Concept Note on the Seminar on History of Central Asian Collections in Institutions Worldwide

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Concept Note on the Seminar on
History of Central Asian Collections in Institutions Worldwide 
in collaboration with International Dunhuang Project (IDP), British Library, London
funded by Ford Foundation

17th to 19th March 2008 at IGNCA


The seminar is the last of three organised under the project funded by the Fort Foundation – “Bringing Together Scholars, Scholarship and Scholarly Resources on the Silk Road 2006-2008, India – Russia – China”. The first two seminars were held respectively at the National Library of China in Beijing in November 2006, and at the Institute of Oriental Studies in St. Petersburg in April 2007. The last seminar is now being held at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts in New Delhi, from 17th – 19th March, 2008. This project aims to build resources for Silk Road scholarship by focusing on hitherto neglected collections held in Russia, China and India. The seminars provide an excellent opportunity for scholars from these three countries to meet and exchange ideas. The project is intended to give young schlars from all three countries the chances to travel to the other two countries, and benefit from mutual scholarly exchange. One youg scholar from each country (India, China and Russia) is project coordinator for that country and has already spent an internship at the British Library in London researching topics for the three seminars.

The research topic for the third seminar under the Fort Foundation project will be “History of the Central Asian collections from their archaeological site of origin to their present institution, focusing on either all Central Asian collections in one country, or one discrete collection in an institution. Although much is known about important collections in major institutions worldwide, scholarship would benefit from a closer look at smaller and less known collections. The participants will speak of the importance of their collections and the quantum of work done by them. The present seminar will discuss the problems and methodology of documenting the Central Asian objects in detail and define the operational framework for the implementation of the project. The main purpose of the seminar is to make the rich heritage of Central Asian accessible to scholars. We hope that as a result of this project scholars from India, Russia and China will forge long term relationship and continue their scholarly dialogue.

Coinciding with the seminar IGNCA will also organize an exhibition on ‘Aurel Stein and the Silk Route’ in No. 5, Dr. R. P. Road



Theme of the Seminar

The theme of the Seminar is very interesting involving both academic expertise and professional knowledge.

Central Asia occupies an important geographical position, through which passed inevitably the Silk Route trade which connected China with the Western countries. As a result, this region became meeting places of diverse people and races and served as channel for interchange of ideas between various nations, the Indian, Iranian, Chinese and others.

Being the meeting place of various peoples and religions, Central Asia developed a cosmopolitan culture. Buddhism was a great civilizing force over the whole of Central Asia.

Towards the late 19th and early 20th century the archaeological wealth of Central Asia especially the Tarim basin attracted the notice of energetic European scholars and experts. Though many scholars and explorers and missionaries have visited Chinese Turkestan, the credit of discovering Central Asian art and archaeological antiquities in thousands of various periods go largely to Sven Hedin, Sir Aurel Stein, A von Lecoq, Paul Pelliot, Kozolv and Oldenburg and Count Otani. Many of them led three to four expeditions to bring to light the rich heritage of ancient Central Asian sites. They braved many dangers and undertook painstaking labour to unearth invaluable evidence in the form of varied antiquities and enormous monumental remains as to the glory to the forgotten Central Asian civilization. Thanks go mainly to the efforts of Sir Aurel Stein today, that the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and the National Museum, New Delhi are in proud possession of most varied Central Asian cultural objects in enormous qualities.

We know that the scholar – explorers of Central Asia did not rest contented merely with recovering the antiquities, they have also studied and classified the objects and documented them in a laudable manner.

The Stein Collection in the National Museum, New Delhi is very vast and varied. This collection consists of more than 11,000 objects which throw a considerable light on the rich cultural heritage of Central Asia.

To make the rich heritage of Central Asian objects more accessible to scholars, it is desirable to study varieties of antiquities and art objects lying in different countries in their proper context keeping in view of their original location and chronological sequence

Dr Radha Banerjee Sarkar
Coordinator, IDP, British Library, London



CONTACT DETAIL: for any further information and assistance contact

Dr Radha Banerjee Sarkar
Senior Research Officer, EAP (KK)

Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts,
Kala Kosa Division

No. 5, Dr. Rajinder Prasad Road,
New Delhi 110001, India