HISTORY & MISSION

The Asian Legacy Library believes that safeguarding the cultural literary wisdom traditions of the world for future generations is a priority for humankind.

As a global non-profit organization, the Asian Legacy Library provides a combination of technology, scholarship, and partnership to locate, digitally preserve, and safeguard the priceless cultural wisdom literature of the world. Scholars, translators, and authors are then able to reference our Collections in order to keep these teaching traditions alive in the world for current and future generations.

LONG LINEAGE IN PRESERVATION AND A WORLD-CLASS DIGITAL RESOURCE

Our collective knowledge and participation in the process of preserving literary wisdom traditions for over three decades simply make us a richer library. We partner with preservationists in locating, scanning, inputting, and cataloguing the texts themselves, and in the end our product is a comprehensive, fluid, and accessible database available to any interested party.

Our talented global team—with decades of digital preservation and library experience—reflects the depth of our commitment. 

Although our organization is a relatively new entity, many of the personnel working with ALL today have been involved in the world of preservation for over thirty years. These scholars, technologists, and input operators have contributed to providing us with the majority of our library’s content. 

Our input has come from projects located across multiple continents and includes a wide variety of textual wisdom traditions.

THREE DECADES
OF HISTORY

1987 – 1998 FORMATION OF THE ASIAN CLASSICS INPUT PROJECT

1987 Technology and cataloging standards developed
1990 First public release
1992 Russian Academy of Sciences partnership
1994 National Library of Mongolia partnership
1998 Release 4

1998 – 2013 PROJECT EXPANSION

1999 John Brady assumes role as executive director
2000 Release 5
2003 Ladakh Gonpa Association
2006 Sanskrit preservation projects commence

2017 – 2021 FORMATION OF ASIAN LEGACY LIBRARY

2017 Nagarjuna Institute of Buddhist Studies
2018 National Library of Mongolia partnership restarts
2020 South India preservation expansion
2021 ACIP gifts data to the ALL Digital Library
2021 Technology investment

1987–1998 FORMATION OF THE ASIAN CLASSICS INPUT PROJECT

1987: Technology and cataloging standards developed

  • The idea for the preservation project is born at the Pyne Hall offices of the Department of Classics at Princeton University. The Department of Classics chair, Prof. Samuel D. Atkins (1911–2002), an expert of Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit, joins the project advisory board; as does Prof. William LaFleur (1936–2010), of the University of California at Los Angeles.
  • Extraordinary scholar and visionary Khen Rinpoche Geshe Lobsang Tharchin (1921–2004) becomes the inspiration and chief literary advisor to the project.
  • The founding team of the project is assembled: Michael Roach, Princeton University graduate and liaison, director; Robert Taylor PhD, of the U.S. Department of Transportation, assistant director; John Malpas, developer of Tibetan input software; Steve Bruzgulis, inventor of the first Tibetan word processor; and Ven. Thupten Pelgye, overseas input center manager. Robert Chilton provides invaluable technical expertise, especially as Unicode is developed as a universal standard for computer fonts.
  • The project receives a grant from the Hewlett-Packard Foundation to build its first data entry center in the South Indian town of Bylakuppe.
  • The project licenses the Tibetan and Sanskrit listings of the U.S. Library of Congress and converts the listings to an easily searchable form for public release; staff are selected for advising the Library of Congress on future purchases of Tibetan-language materials, and produces a catalog of 1,100 titles for acquisition.

1990: First public release

  • The first public release of data is made on several large floppy disks sent through the mail to each user! The release consists of 10 books, including all five of the ancient Indian classics covered during the classical Tibetan Buddhist education, as well as the native catalogs to the Kangyur and Tengyur Collections of all the 4,600 Buddhist books in Tibetan translation which survived from ancient India. The project grants licenses to Oxford University and the Linguistic Information Research Institute of Tokyo to release its digital materials without charge to users.
  • The project completes input of The Great Dictionary of the Tibetan and Chinese Languages—a massive 3200-page dictionary of the Tibetan language (one of the most comprehensive Tibetan-Tibetan dictionaries ever written), including the corresponding Chinese—for researchers at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

1992: Russian Academy of Sciences

  • Establishes agreements with the Russian Academy of Sciences to create a joint catalog of the massive Tibetan manuscript collection at the Oriental Library of St. Petersburg; a similar agreement is penned with the University of St. Petersburg; work begins, under the joint directorship of Dr. Lev Savitsky and Michael Roach, with the input team of Thupten Pelgye.
  • Chemical Bank of New York, the third-largest bank in the U.S. at the time, donates a large quantity of older desktop computers to input centers in India run by staff of the Asian Classics Input Project.
  • Major grants are secured. The project becomes one of the few research facilities to receive grants from the U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities, for its continued preservation of the classical literature of ancient Asia. The project receives its first grant from the Institute for the Advanced Studies of World Religions, for preserving important ancient Asian texts.

1994: National Library of Mongolia partnership

  • Agreement is reached with the National Library of Mongolia to catalog a treasure trove of an estimated 200,000 ancient Tibetan manuscripts.
  • Xerox Corporation selects the project as one of the three best-run of its kind in the world, and commissions a brief documentary of the project from Walter Cronkite’s production company, to be shown during Xerox executive training. The film, “Share the Knowledge,” also receives multiple airings on The Learning Channel.

1998: Release 4

  • The preservation centers in India produce the largest body of data and have the highest accuracy.  Largely staffed by Tibetan women with families, the project has become their main source of income.
  • The project releases ACIP Release 4—A Thousand Books of Wisdom, which includes just that—by far the biggest leap in the project’s output to date. The project receives a major anonymous grant to produce a 700-page release manual including a revolutionary method of categorizing all of ancient Tibetan literature; develops methods for advanced computers.

1998–2013 PROJECT EXPANSION

1999: John Brady assumes role as Executive Director

  • John Brady, an executive with Lillian Vernon Corporation of New York, begins a successful 20-year tenure as executive director of ACIP. Gordon Aston, a talented Tibetologist from New Zealand, begins his now 15-year career on staff with the project, a driving force for completing the digitization of the Kangyur and Tengyur collections of works.

2000: Release 5

  • The project announces Release 5, which includes 25 megabytes of data, or about 18,000 pages of ancient classics. The Great Book on the Steps of the Path (Lamrim Chenmo), written by Je Tsongkapa in 1402 and one of Tibet’s greatest books, is one of the works completed. The St. Petersburg Catalog of Tibetan Literature reaches 8,000 titles in this release.
  • E. Gene Smith (1936–2010), veteran administrator with the Library of Congress and the greatest Tibetologist of modern times, who saved tens of thousands of ancient classics, opens the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The project begins a fruitful long-term collaboration with TBRC, which has since scanned millions of pages and kindly made them available to the public.

2003: Ladakh Gonpa Association partnership

  • The project begins active work cataloging and then scanning the extremely valuable collections of ancient texts in some 20 libraries of the ancient mountain kingdom of Ladakh. The catalog is completed in 2007 and scanning is still underway.

2006: Sanskrit preservation projects commence

  • The project opens its first Sanskrit input center, under the directorship of the talented Santosh Dwivedi, in Varanasi, India. This allows the project to locate and preserve the original palm leaf manuscripts that provided the models for the hundreds of thousands of Tibetan sacred works.

2017–2021 Formation of Asian Legacy Library

2017: Nagarjuna Institute of Buddhist Studies partnership

  • Begins the preservation of extensive, yet endangered, collections of Sanskrit Buddhist manuscripts in private homes and archives that are still yet to be located or identified, in the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. These treasures have been quickly disappearing due to the devastation of the 2015 earthquake, as well as political and social instability. The project forges a partnership with the Nagarjuna Institute of Buddhist Studies in Kathmandu to collaborate on scanning and transcribing Nepal’s Sanskrit Buddhist manuscripts.

2018: National Library of Mongolia partnership restarts

  • The National Library of Mongolia, located in the capital of Ulaanbaatar, is the home of 41,000 volumes of Buddhist manuscripts dating back to the 15th century. The project, in agreement with the Ministry of Culture of Mongolia, re-commences digitally scanning and cataloging in the library in partnership with the Buddhist Digital Resource Center and the Khyentse Foundation.

2020: South India preservation expansion

  • The project expands its Kerala preservation center in South India. Under the directorship of Dr. N.V. Ramachandran, a passionate and lifelong scholar of India’s ancient literary traditions, the center has scanned and cataloged hundreds of thousands of manuscripts and printed books from all over South India, including large collections of Ayurvedic, Yogic, Tantric, and Sanskrit Buddhist texts.

2021: ACIP gifts data to the ALL Digital Library

  • The Asian Legacy Library, a non-profit 501c3, is founded in order to preserve and safeguard the 34-year efforts of all its preservation partners, including ACIP. The library now holds precious literary cultural wisdom from the Himalayan and Inner Asian, South Asian, and East Asian regions.

2021: Technology investment

  • ALL makes major investments in technology for the digital library—cloud services for storage and global delivery; an advanced data access layer that collects and transforms cataloging, input, and scanned data; and a state-of-the-art web service to make available cultural resources. ALL commits to expanding its mission to safeguard the important collections of all cultural wisdom traditions from around the world.