The Buddhist Archives

The Buddhist Archive of Photography was the first major initiative of the Buddhist Heritage Project. In 2005, stemming from long discussions between Pha Khamchan Virrachittha and Hans Georg Berger (Co-founders of the Buddhist Heritage Project) it came to light that in a number of monasteries in Luang Prabang, and certainly in Pha Khamchan's monastery of Vat Saen, there were large collections of photographs, often dating from the late 1800's or early 1900's.

With a grant from the British Library's Endangered Archives Programme (funded by ARCADIA) Hans Berger brought together a small team of talented and interested young Lao, and embarked upon assembling a remarkable collection of more than 35,000 photographic images in various forms. Each was cleaned, identified, digitized, catalogued and professionally stored. Several international experts were invited to participate and became involved in the evolution of the Archives, advising on correct handling, cataloguing and storage procedures of the material, and in the training of young Lao to continue the work.

The Archives' focus has now expanded, thanks to a further grant from the British Library and the commencement of an extensive research program involving the Asian - Afrika Institute at the University of Hamburg, Germany and DORISEA. The Archives are now treating large collections of historic traditional palm-leaf manuscripts, modern manuscripts documents, diaries and personal papers. Each is being digitized, catalogued and preserved in the same manner adhering to international professional standards.

Major support from a number of institutions, including the Badur Foundation of London and the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation has assisted in restoration of the Archives' physical working spaces and in the storage and cabinetry required to maintain the collections to international standards.

The photographs below give some insight into the Archives' important work: