Nepal Earthquakes and The Bernier Archive images

The representation of Nepal in the Bernier Collection is extensive, over 2,800 images. Nepal was part of the main areas of of study for Dr. Bernier, considered one of the leading scholars on the architecture of Nepal and the Himalayas, his works are still referenced by scholars today. Dr. Bernier visited Nepal many times over the course of decades. He documented specific sites over time. The images he took are invaluable to scholarly research, and in the wake of the devastating earthquake on April 25, 2015 and subsequent major aftershocks, these images can aid in the restoration of temples and sites that have been completely destroyed or damaged.

This collection, once fully digitized, cataloged and published, will be made available to the public under a Creative Commons License 4.0 ( This means scholars and researches will have free access to the images.

In honor of the scholarship of Dr. Bernier and in tribute to Nepal, images that are significant to the restoration and documentation processes and images from the Kathmandu area are now available in our Nepal Gallery on the sidebar to this site.


Dr. Bernier: Biography and Scholarship

CU Boulder Alumni Association In Memory of Dr. Bernier


Art professor emeritus Ronald M. Bernier died on Jan. 25, 2012 as a result of complications arising from multiple sclerosis. He leaves behind hundreds of former students who spent their CU education trying to get into any and all of Ron’s art history classes.

He was born on June 19, 1943 in St Paul, MN to Olivette and Milton Bernier. Ron held an undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota, obtained his master’s from the University of Hawaii/East-West Center, and received his Ph.D. from Cornell University. His love of art was established at a young age. He told a Coloradan writer in 2005 that he remained grateful to his second-grade teacher who brought to class a brochure of the Maori people of New Zealand.

He went on to share his enthusiasm and passion with generations of students while touring the most remote regions of the world, including Nepal. He wrote the first book ever published on Nepalese temples. His love for places, people and their art was propelled by the fact that much of it was quickly disappearing amid modernization.

In the early 70′s Ron was awarded the Teaching Recognition Award from CU-Boulder. After 35 years with CU, Dr. Bernier was awarded the title of Exploratory Emeritus of Art History, a one-of-a-kind title for a unique and truly talented visionary. He leaves behind his friend and partner of 45 years, Dianne Bernier, as well as many friends in the Boulder area who will miss his wit and humor.

(The above article is an excerpt from the CU Boulder Alumni Association Bulletin. It can be found at

Library of Congress Catalog entries for Ronal M. Bernier can be found at

Dr. Ariana Maki

s200_ariana.makiAriana Maki’s Ph.D. is in Buddhist art history, with additional concentrations in the fields of Himalayan art, and Islamic art and architecture. She has been undertaking research in Asia since 2000, and lived in the Himalayan nation of Bhutan for three years (2009-2012).  Ariana has traveled extensively in Nepal, Tibet, and India, which, along with Bhutan, are countries well-represented in the Bernier archive. In addition, Ariana has spent substantive time in Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar (Burma), China, Japan, and Morocco. This overseas experience, coupled with her scholarly background, provide her the tools to contribute effectively to the Bernier project.

Funding Sources: Visual Resources Assoc. Foundation project grant

Generous support has be provided by the Visual Resources Association Foundation through a project grant for this special and unique collection.

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.

Funding Sources: Artstor At-Risk Collections grant

Generous support has been provided through the Artstor At-Risk collection grant.  It was awarded to digitize and publish Buddhist initiation rituals in Nepal in the 1970’s and 80’s and key historical sites from Myanmar.

This scholarship and image archive will be made possible and available for scholars, enthusiasts and students through Artstor digital library and Artstor is also providing use of its Shared Shelf digital media management software to support the cataloging of these collections.

The Collection

This is what 30,000 slides looks like organized by content and geographical region

IMG_1376 IMG_1375

My project in the 2014 Fall semester was to organize the slides by content and geographic area. A task that we all thought could be cranked out in a month or so…three months and over 150 hours later it was done.

The main regions and subcategories, basically one box or two, include: (bold text denotes the box title)

Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India (part one of India)

India (pt. 1 subcategories)

  • Small sleeve sets of distinct areas
  • Tamil Nadu: Mahabalipuram
  • Tamil Nadu: Tanjore and Subramanga (Subramanya)
  • Tamil Nadu: Madras and Kanchipuram
  • Fatepur Sikri
  • Calicut District in Kerala
  • Benares (Varanasi)
  • Colchin
  • Mysore & Bangalore
  • Khajuraho temple complex
  • Amber (Amer)
  • Ellora Caves
  • Elephanta Caves
  • Jodhpur
  • Rajasthan
  • Delhi (New Delhi)
  • Calcutta
  • Bombay (Mumbai)
  • Kerala
  • Agra (Taj Mahal)
  • Darjeerling
  • Goa

Central Asia, Middle East and India (part 2)

Central Asia subcategories:

  • Uzbekistan
  • Afghanistan
  • Turkey
  • Pakistan
    • Misc. sleeves and museums
    • Lahore
    • Karachi
    • Gulmit
    • Taxila
    • Makli Hill necropolis
    • Hunza

Middle East subcategories

  • Yemen
  • Jordan (Petra)
  • Lebanon
  • Iran

India (pt. 2) subcategory

  • Himachal Pradesh (Dr. Bernier worked extensively and published in this area)

Southeast Asia (Box1)

  • Mixed sleeves
  • Borneo
  • Malaysia
  • Hong Kong
  • Singapore
  • Borobudur temple complex (central Java)
  • Indonesia
  • Sulawesi
  • Java (overall)
  • Bali

Southeast Asia (Box 2)

  • Vietnam
  • Laos
  • Cambodia
  • Thailand



  • Egypt
  • North-central Kenya: Samburu people
  • East Africa: people and architecture
  • Misc. architecture
  • Mixed sleeves of slides
  • Massai people


  • Korea
  • Japan
  • China

Tibet, Buthan, Sikkim, Jammu Kashmir (overall), Ladakh (specific sets of Jammu Kashmir) and Burma

One box of mystery areas requiring more research (we will possibly crowd source these images)

About half a box of mixed sleeves that the slides need to be individually sorted

Dianne and Ronald M. Bernier Archive: Introduction

The Visual Resources Center (VRC) in the department of Art and Art History was gifted over 30,000 slides documenting of 40 years of research and scholarship of the late Dr. Ronald M. Bernier, former CU Professor. This collection comprises images of the arts and architecture, along with geography, peoples and places of the Himalaya region, India, Southeast Asia, China, Korea, Japan, Oceania and Africa. Dr. Bernier’s primary focus of research and documentation represents the Himalaya region, India and Southeast Asia.

Some of the earliest images, dated to the mid-1960’s, document a time at which the remote Himalayan locations received very few outside (western) visitors. Dr. Bernier cultivated meaningful relationships with the monastic and lay communities and was granted permission to many temples and monasteries. His study and documentation of such places proves invaluable to scholarship in this era of acute awareness of illegal theft and sale, religious based destruction, natural erosion and unsustainable tourism of places, arts and artifacts around the world. In short, the archive is a comprehensive documentation of at risk places, arts and artifacts.

My name is Krystle Kelley, I am a Graduate Assistant (Art History M.A. candidate) in the VRC at CU Boulder. I received by B.A. from CU Boulder and took any and all of Dr. Bernier’s classes that I could enroll into. I am currently working on researching and cataloging the digital archive of the Bernier Archive. My supervisor, Elaine Paul, Director of the VRC and Lia Pileggi, Digital Imaging and Technology Coordinator, supervise the process. Dr. Ariana Maki, specialist in Buddhist art and iconography, with minor concentrations in Himalayan art and Islamic art and architecture, is the lead scholar for the project.

The intent of this blog is to provide an informative framework for anyone in the field of digital archives and cataloging that may be facing the same task, to expound on the scholarship surrounding at risk collections and non-Western arts and provide a window into the project for all interested scholars, students, amateur art enthusiasts and friends of digital archives.

Please feel free to comment on any post or reach out to me with any questions or information you would like to contribute. We expect this to be an open and collaborative blog.

We hope you enjoy the content and find it useful.