Cataloguing the Collections

Cataloguing Update:

Progress is being made on the cataloguing of collections material in the institutional archive with descriptions now ready to be uploaded onto Archives Hub. I have discovered several interesting finds during the sorting of this material with some of these highlighted below.

Floppy discs

I have recently discovered two floppy discs whilst listing this material. This can pose a number of preservation issues due to floppy discs no longer being used as a storage medium, whilst it is likely that files have been saved in formats which are now obsolete. As computers at the Society do not possess the hardware to open floppy discs, we purchased a special reader which can be linked up to the computer.

Once virus testing has taken place, I will examine the files to see which file formats have been used and whether they can be opened. To do this, the file format identification tool DROID will be used. It works by scanning the files on the floppy disc and collecting metadata from them. This will include the file name, file extension, file format name and file format version. For those file formats which are now obsolete, a decision will need to be made around how to access these. The most popular method will be to migrate the files into a more accessible format by using migration software.

Hopefully most of these files can be accessed by migrating to a newer format, but it is inevitable that some can’t be accessed without the use of specialist software. Examples like this illustrate the vulnerabilities of digital material, with storage media that was popular just 15 years ago no longer being used.


Floppy disc reader.


There are various types of articles, posters, programmes and other promotional material that illustrate the different ways in which the Society has promoted its collections over the years. This includes a programme advertising the ‘In Good Company – The Royal Asiatic Society and India’ exhibition which was held at Christie’s in 2008, an article from the Graphic newspaper in 1910 about the Society, and bookmarks illustrating the ‘Statue of Zhenwu the Dark Warrior’ and ‘Arrow Vase: from ritual to game’. These objects were both on loan to the Society from the Horniman Museum between 1st Sept-6 Dec 2016 and 14 Sept-14 Dec 2018.

Programme cover for the ‘In Good Company’ exhibition that was held at Christie’s.

Collections Lists

I have also come across a large section of collections and cataloguing lists that have been produced during the Society’s history. Before the introduction of an online cataloguing system, paper lists would have been important in helping to retrieve and document collections. In some cases, these are still used to help researchers who visit the Society today. Some highlights include: a list of books that were deposited with Lloyds Bank during the onset of WW2, old manuscript lists, a list of coins in the RAS cabinet by the Society’s former Librarian, Dr Oliver Codrington, and a list of paintings, drawings and photographs in the RAS Library.


List of Oriental MSS ‘in glazed case on landing’.

Library Administration

There are also records which illustrate how the Library has operated and evolved over its history. This includes typed lists of former Society Librarians, papers written about the history of the Library and plans for an automated cataloguing project in 2004.

‘The Library of the Royal Asiatic Society 1823-1990’ written by the Society’s former Librarian Michael Pollock.



It is hoped that once these items are listed on Archives Hub, it will provide an insight into how the Library has operated since the Society’s founding in 1823 and how its collections have developed over the last two centuries.

Bayly Prize Ceremony:

This Thursday (11th November), we welcomed the three finalists of this year’s Bayly Prize who gave presentations based on their doctoral theses. This included Dr Mallika Leuzinger on ‘Dwelling in Photography: Intimacy, Amateurism and the Camera in South Asia’, Dr Stefano Gandolfo on ‘The Streams of Knowledge: Organising the Siku quanshu 四庫全書’’ and Dr Shreyashi Dasgupta on ‘The Accommodation City: Private Low-Income Housing and Urban Space in Dhaka and Mumbai’.

Attendees joined the event in-person at Stephenson Way as well as online by Zoom, and were able to enjoy stimulating introductions to three fascinating projects. We look forward to welcoming each of the finalists back to the Society next year, for individual lectures dedicated to their doctoral topics.

Bayly Prize winner Mallika Leuzinger


Bayly Prize Finalist Shreyashi Dasgupta


Bayly Prize Finalist Stefano Gandolfo

The presentations were followed by a reception at the Society where this year’s Bayly Prize winner, Mallika Leuzinger, was congratulated for her award.

Amir Parsa Lecture:

Please join us at 6:30pm on Tuesday November 23rd for a hybrid lecture given by Amir Parsa onPatriarchal Honour, Women, and War: The Concept of ‘Namus’ in Naderid Iran’s Military Narratives’.

If you would like to attend, please email to register. As this is a hybrid event, please don’t forget to state your preference for attending in-person or virtually. We look forward to seeing many of you there!

Event Reminder:

A reminder that on next Tuesday (16th November) at 6:30 pm, Dr Lesley S Pullen will be giving a hybrid lecture on ‘Patterned Splendour: Textiles depicted on Javanese sculpture 8th to 15th century’.

This event is already proving very popular so early registration is recommended! Please email to register, stating your preference for attending in-person or virtually.