University of Cambridge > > Arcadia Project Seminars > Arcadia Seminar: 18th May 2010. “Collect, Protect, Connect: From Digital Himalaya to the World Oral Literature Project”, Dr Mark Turin

Arcadia Seminar: 18th May 2010. “Collect, Protect, Connect: From Digital Himalaya to the World Oral Literature Project”, Dr Mark Turin

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Ten years ago, Digital Himalaya was founded as a strategy for salvaging, archiving and disseminating the products of historical ethnographic collections on the Himalayas—both for posterity and for heritage communities. The project has now become a collaborative digital publishing environment that brings a new collection online every month. The website has grown from being a static homepage with occasional updates to a responsive content delivery platform for over 40GB of archived data. Our online resources, which were first used almost exclusively by members of Western universities, now provide a range of services to a global public, with a particularly strong user base in South Asia. Digitisation has been ‘off-shored’ to Nepal, dramatically reducing operational costs and increasing productivity. And, most surprising of all, our funding no longer comes from national funding bodies in Europe or America, but through Web referrals, users and individual donations from around the world.

Growing out of the success of Digital Himalaya, the World Oral Literature Project was established in January 2009 as a new initiative to document and disseminate research on endangered oral cultures and verbal arts before they disappear without record. The project supports local communities and fieldworkers engaged in the collection and preservation of all forms of oral literature by funding original research, organising training workshops and publishing research findings.

In today’s lecture, I address some of the lessons learned from the first project and how these have informed the conception of the second. I also discuss the challenges of digital humanities research initiatives that rely on collaborations with archivists, librarian, scholars and perhaps most importantly, source communities, as partners in collaborative fieldwork.

About the Speaker:

Dr Mark Turin is a linguistic anthropologist. He was trained in social anthropology at Cambridge and in descriptive linguistics at Leiden University. Mark has also held research appointments at Cornell and Leipzig universities. From 2007 to 2008, he was Chief of Translation and Interpretation at the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), and returned to Cambridge in 2009 to direct Digital Himalaya and the World Oral Literature Project.

This talk is part of the Arcadia Project Seminars series.

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