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ARL Library Directors Advise on Digital Dunhuang Initiative

Xuemao Wang (left), Brian Schottlaender (right). Click to enlarge.

Association of Research Libraries (ARL) member library directors Brian E. C. Schottlaender, UC San Diego, and Xuemao Wang, University of Cincinnati, were invited by the Dunhuang Research Academy of China to participate in a two-day International Dunhuang Consultative Committee meeting on October 24 and 25, 2016. The academy is engaging the newly formed committee as an advisory group on a massive endeavor known as Digital Dunhuang. The meeting was sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Dunhuang Foundation (USA).

Also attending the meeting from an ARL institution was Peter Zhou, assistant university librarian and head of the C. V. Starr East Asian Library at UC Berkeley. The International Consultative Committee, which Schottlaender co-chairs, includes individuals from Microsoft Research Asia, the University of Hong Kong Libraries, the British Library, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Jawaharlal Nehru University Library, the National Museum in New Delhi, the Hermitage Museum, National Taiwan University, Zhejiang University, Wuhan University, and the University of Science and Technology of China, among other institutions. Committee members received a three-year appointment from the director of the academy, Wang Xudong.

The Dunhuang Caves, the best-known of which are the Mogao Caves, comprise 492 temples and contain some of the finest examples of Buddhist art spanning a period of 1,000 years. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, the caves are one of the most comprehensive cultural heritage museums in existence. The Dunhuang Research Academy has been devoted to the protection of the Dunhuang Mogao Caves since the academy was founded in 1944. Currently, the Dunhuang Research Academy is undertaking the Digital Dunhuang initiative whose ambitious goals include, eventually, digitizing all 492 caves’ resources—including 3-D imaging of murals, sculptures, and the caves themselves—as well as managing the resulting digital resources with long-term digital preservation strategies.

The objective of the two-day meeting was to review Digital Dunhuang’s current infrastructures, policies, and challenges, particularly in the three key areas of digital asset management, digital resource integration, and digital preservation. The committee was charged by the director of the academy to prepare a set of recommendations for future activities in each of the three areas. At the end of the two-day, intensive meeting, chiefly facilitated by Brian Schottlaender, the international consultative committee presented a draft set of recommendations to the academy. These will now be finalized and formally presented by November 15.

Another Dunhuang project with which the ARL and Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) communities may be familiar is the International Dunhuang Project, which is a consortium of libraries and museums that are linking their collections of digitized Dunhuang manuscripts and making them available on the Internet.

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