The principal activity of the Foundation is the multimedia documentation of Classical Indian and Tibetan Knowledge Resources and the development of regional and international access to these resources.
Between 1976 and 1979, three of the founding trustees of the Foundation worked together to produce the internationally acclaimed four hour, feature documentary, Tibet: A Buddhist Trilogy, co-financed by the Arts Council of Great Britain. (See: www.tibetantrilogy.org.uk.)
The Foundation was incorporated and registered with the Charity Commission of England and Wales in 1983. Since the Foundation’s formation, revenues from the worldwide distribution in cinemas and from DVD and TV sales of Tibet: A Buddhist Trilogy have been dedicated in support of the Foundation’s documentation programmes. Revenues from its publications also support the Foundation’s programmes.
Creating, Conserving and Developing Access to Multimedia Documentary Resources:
In 1988, the Foundation received its first major grant from the Ford Foundation. In 1992, following eight years of research, the Foundation published the Tibetan Cultural Resources Database, which was distributed to libraries internationally. This database catalogues more than 36,000 hours of audio recordings of oral commentarial discourse given by Tibet’s leading lineage holders, held in the collections of over 250 universities, institutes and cultural organisations in North America, Europe and Asia. The directory and glossary sections of this database were published by Random House in 1993, under the title A Handbook of Tibetan Culture. (See below.)
Also in 1993, with support from the Ford Foundation, the Foundation established twenty-four fully equipped multimedia documentation centres and libraries in the major Tibetan monasteries of India. The project’s archive and administrative hub is housed at the Foundation’s New Media Centre in the library building of the Central University for Tibetan Studies in Sarnath, U.P. To date, the multimedia documentation programme has resulted in the live recording and archiving of 20,500 hours of oral commentary to the key classical texts of Indo-Tibetan culture by the greatest masters, scholars, doctors and artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. In addition, a still image archive of over 19,000 photographs has been created and over 900 hours of digital video documentation of the classical arts traditions has been completed. This documentation programme, in its early stages, was supported by a series of grants from the Ford Foundation, and also by the Directorate General for Development of the European Commission and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. More recently the program has been supported by private donations and by grants from the Prince Claus Fund, the Sir Dorabji Tata Trusts and the Camellia Foundation.
From the start of the project, each partner library received analogue master and distribution copies of the documentary records created in their educational institution and each partner library has provided day-to-day access to the documentary materials to their institution’s scholars and students.
In 2007, the Foundation completed the digitization of the entire master analogue collections and in January 2010, the Foundation completed the compression of the entire master digital collections into MP3 format (for audio material), MP4 format (for video material) and JPEG format (for photographic material).
In March 2010, copies of the entire oral commentarial archive began to be distributed throughout the network of partner monastery and nunnery libraries in both India and Nepal. (See partner list: www.orient.org=www.orient.org/partners.html.) In order to increase the security of the master archival materials, both master analogue and digital copies of the entire archive are now held at the Songtsen Library in Dehradun and the Tibetan Yungdrung Bon Library at Dolanji.
Throughout the development of both the analogue and digital multimedia resource materials the Foundation has followed the technical guidelines as set out by the National Sound Archive of the UK, the National Film and Television Archive of the UK, and UNESCO.
In April 2010, the process of creating an internet based multimedia platform for providing worldwide access to the Foundation’s archival resources began. The online multimedia digital archive was completed and launched in March 2012. (See: www.tibetan-knowledge.org.) New documentary materials are being added to the archive continuously and the online resource is being regularly updated, as new documentary materials are digitally processed and catalogued.
In 2000, in a parallel component to the Foundation’s documentation programmes in India and Nepal, the Foundation assisted in the formation of the Academy of Classical Arts in Chengdu, southwest China, in partnership with the Ford Foundation (Beijing). Between 2000 and 2009, supported and guided by Orient Foundation for Arts and Culture, the academy focused on two main objectives: 1/ the multimedia documentation of the endangered knowledge and skills of two of Tibet’s greatest classical painters, Yeshe Sherab in Lhasa and Shawu Tsering in Repkong, and 2/ on providing support for promising young classical artists, so that they could study in the studios of master artists, as full time apprentices.
Since 2010, in order to provide a means whereby apprentice artists could study the surviving works of earlier generations of eminent artists, the Foundation has been building partnerships with the major museums, monasteries and private collectors internationally, who hold classical Tibetan art collections. As a result, the most exemplary thangkas, held in over fifty collections worldwide, have either been photographed in situ by Foundation staff or high resolution photographs have been donated to the archive by the collection holders. Between 2011 and 2012, the Foundation integrated the multimedia documentation carried out by the Academy of Classical Arts in Lhasa and Repkong with the photographic documentation of the thangka collections worldwide, resulting in the creation of the first online training resource for classical Tibetan artists. See: www.tibetan-arts.org.
In 1997, the Foundation managed an All-India initiative to introduce the benefits of networked, multilingual, multimedia Information Technologies to the Vice Chancellors of India’s leading universities and the heads of India’s major archives, libraries and museums, co-funded by the European Commission and the Ford Foundation.
Since 1997, the Foundation has conducted regular workshops at the Central University for Tibetan Studies for its network of partner monastery and nunnery libraries. These workshops have focused on providing training in multimedia documentation, archival conservation and library distribution methods.
Tibetan Monastery Services:
Between 2010 and 2014, in order to help provide online services for the major Tibetan monasteries and nunneries of India and Nepal, the Foundation, through a newly formed subsidiary ‘Tibetan Monastery Services’, raised the funding for and co-managed, in partnership with the major monasteries and nunneries of India and Nepal, the formation of ‘Gompa – Tibetan Monastery Services’. The Gompa – Tibetan Monastery Services site (www.gompaservices.com) was launched in November, 2014 and both the network of monasteries and nunneries participating in the Gompa – TMS project and the services offered by Gompa –TMS are now continuously expanding.
Information Technology Development:
From 2000 to 2004, the Foundation managed a cooperation between the Royal Government of Bhutan and Microsoft Corporation to develop technical tools for the integration of support for Tibetan script computing in the Microsoft Windows operating system and Windows applications, based on the Unicode standard. These technical tools have since been adapted to support Tibetan script computing in the Linux and Apple Mac operating systems.
Film Production & Distribution:
The Foundation has managed the distribution of the feature documentary Tibet: A Buddhist Trilogy in cinemas throughout North America, Europe and Australasia since 1983. In 2005, the Trilogy was digitally re-mastered from its 16mm original and re-released in cinemas in the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia. The Trilogy was also released on DVD in North America and the UK in 2005 and made available online, worldwide, in 2013.
In 1996, as a component of its training programmes, the Foundation published its survey of new media approaches to multimedia documentation, conservation and education Strategies for the Creation of Multimedia Archival Libraries, funded by the Ford Foundation. Contributors to the survey included: The British Library, the National Sound Archive of the UK, the National Film and Television Archive of the UK, the BBC, UNESCO, The Joint Technical Symposium, the University of Southampton, Graz University of Technology, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Intel, Kodak, SONY, and IBM.
In 1993, components of the Tibetan Cultural Resources Database were published by Random House under the title A Handbook of Tibetan Culture. This volume includes: a worldwide directory of over 600 Tibetan-related university department and other institutions (including monasteries, libraries, museums, and cultural centres); biographies of contemporary lamas and scholars; a map of monastic sites in Tibet; and a glossary of key Tibetan, Buddhist and Sanskrit terms.
In 2005 Penguin UK, and in 2006 Penguin US, published the first complete translation of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, edited by Graham Coleman with Thupten Jinpa and translated by Gyurme Dorje. This volume has been translated into five languages.
In 2008 Penguin UK, and in 2009 Penguin US, published Meditations on Living, Dying and Loss, edited and introduced by Graham Coleman.
Change of Name:
In August 2010, the Foundation changed its name from ‘The Orient Foundation’ to ‘Orient Foundation for Arts and Culture’ in order to differentiate our foundation from others with a similar name incorporated in countries other than the UK.