Aspects of the collection and archiving process that are specific to this project:
The collection comprises 30,000 slides, with a particular strength in the cultures of Nepal, Tibet, India, and Southeast Asia. This project will digitize and catalog a subset of 500 images that highlight the extraordinary depth and breadth of Dr. Bernier’s archive. For example, the archive includes images from esoteric Buddhist initiation rituals in Nepal in the 1970s and 80s, key historical sites from Myanmar (Burma) taken when travel to the country was particularly rare, and sites from throughout Central Asia–including Iran, a notoriously difficult country to access now–over a span of decades. In short, Dr. Bernier’s archive documents a number of world religions, lesser-studied indigenous traditions, and the material cultures of dozens of countries, often recorded in multiple visits over time.
The collection will adhere to professional standards, with a VRA Core data structure, and data values and content derived from authoritative sources such as the Getty vocabularies and Cataloging Cultural Objects. Should this grant be successful, Dr. Maki anticipates giving conference papers and public talks at both the regional and national levels to draw attention to the remarkable contents of this archive.
This pilot project is conceived as the first in a series of stages to digitize and catalog this large collection. When the collection arrived from Professor Bernier’s estate, it was in a state of organization typical of most scholars’ collections; that is, organized in a personal and idiosyncratic manner. Since 2012, VRC staff has invested approximately 470 hours sorting and organizing the Bernier collection according to geographic location. This process has allowed VRC staff and Dr. Maki to identify the collection’s scope, strengths, and verify that it includes a large number of unique and valuable images.
Consultation with Dr. Maki has begun. In addition, Dr. Maki has had initial conversations about the archive with faculty and scholars in the fields of Geography, Anthropology, Religious Studies, Art History, Comparative Studies, and broader Asian Studies, and they have expressed great enthusiasm and interest in the Bernier materials, including an interest to contribute a limited number of volunteer hours to help with identifications that fall within their particular areas of expertise.