Architecture and Archives

During this time when our lectures and book launches held at the Royal Asiatic  Society have had to be postponed, it is a great pleasure to announce the virtual launch of Architecture of  the Islamic West by Professor Jonathan Bloom. This event will take place on Wednesday​ 1st of July at 18.00, London; 19.00,  Paris; 13.00,  New York. Professor Bloom, an expert on Islamic and Asian Art, will talk about his book and the research that led to this latest publication. If you would like to attend, please RSVP to Alison Ohta e-mail:  ao(at) and the Zoom link and password will be provided. Please note the number of attendees is limited so early registration is advised. Please RSVP by the 29th June.  Professor Bloom’s  book will be on sale at a discounted rate of 25%.​

If you are unable to ‘attend’ the launch we are hoping to record Professor Bloom’s talk and host it on our website.

Despite the lack of physical events, work has continued to go on for the Society. The Council and Committees have been meeting virtually and the staff have also held zoom meetings to discuss business, particularly the measures that we need to put in place to open up the building again to visitors in a safe and timely manner. It has been a difficult time for many of our researchers who would like to have been able to access the Collections and we hope that some kind of service will be able to resume in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, we carry on with the work that we can. As you will have read in last week’s blog post, one of the projects that Edward Weech, the Librarian has been working on is to enable more content to be made available via our Digital Library. I hope that you have taken the chance of seeing the newly uploaded manuscripts as well as the other material that is available.

I have continued to work to enhance the archives and I thought I would take the opportunity this week of completing the report on the progress in sorting the Institutional Archives which I began in a previous blog post. I have already written about the archives connected to the Allied Societies, Awards and Medals, Collections, Finance, Governance, the Journal, and Lectures and Events,  but to add an update on these – this week has seen the addition of a further catalogue for the Governance records: RAS GOV4: Royal Asiatic Society Governance: Correspondence Volume One is now available on Archives Hub. This lists 500 letters from the early business correspondence of the Society.


In this blog post we turn to the other institutional records that we need to keep. Here we find there is still quite a lot of work that needs to be undertaken to get them completely organised. However some progress has been made:


A retention schedule has been created and a preliminary sort of the material in the archives has been undertaken.   There is further material to be taken and sorted from the Offices before cataloguing can really begin. Catalogues will be needed for the records created by the activities of  election and care of our members and would include categories such as: Minutes of Fellowship and Development Committee, Lists of Fellows, Certificates of Proposal and Obligation Forms, Honorary Fellows, Policies, Newsletters,  and Biographical Information concerning Fellows.

Letter from Ikbal al Dowlah on being made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society

The bestowal of Honorary Fellowships has continued throughout the Society’s history.  Michael Palin was the most recent, becoming an Honorary Fellow in 2015.


A human resources retention schedule has been created but no real work has yet been undertaken to sort the records. A small amount of the material is already housed in the archives but the majority is still within the offices.


A property retention schedule has been created and implemented. Catalogues have been created for the records for all properties prior to the current one:

Historic material for Stephenson Way is sorted. The records in the archives are for permanent keeping and the non-current material in the Executive Officer’s files has been sorted and given review dates to decide on disposal or adding to the archives.

Print block for an advertisement for the for “Exhibition of Embroidery Then & Now” 1959, for the Embroiderers’ Guild. The Guild rented a room at the RAS premises at 56 Queen Anne Street



The Society has been very active in publishing academic works throughout its history. This still continues and details of our recent publications are available on our website. Please take a look and get in touch if there are any monographs you would be interested in purchasing.

However, within the archives little work has, as yet, been done on this category other than listing of material currently in the archives. This means that this material is available to interested researchers. There is some overlap of material in publications with that of awards and medals and decisions will be needed to be made concerning where the material is finally catalogued.


Web and Social Media

The Society has been using Twitter and Facebook for a number of years and began using Instagram in 2019 with the Archivist taking over the responsibility in 2020. Downloads of our data from these social media sites have been made and are kept in safe digital storage.

The website has been captured by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine at various intervals from 2001/2 to present. This is a  great initiative which tracks the changes on numerous public-facing websites and well worth a look out if you’ve time to fill during lockdown.

There are, of course, other collections which also have required attention and care, but we’ll save those for a future post. In the meantime, do consider signing up for the book launch and enjoy viewing our collections on our Digital Library and exploring the collection catalogues.