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International development

The Library’s growing emphasis on international development continued including new collaborative ventures.

  • Afghanistan Observed

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Sixteen thousand visitors came to a touring exhibition of historic images of Afghanistan held in the Queen’s Palace in Bagh-e-Babur, Kabul. The exhibition, which subsequently transferred to Herat, reflected the observations of European visitors between 1830 and 1920. Digital copies of sketches, prints, drawings and photographs showing the history and culture of Afghanistan were selected from the Library’s collections.

  • Developing a Strategy for India

In June 2010, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Ministry of Culture, India, and the British Library, the British Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. This was inspired by a mutual desire to strengthen and enhance friendly cultural relations between the two countries, deepen mutual understanding, and promote cultural co-operation and exchanges.

Three British Library workshops, funded by the Sir Ratan Tata Trust and the Arts and Humanities Research Council, have been held in India to discuss potential collaborative digital projects. In September 2010, participants at Digitisation of Resources: Developing the British Library’s India Strategy explored key themes and related source material.

In January 2011, a joint workshop with the National Library, India, focused on ‘Early Bengali Books, 1778–1914’, resulting in a funding proposal to the Ministry of Culture.

In March 2011, an interdisciplinary workshop on climate, attended by the UK Met Office and Indian Meteorological Department colleagues and university academics, showed how historic data in the British Library and India could be used to develop scientific knowledge of climate as well as illuminating its social, economic and environmental impact.

A collaborative pilot project between the British Library and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalay, Mumbai, has now commenced. Funded by the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, this will reunify through digitisation the dispersed 17th century Mewar Ramayana manuscript – one of the finest of all extant illustrated copies of the great epic of ancient India – and make it accessible on the web.

Making Britain: South Asian Visions of Home and Abroad, 1870–1950, an AHRC-funded project led by the Open University, developed an online database with sources which highlighted and opened up research into South Asians’ diverse networks and contribution to Britain. The British Library hosted the project conference, Bharat Britain: South Asians Making Britain 1870–1950 and collaborated with project partners to produce a travelling panel exhibition which toured the UK and was on display during the British government visit to India.

  • Qatar Foundation

The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding established a partnership for the British Library and Qatar Foundation to work together on a shared Gulf History Programme. In the first phase, we will work with the Qatar Foundation to digitise 600,000 pages from the historical archives of the India Office Records relating to Qatar and the Gulf, several hundred Arabic manuscripts relating to science, technology and medicine in the Islamic World and various other material including maps and photographs.

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