Thursday, April 25, 2013

IDP Jobs: Digital Imaging Assistants

IDP is looking for part time Imaging Assistants with Photoshop experience. For full details see the British Library careers pages.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

IDP Report January–March 2013

Download this report PDF 324KB


  • We were very sorry to say goodbye to Abby Baker and Rachel Roberts, both of whom had been with IDP for over ten years. We wish them well in their new roles. We welcomed Josef Konczak (JK) to replace Rachel as IDP Studio Manager.
  • Interns from University College London were interviewed for a placement with IDP in May. Two interns will be joining us then.

Cataloguing, Digitisation and Data Consolidation

  • The number of digital images available through IDP exceeded 400,000. Recent additions included Chinese manuscript scrolls from Dunhuang in the National Library of China (search for BD), photographs from the Sven Hedin collections in Sweden (search for 1034.00), and Tibetan pothi from the Stein collection at the British Library (search for IOL Tib J).
  • Work started on digitising nitrate negatives showing Tibet from the Bailey Collection at the British Library. These can be seen by searching for Neg 1083.
  • Emma Goodliffe has completed data checking and consolidation on several sequences of Uighur, Khotanese, Sanskrit and other manuscript fragments and these are now scheduled for digitisation. The consolidated data are being imported into the new data structure.

Conferences and Lectures

  • 19–20 January: Susan Whitfield (SW) took part in a workshop at Birmingham University of the AHRC network ‘Defining the Global Middle Ages’.
  • 21–28 January: SW visited Chicago, Minneapolis and New York. She held meetings with partners and potential funders, as well as teaching at the ‘Early Globalities’ graduate seminar at the University of Minnesota. In New York she gave a talk on the Silk Road explorations and IDP for the Dunhuang Foundation at the Asia Society.
  • 6–7 Feb: John Falconer (JF), Vic Swift (VS) and SW attended the Royal Geographical Society AHRC workshop Re-enacting the Silk Road: Geographies and Geographers of Central Asia and the Silk Road. SW gave a talk about Aurel Stein.
  • 8 March: Sam van Schaik (SvS) and SW helped organise an IDP Wikipedia Editathon in Nottingham University, along with Professors Mike Heffernan and Julian Henderson, as part of the AHRC-funded IDP project Contextualizing Texts.
  • 9–16 March: VS and SW visited Korea and Japan for partner meetings. They attended an international workshop on palaeography held by IDP’s partners at Ryukoku University, Kyoto and met with existing and potential collaborating institutions in Tokyo, Kyoto and Seoul to discuss present and future plans. In addition, they met the IDP Academic Advisory Committee at the Research Institute of Korean Studies at the Korea University.
  • 14–15 March: SvS went to Berlin to attend a seminar organised by Desmond Durkin-Meisterernst (Head of Turfan Research Group, BBAW and IDP Germany) to discuss tripartite cooperation between IDP Germany, the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts (IOM) and the Hermitage, St Petersburg. There were two days of presentations finishing with a roundtable discussion.

Collaborations and Projects

  • Franck Lebourgeois and Yann Leydier met with VS, SW and SvS to discuss their newly funded project between the University of Lyon and Tsinghua University, Beijing, with the cooperation of the IDP Beijing and IDP France. This is a CNRS project under the NSFC program and provides funds for three years to develop image processing tools and pattern recognition systems for a robust Optical Character Recognition suited for old Chinese manuscripts. Langruia Peng from Tsinghua University, Beijing joined the meeting by Skype.
  • Professor Daniel C. Waugh, University of Washington visited IDP to discuss the two websites under his management, namely the Silk Road Seattle site and the Silk Road Foundation site.
  • Dr Takeuchi Tsuguhito visited SvS and SW to discuss the completion of cataloguing of Tibetan woodslips with Iwao Kazushi, and the preparation of a catalogue of Tibetan texts from Kharakhoto and Etsin-gol for publication in 2015.
  • Dr Wang Shumin’s volume of transcriptions, notes and images of the medical manuscripts from Dunhuang in the British Library was published and a copy received by IDP, following several years of collaboration.


  • The AHRC-funded project Contextualizing Texts was completed and a full report and budget are currently being prepared.
  • IDP is exploring potential grants for the continuation of its core work — conservation, cataloguing, digitisation, research and outreach. We will be submitting applications over the next few months.
  • A fundraising drive for individuals through the IDP Supporters and Sponsor a Sutra schemes is also planned. A new publicity leaflet is shortly going to press and work will shortly be completed on an online payment system for donations.
  • IDP is seeking funding for an annual named lecture series on the Silk Road.


  • 23 January: The IDP team attended Collection Care Training at the British Library on handling manuscripts.
  • During January and February Emma Goodliffe (EG) attended a series of Digital Scholarship training days, organized by the British Library, which covered a series of topics such as social media, information integration, geo-referencing and metadata.
  • 14 February: VS and EG attended a training day on the Text Encoding Initiative held at the British Library.
  • 26 February: SW and Sarah Mullan (SM) met with Colleen Harrison to discuss Record Management.
  • 27 February: JK attended an Access and Reuse policy workshop organized by the British Library.
  • 19-20 March: JK undertook Phase One Camera & Software training.

Forthcoming Events

  • 15 May: There will be an event for IDP patrons and supporters in the British Library. This will showcase the work that IDP have been doing on field trips to Xinjiang and encourage support for a forthcoming exhibition of old and new photographs at the Royal Geographical Society (Jan–March 2014) as well as other future work.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Manuscripts under the microscope

A few years ago Sam van Schaik (IDP) and Agnieszka Helman-Wazny (Hamburg University) started a small project on the Tibetan manuscripts from Dunhuang. They developed a plan to combine the results of Agnieszka's scientific analysis of the paper used in the Tibetan manuscripts with Sam's work on the textual and palaeographical aspects of the manuscripts. Selecting a group of fifty manuscripts, put everything they could find out about them into a table, and studied at the patterns that emerged. One of the most interesting results was the suggestion that manuscripts that had been brought to Dunhuang from Tibet itself were made in a different way to those made locally at Dunhuang. Though more work needs to be done, this opens up the possibility of ‘fingerprinting’ a manuscript to find out where it was made.

Read more about the project here.

The image above shows a microscopic image of Paper Mulberry fibres, more examples of Agnieszka Helman-Wazny's images of paper fibres from a Dunhuang manuscript can be found on the IDP website.