Buddha’s words, from palm leaves, to paper, to digital dharma; you will never look at a book in the same way again.

Buddha’s Word: The Life of Books in Tibet and Beyond
28 May 2014 – 17 January 2015

For more information please contact Verity Sanderson, Marketing and Press Coordinator, University of Cambridge Museums on 07872 410663 or