Creating an online cultural repository of ancient texts

Overview

Tactical Aim: 
Human Rights Issue Area: 
Country or Region: 
Organization: 
Nitartha International Document Input Center
Partner Organizations: 
Dharma Publishing, Norbulingka Institute

Nitartha International identifies Tibet’s most critical and endangered educational texts in need of preservation while directly supporting educational systems to share these documents. Scholars are trained in reading and interpreting the texts while at the same time entering them into an electronic database.

The Tibetan educational texts being preserved are over 1000 years old and include translations of Indian texts dating back over 2000 years. The program at Nitartha International was initiated by Tibetan scholars, as well as the monastic society, after many texts were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. Since the 1950s when communist China invaded Tibet, many Tibetans have fled their homes for refuge in other countries. Monasteries have been destroyed and masters killed. The Tibetan culture and language are becoming endangered as Tibetans no longer are free to live and practice as they wish in their homeland. Given this situation, preservation of ancient texts is critical to the continuation of the rich Tibetan scholarship.

Many Tibetan texts were misplaced during the exodus of the Tibetan people, and scholars spent decades locating them. Many of the originals were printed on rice paper, which decays over time. Recreating these texts in the traditional manner would be time-consuming and difficult. Therefore, the creation of digital versions of these texts has become the primary means of preserving them.

The steps involved in this process include:

  1. Experts in the field are sought to identify endangered texts.
  2. Texts are input into digital formats.
  3. The texts are then checked for accuracy.
  4. Leading scholars prepare the texts for publication.
  5. The texts are translated into English and prepared for translation into other languages.
  6. The books are used within educational programs.
  7. Printed texts are provided free of charge to teachers and educational institutions most in need.

The digital text inputting at Nitartha International is completed on a standard English keyboard, and the organization uses the Nitartha-Sambhota Tibetan language word-processing software and font system which is known as the leading software for Tibetan publishing. Nitartha also provides online tools for Tibetan research and language publication.

Through Nitartha International's consultations with many people with various levels of expertise, hundreds of people become involved with Nitartha International each day. Individuals highly educated within the Tibetan culture are trained in reading the texts while others are responsible for inputting the texts. Nitartha’s goal is to employ individuals largely from the Tibetan community – typically about 10 people who are responsible for inputting key texts within a computer input system. Employees are able to obtain computer proficiency skills while helping to preserve their traditional culture.

 

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