Tuesday, December 18, 2012

IDP Report July – December 2012


  • We were very sorry to say goodbye to Alastair Morrison, who was with IDP for ten years, but wish him well in his new post as Partnership and International Development Manager at Bournemouth University. Emma Goodliffe has joined as International and Data Support Assistant, taking over some of Alastair’s international work.
  • We also wish Kate Hampson, IDP Administrative Assistant for ten years, well in her retirement and welcome Sarah Mullan as her replacement.


  • In August the results of the IDP user survey were published online. A summary report will be published shortly. This was part of the AHRC grant intended to gain feedback for the redesigned web interface.
  • Work started on the design and implementation of a new database and website interface for IDP, being carried out as part of the AHRC grant. The core module of the new database went live for testing in November.


  • 23–26 October: Wikipedians, SOAS, UCL and Birmingham University students, scholars and IDP staff took part in the IDP Wikipedia Editathon during which they added, edited and updated material on Wikipedia.
  • 8–10 November: A two day conference, Archaeology of the Southern Taklamakan: Hedin and Stein’s Legacy and New Explorations, jointly organised with the Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology and SOAS, was held at the British Library Conference Centre. It was attended by over 150 people.
  • 14–18 November: Celebrations were held at the National Library of China (NLC) in Beijing for the 10th Anniversary of the launch of the IDP Chinese language site, including the opening of the ‘Documenting Dunhuang’ Exhibition at NLC, and a lunch at the British Ambassador’s Residence. Susan Whitfield, Vic Swift and Emma Goodliffe were joined by Baroness Tessa Blackstone, Chair of the British Library Board, HE Sebastian Wood, the British Ambassador to China, colleagues from IDP Dunhuang and the Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology, scholars and press.

Visitors to IDP

  • 23 August: Mark Pollard from Oxford University met with SW and Sam van Schaik (SvS) to discuss the potential of scientific analysis of manuscripts for a AHRC Science in Culture bid.
  • 10 October: Lu Li from Nanjing University, currently a visiting scholar at SOAS, met with SvS to discuss a research project on Old Tibetan documents.
  • 24 October: Sir Matthew Farrer, Abraham Lue and Lady Pamela Youde joined IDP staff for the IDP Patrons meeting.
  • 25 October: Julian Henderson, Nottingham University, visited to discuss the AHRC Science in Culture bid with SW and SvS.
  • 26 October: Michael Willis, British Museum, and Nathan Hill, SOAS, met with SvS to plan an ERC Synergy bid.
  • 30 October: Anna Alomes of LSE met with SvS to discuss historical sources for the Tibetan Empire.
  • 31 October: SvS met Agnieszka Helman-Wazny to discuss the AHRC Science in Culture bid.
  • 8 November: SW, VS, SvS and EG met with the IDP Academic Advisory Committee to discuss the web interface, user survey and Wikipedia Editathon, and to plan for forthcoming events under the grant including a workshop in Nottingham.
  • 20 November: Emilia Smagur had a meeting with SW and SvS about a planned archaeological surveying expedition to Miran.
  • 20 November: Matiji Strlic from UCL (Centre for Sustainable Heritage) met with SvS and SW to discuss the AHRC Science in Culture bid.
  • 27 November: A group of paper analysts from Ryukoku University, Japan, led by Professor Ishizuka, visited to discuss paper fibre analysis and the upcoming March 2013 seminar.


  • In July Zhang Qin spent four weeks as an intern in the IDP Studio. She worked on the mark-up of various catalogues and books, including Ancient Khotan.

Collaborations and Partnerships

  • SW and SvS held various meetings with researchers concerning a proposed AHRC Science in Culture grant application. The V&A, University College London, Kew Gardens and Nottingham University agreed to be partners on the bid, working together on research across the sciences and humanities on manuscripts and textiles. Other researchers worldwide agreed to be part of an Advisory Committee.
  • 2 October: SW, SvS and EG met with Xu Shenggen from the Ningxia Academy of Sciences, China, to discuss a collaboration on Tangut manuscript conservation, cataloguing, digitization and publication.
  • 30 November: A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed with the National Silk Museum in Hangzhou for working together on textile catalologuing and research on IDP.
  • 11 December: SW, VS and John Falconer (Lead Curator, Photographs) met with staff from the Royal Geographical Society and Nottingham University to discuss events under the existing AHRC Silk Road network, coordinated by Nottingham, including a workshop with participation by IDP at the RGS in February 2013. They also discussed the possibility of applying for an extension to the networking grant and a potential exhibition of historical and modern photographs at the RGS in January–March 2014.
  • 11 December: SvS and EG met with Zhao De’an, Director of the Northwest University for Nationalities (Lanzhou), and a team of researchers to discuss the publication of a series of facsimile volumes of the Stein Tibetan manuscripts.

Lectures & Conferences

  • 27 August: SW gave a lecture on the Silk Road for a Cambridge University Summer School.
  • 5 September: SW and VS attended an AHRC networking event organised by Nottingham University about the Silk Road and gave a presentation on IDP.
  • 12 September: VS met with representatives from the Documents and Archives Authority of Oman and gave a presentation about IDP.
  • 20–21 September: SvS gave a lecture on ‘Textual Transmission and Ritual Contexts’ at the Transfers of Buddhism Conference at Bochum University, Germany.
  • 23 October: SW gave two lectures for students on the Chinese Art Diploma at Christie’s Education.
  • 24 October: SvS gave two lectures, ‘History of Tibet and Nepal’ and ‘Mahayana and Tantric Buddhism’ at SOAS for the Asian Art diploma course.
  • 31 October: SvS gave a class on Tibetan History to SOAS students.
  • 21 November: SW gave a class and seminar on the Silk Road for SOAS MA students.
  • 29 November–1 December: SW attended the 20th Anniversary celebrations at the National Silk Museum, Hangzhou and gave two presentations.
  • 2–5 December: SW was the keynote speaker at the NODEM Conference in Hong Kong talking about IDP.
  • 7 December: SW was the dinner speaker for the Hong Kong University Museum Society talking on ‘Uncovering Silk Road Lives’.


  • 10 September: VS attended a DataCite workshop at the British Library.
  • 17 October: IDP staff met with British Library Wikipedian in Residence, Andrew Gray, for further training in preparation for the IDP Wikipedia Editathon event.
  • 18 October: VS and RR attended an Access and Reuse policy workshop organised by the British Library with a view to making IDP’s BL material available using Creative Commons and Public Domain licenses.
  • 22 November: EG attended the first in a series of Digital Scholarship training days organized in the British Library, which covered a range of topics, such as digital imaging, text encoding, and social media.

Forthcoming IDP Events

  • 7–8 March 2013: Workshop at Nottingham University under the AHRC grant, involving training sessions and workshops for students across disciplines.

IDP Publications

  • Sam van Schaik. Old Tibetan Texts in the Stein Collection Or.8210 (with Kazushi Iwao and Tsuguhito Takeuchi). Tokyo: The Toyo Bunko, 2012.
  • Sam van Schaik. ‘Dzogchen, Chan and the Question of Influence.’ Revue d’études Tibétaines 24 (October, 2012): 5–20.

Forthcoming Publications

  • Susan Whitfield. ‘Understanding Buddhist Architectural Transmissions Along the Silk Road Across Central Asia and China’, in Cambridge World History of Religious Architecture: Buddhism Volume, forthcoming, 2013.
  • Susan Whitfield. ‘Aurel Stein in the Taklamakan’, biographical entry in Springer Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology, Extreme Environments, forthcoming 2013.
  • Susan Whitfield. ‘Creating a Codicology of Central Asian Manuscripts’. In Lynn Ransom (ed.), Writing the East: History and New Technologies in the Study of Asian Manuscript Traditions (Proceedings of the 4th Annual Lawrence J. Schoenberg Symposium on Manuscript Studies in the Digital Age), Penn University, forthcoming 2013.
  • Susan Whitfield. ‘Custodians of the Past: The Importance of Documentation.’ In papers from the Buddhist Art Forum, Courtauld Institute of Art, forthcoming 2013.
  • Sam van Schaik. ‘Ruler of the East, or Eastern Capital: What lies behind the name Tong kun?’ in Imre Galambos (ed.), Studies in Chinese Manuscripts: From the Warring States to the Twentieth Century. Budapest: Eötvös Loránd University, forthcoming in 2103.
  • Sam van Schaik. ‘Towards a Tibetan Paleography: A Preliminary Typology of Writing Styles in Early Tibet.’ In Jan-Ulrich Sobisch and Jörg B. Quenzer (eds), Manuscript Cultures: Mapping the Field. Berlin: de Gruyter, forthcoming in 2012.
  • Sam van Schaik. ‘Red Faced Barbarians, Benign Despots and Drunken Masters: Khotan as a Mirror to Tibet.’ In Max Deeg (ed.), Religions on the Silk Road. Lumbini: Lumbini International Research Institute, forthcoming in 2013.
  • Sam van Schaik. ‘Reconsidering Tibetan Chan.’ In Cristoph Anderl (ed.), Chan Buddhism — Dunhuang and Beyond: Texts, Manuscripts and Contexts. Weisbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, forthcoming in 2013.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Digital Dunhuang — IDP at NODEM

The work of IDP was presented at the 2012 NODEM conference in Hong Kong. Speaking on a panel with Professor Wang Xudong, Deputy Director of the Dunhuang Academy, Susan Whitfield gave a brief history of the Dunhuang site and the work of IDP, before asking questions about how we prioritise our work given limited funds and the costs of digitisation and preservation of digital data.

This was part of two days of intensive and stimulating sessions from curators, designers, scholars and others generally focused on digital heritage. Professor Lew Lancaster (University of California at Berkeley) made an impassioned and powerful argument against use of the label 'Digital Humanities' — he pointed out that scientists do not feel so insecure about their use of technology that they need to label themselves as 'Digital Scientists'. He took the audience on his own journey learning to use digital tools to transform his research, especially on the use of 'blue dots' to see patterns and discover anomalies in the Buddhist Canon.

The conference was held in the Run Run Shaw Creative Centre at City University of Hong Kong, where exhibitions included two on Dunhuang by Sarah Kenderdine of the CityU Applied Laboratory for Interactive Visualization and Embodiment (ALiVE) in partnership with the Dunhuang Academy and the Friends of Dunhuang Hong Kong. The exhibits were sponsored by Mr Gabriel Yu.