Introduction to Rigdzoe
Visual Archives
Collections of Documents and Papers of Eminent Tibetans
Film Reference Library
  Rigdzoe (Cultural Treasury)
  AMI has embarked on an ambitious and long-term project that aims to preserve, catalogue and archive the wealth of available assets related to Tibetan culture. The idea is to establish a system whereby we can survey and scientifically catalog these assets, digitise them electronically in order to protect the valuable knowledge they represent, and make the resulting treasury of this visual and textual material accessible to scholars and the public-at-large on computer media. A modest service fee would make the library an income-generating resource.
  This project has several dimensions to it -- to begin with, the assets are of widely varying types:
  Photographs from AMI's Visual Archives (and others to which the Institute has access);

The collection from AMI's Film Reference Library

The Institute's collection of rare books and documents, some dating from the 17th century

AMI's library of books and journals in Tibetan, English, Chinese, and other languages

The institute's own publications (in Tibetan and English).

The Institutes collection of maps and atlases.

The Institutes audio collection of interviews, oral histories, lectures, music, recitations etc., on CD, tape and old gramophone records.

  Rigdzoe is intended to complement, not replace existing work. Needless to say, digitising cultural information -- in fact any information -- has its own problems and drawbacks. But in our present situation we see a number of immediate advantages. Digitised information is much easier and cheaper to store and replicate. Hundreds of documents and images can be stored on a single CD, and both digital or printed copies can be made quickly and at a fraction of the cost of traditional printing methods.
  Digitised information is also much simpler and cheaper to catalogue and to retrieve. What is more, digitised information can be accessed by hundreds of users without the need to handle the original. And, the computerised database, or catalogue, will allow users to quickly locate images relating to their research or areas of interest - images that perhaps they never knew existed.
  At present the project is in its infancy. With funding from ApTibeT, London; we have acquired the basic workstation and a CD-Writer. Claris Corporation, in California, donated FileMaker Pro 4.0 (for Macintosh and Windows) we are utilising for the archival process. Mr Ricardo Cardenas has set up the databases required and at the same time trained two of our staff to handle this project. We urgently need help to purchase a high-end scanner.

  Visual Archives
  AMI has started a scientifically catalogued and accessible archive of visual material on Tibet. Three features of this project need to be stressed:

The goal is not in recording new material but collecting copies of existing photographs in private and public collections.

To make this material accessible to researchers, publications, etc., through a comprehensive and independent visual archive of Tibet in Dharamsala.

To process all material through a rigorous identification programme.

  AMI is working against time as old photographs are fast being lost or destroyed through negligence or ignorance. Even collected materials are liable to deterioration because of time. For instance part of AMI's collection consists of unstable (and hazardous) nitrate-based negatives and fragile glass plate negatives that need to be transferred to more stable and safe filmstock.
  Another factor regarding time is identification. The generation of Tibetans who were adults in pre-invasion Tibet is fast dying out.
  Tashi Tsering, academic director of AMI has, for a couple of decades, been working on the study and acquisition of photographs of Tibet. He was instrumental in starting the photograph collection of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives. AMI has acquired Tashi Tsering's collection of over 500 negatives. Another director, Jamyang Norbu, has professional experience in this field and was involved in a major project for the extensive photo-documentation survey of all monasteries and temples (as well as their artifacts and documents) in Kinnaur and Spiti.

The first stage of the project is being realised:

AMI has already set up a basic (black & white) photo-laboratory and trained a couple of young Tibetans in developing and printing techniques. Over a thousand work-prints have been printed for use in identification work.

Work has commenced on digitizing and storing images on CD.

A detailed computerised database has been prepared and work on entering information on each photograph including a thumb-nail image, has commenced.


Our next step is the preparation of a dust-free, temperature and humidity controlled room where our photographs and negative can be stored and retrieved conveniently and safely. At the moment most of them are packed away for safety.

  AMI has been entrusted with the following collections:

Tsarong Collection: probably the largest collection of photographs taken by two (father and son) Tibetan photographers from about the1920s to the late1950s.

  Kasur Lhamo Tsering Collection: photographs of the Tibetan resistance movement.

Shelton Collection (subsidiary): photographs of the American missionary Albert Shelton of his mission in Batang, Eastern Tibet. Donated by his daughter Doris Still. The principal collection is in the Newark Museum.

  Such photographers as Manuel Bauer, Tenzin Dorjee, Roger Hicks, Robert van den Berg, Tamara Triffez, Paul Neutupski, and others, have very kindly donated sets of photographs to the Archives.

Photographs from the archives have already been featured in such magazines as Newsweek (April 19, 1999, Asia edition), Asiaweek (September 11, 1998), books, and in a recent BBC documentary.

  See some samples of photographs.

  Collections of Documents and Papers of Eminent Tibetans
  Since its inception AMI has made efforts to collect and archive papers and documents of eminent Tibetan scholars, religious leaders, statesmen, civil servants, intellectuals and others. A systematic effort in this line has not been attempted in exile-society and AMI feels it is vital that such a project be initiated to collect such primary and secondary material for the writing of contemporary Tibetan history. So far AMI has obtained these collections:

Tsongkha Lhamo Tsering, intelligence officer, freedom fighter, kalon. Collection includes papers, books, manuscripts, correspondence etc.

Kazi Dawa Samdup, scholar and translator, collection (partial)

Rev. Rigzin Wangpo, scholar, linguist and brother in-law of Rev. G.Tharchin. Collection (partial)

Surkhang. Collection (partial)

Albert Shelton, surgeon and missionary, Collection (partial)

Gyalkhar Nangpa papers. Collection (partial) includes family papers also relating to the districts of Tingkye and Zar.)

A few other important collections are being negotiated.



  Film Reference Library
  AMI has begun a project to acquire a copy of every feature film, documentary, short, advertisement or promo on Tibet, and also on Central Asia, the Himalayas and China; in such various formats as Video, Video CD, DVD, LaserDisc and films in 8mm,16mm and 35mm format. We are confident that such a library would not only be of tremendous service to researchers but also provide a valuable primary resource to film and television producers. Since this library is located in Dharamsala, which nearly every filmmaker or research scholar on Tibet usually visits for preparatory research, this library would be a very useful facility. A modest service fee would make the library an income-generating resource.
  An exhaustive and detailed computerised database has been prepared where films and even footages can be located through a number of different categories including genre, subject, format but even through specific filming locations. Other necessary information, including addresses of producers and distributors are also provided for each film.
  AMI has already collected over 200 titles, and acquired a video deck (the gift of White Crane Films). We have also acquired a digital projector and built a small 30-seat theatre-lecture room and have commenced educational screenings of Tibet related documentaries to various student groups. A 10foot wide projector screen and home-theatre sound system donated by ProHelevetia, Arts Council of Switzerland has enabled us to give screenings of videos to the Tibetan public. We have also set up a small viewing room equipped with VCR and monitor to be used by individual researchers.
  We request friends to send us copies of any videos they may have relating to Tibet and associated subjects, even if it may be a personal film taken on a visit, or a promotional video for a support group, Dharma Centre, or a project.