Digital technologies have become much more widespread in the last decade, with most of the population enjoying access to the internet at home or on their smartphones. This is the case not only in the West, but also across much of Asia and the wider world. The proliferation of online technologies has impacted the way people access cultural heritage, and increasingly libraries, museums, and similar institutions have responded by making more and more of their content available online.
The Society’s on-site library service is available to everyone, and continues to see good levels of use, but we also provide several ways to investigate our collections without having to visit us. For example, last year the Society launched a Digital Library (link), which contains complete reproductions of important treasures from our collections, including Persian and Malay manuscripts. Meanwhile, an ongoing project with the Internet Archive will see our entire collection of Palm Leaf Manuscripts digitized, so that they can be viewed online from anywhere in the world. The first collection, of South Indian Sanskrit manuscripts, can be found here: https://archive.org/details/royalasiaticsociety
Whereas the Digital Library contains full reproductions of select parts of our collection, we also maintain a traditional online library catalogue (link), which provides brief descriptions of our entire holdings. It’s important that we continue to provide this service, as it provides a way for anyone to look up and check whether we have a book (or other work) by its title, book, or subject. Many of the works in the Society’s collection – not just our manuscripts and art works, but some of our books as well – are completely unique. So it’s no wonder that people from all over the world ask to see them!
At the beginning of this year, the Society moved to a new online catalogue, Koha, which you can find here: https://ras.koha-ptfs.co.uk/ The majority of our collections are described in the Koha catalogue, and there are several ways to search it. We are keen to develop the catalogue in response to user needs, so please let us know about your experiences of using it, and any ideas you have for changes or additional functionality. The new catalogue replaces our old service, which is no longer available.
Our Koha catalogue is hosted and maintained by PTFS Europe, and you can see their statement about the project here.
In other news, the lecture by Deborah Freeman Fahid, originally scheduled for 22 January, has been postponed until 26 February. That means the Society’s next event will be on Thursday 7 February, when Dr John Clarke (Victoria and Albert Museum) will lecture on “Collecting Tibet at the South Kensington Museum: the legacy of the 1904 expedition and beyond.”