South Asia Library at UHM
Seventy-five years ago, when the Oriental Institute began collecting materials on India, South Asia was not yet regarded as an area of study. Today, the collection is rich in resources about South Asia, and filled with treasures. Several of these are rare items, held in the Special Research Collection, such as Views of India, an album of fifty-four water-color views of architectural sites at Agra, Delhi, and Mathura; Thomas Pennant’s Indian Zoology, a beautifully illustrated volume on animals and birds on the subcontinent; travel accounts by William Hodges, who accompanied Captain Cook on his second voyage; and art prints of Hindu icons by Atul Basu, a Calcutta (Kolkata) artist, active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
While rare materials and original documents, in any form, are a prized feature of library collections, the South Asia collection actively works to make its holdings digitally accessible, and to partner with other institutions on digitization projects. Some recent in-house moves in this direction include two photo digitization projects–photos of Mohandas K. Gandhi, and images of India post-independence, as the one featured here.
In its early years, the Oriental Institute, led by the university’s professor of Philosophy, Charles Moore, began acquiring materials on Sanskrit, Indian philosophy, and religion. Later, rare materials from the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries were added to the collection.
In 1962, the East-West Center Library joined the South Asia Cooperative Acquisitions Program, and stepped up collecting South Asia-related materials in an increasingly wide variety of disciplines and languages, including vernacular languages. In 1970, the East-West Center Library was absorbed into the University of Hawai’i Library, and the materials were relocated (first to Sinclair and then Hamilton Library).
Under the direction of South Asia Librarian Lynette Wageman, who managed and developed the materials until 1994, the South Asia Collection, as it was now called, grew into one of the preeminent repositories of South Asia materials. The tradition of excellence to support South Asia research at the University continues through the leadership of the current South Asia Librarian, Monica Ghosh.