Digitization of the Sikkim Palace Archives, 1875-1975

With the generosity of The British Library’s Endangered Archive Programme and Arcadia, this project is preserving, cataloguing, and digitally reproducing 100,000+ pages of the Sikkim Palace Archives, 1875-1975, making a cache of primary source material universally accessible, free of copyright.

 

Discussions concerning historical aspects of Sikkim suffer from a paucity of sources, exacerbated by the sensitivities of subsumption by India in 1975. As a result, its academic study is restricted, a balanced understanding of the history of this region is impossible, no Sikkim history is taught in any local school, and not a single museum exists in the state.

 

This collection which numbers 100,000+ pages will provide an overview of—and a rare insight into—late 19th and 20th century Sikkim, introducing the characters and events that shaped the development of the kingdom and its eventual integration into India. Until now, the history of Sikkim and of the region has only been told using British imperial sources: This digitised archive will represent the first collection of local origin to be made freely accessible.

Its contents are powerful, never-before-seen documents, which breathe life into a series of engaging stories about the people, the land, and its complex history at the crosswords of British India and Tibetan Buddhism. They contain a unique and priceless record of the region that will be of interest to scholars of both this Himalayan state and the wider region of South and Central Asia, and they harbour the potential to guide Sikkimese, visitors, and scholars alike in discovering the richness of this forgotten kingdom, and in giving voice to the untold histories of one of India’s youngest states.

Sikkim Photo Recall

The Sikkim Photo Recall project aspires to document quotidian life in the Himalayan region through the creation of an ambitious digital image library.

 

Starting with glass-plate negatives, medium format prints, and transparencies from the Palace’s own collection, Sikkim Photo Recall encourages individuals and families to contribute their photographs to help create a digital resource that will be of interest and value to researchers, scholars, and the inquisitive individual.

 

If you have photo collections at risk of decay due to weather conditions or neglect, having your collection digitised is one way to ensure your family memories – and Sikkim’s intangible culture – are preserved. The Sikkim Photo Recall project can assess your collection and let you know how long it will take, and how much it will cost. BUT..If you are willing contribute a set of digital copies of your photos to Sikkim Photo Recall, digitization and archiving facilities will be provided absolutely free of charge (and copyright will remain with you).

 

If you would like more details about contributing to Sikkim Photo Recall, please send us an email or come in to see us!

Preservation of Sikkim Tsuklakhang thangkas

This project will catalogue, digitise, and preserve the approximately 100 thangkas of the Sikkim Tsuklakhang: a collection of 17th – 20th century thangkas that once belonged to the royal family of the former Himalayan kingdom of Sikkim.

Abruptly integrated with India in 1975, there is a dearth of local historical documentation, and a sharp decline in both knowledge of, and interest in, its unique Buddhist heritage.

 

Perhaps more so than political and social histories, spiritual history and associated records (thangkas, ritual texts and objects) are often neglected and lost as youths’ aspirations are captured by mainstream pop culture; or as objects are stolen, for their monetary value as antiques; or damaged by weather and time. With the loss of this tangible heritage, soon intangible associated spiritual knowledge will also disappear. This intangible heritage is what has informed almost all of our cultural practices, which will then have very little hope for authentic or sustainable survival.

 

Furthermore, thangkas –by definition, illustrations of imagery described in detailed ritual texts – display contemporaneous stylistic and contextual references that have the potential to speak volumes about the socio-cultural and political contexts of the times, and the intellectual and creative exchange of ideas across the Buddhist world. It is clear that rich cultural heritage is embedded in every scroll.

 

Over the past 40 years, these thangkas have deteriorated rapidly, and many require conservation. At severe risk of further decay, this project will make available to historians, Sikkimese, Buddhist scholars, and practitioners, a unique resource for future enquiry into the spiritual and cultural traditions of Sikkim.