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Interdisciplinary research group "The Cultural History of the Western Himalaya" 2001 - 2006 (Austrian Science Fund)

The Western Himalaya contains a rich and little known cultural heritage. For this reason, a research group, made up of members from the Institute for Art History and the Institute for South Asian, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies at the University of Vienna, as well as from the Department of Engineering at the Technical University in Graz, has dedicated itself since 2001 to the documentation and scientific analysis of the cultural history of this region.. A total of twenty researchers, coordinated by Prof. Dr. Deborah Klimburg-Salter, are organized in four disciplinary projects (art history, inscriptions, manuscripts and architecture). The research group has been funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF).

Area of Research

The area of the Western Himalaya is at present divided between Tibet (Tibet Autonomous Region, PR China), India (Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and have concentrated on northern Indian sites in Spiti (Tabo), Kinnaur (Nako), Lahaul and Ladakh where for the most part Buddhist text transmission and Tibetan culture is still intact. In addition during field work in Tibet (TAR), Pakistan and Afghanistan Buddhist monuments were examined and photo-documented.

Documentation and Archiving

The majority of the photos displayed in this exhibition are kept in three archives at the University of Vienna: the Western Himalaya Archive Vienna (WHAV), a documentation and research group at the Institute for Art History, and in two photo archives for manuscripts and inscriptions at the Institute for South Asian, Tibetan and Buddhism Studies. The WHAV contains more than 70,000 slides and a very large collection of photos, negatives, maps, architectural plans and drawings, as well as a digital photo archive and a data bank. It is currently the most extensive collection of primary research material from the Western Himalaya in the world. The holdings of the WHAV were intended for documentation, research, and publication and thus represent a collection of unique visual material. The goal of the archive, in addition to the making the materials available for scientists and interested persons, both in Austria and internationally, is above all also to preserve these unique monuments, which are of enormous importance for the study and understanding of the art and art history of this region. The documentation of oral transmissions (songs) and the local culture (festivals) in Spiti and upper Kinnaur has been undertaken in cooperation with the Austrian Audiovisual Research Archive of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

Nako Research and Preservation Project (NRPP)

The goal of the NRPP is the conservation and revitalization of a Buddhist temple from the 12th century in the village of Nako, and is based on an international cooperation between the Conservation Department of the University of Applied Arts Vienna, conservation architects from India and the local population. The conservation activities have been funded by the World Monument Fund and private donators.

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