Kashmir Digital Archive Project

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Preliminary assessment

by Maureen Jameson

On Thursday May 28th 2009, I met with Dr. Khurshid Guru, an oncological surgeon of Kashmiri origin. Khurshid had amassed a collection of precious rare materials – primarily books, as well as some manuscripts and paintings – related to Kashmir. He wished to have these materials digitized, and had been advised to contact me to take advantage of the interest and experience of the DHIB. Also present at the meeting was Professor Venugopal Govindaraju, of CEDAR and the Department of Computer Science Engineering. On Sunday May 31st, Khurshid gave me a tour of his collection, and I met his wife Dr. Lubna Guru, who has collaborated in the ongoing collection development. At the conclusion of the conversation, it was agreed that I would prepare some preliminary thoughts about next steps. The present document summarizes those thoughts.

Describing the collection itself

The Gurus have two large bookcases filled with books, many of which are first editions, some of them autographed, many from the 19th century, many with extraordinary illustrations; there are also manuscripts, some well preserved, others not; there are sketches, engravings, and paintings of scenes in Kashmir by primarily British and Kashmiri artists. The Gurus have indicated that they will continue to expand the collection as resources and availability permit.

  • First recommendation: the collection should be inventoried and catalogued. Among the data to be captured should be an indication of the physical state of each item. Action: Lubna will take on this responsibility. In advance of her effort, I will consult librarians about the appropriate fields to include in the database.
  • Second recommendation: the collection should be assessed by a subject-area specialist so that we know its overall historical and intellectual value and can identify the most significant pieces. Action: I will contact Professor Ramya Sreenivasan, an historian specializing in South Asia, for a recommendation.

Housing the physical collection

The Gurus’ ultimate goal is to return the collection to Kashmir at some date in the future when the appropriate infrastructure will be in place to maintain and preserve it. In the interim, they envision having the collection be housed in a university library, provided they can negotiate both the collection’s ultimate transfer to Kashmir and scholarly access to the collection during the interim period. Their focus at the moment is on digitization so that access to the materials can be provided as soon as possible both to Kashmiris and to others who have an interest in the region.

  • Third recommendation: Given that the institution which will serve as repository for the collection may wish to partner in the digitization project, or assert access rights, it makes sense to identify prospective hosts before digitization plans are finalized.
  • Fourth recommendation: In anticipation of conversations with prospective host institutions, the Gurus should develop a list of requirements concerning access to the collection, the scholarly use to which it is put, its ultimate disposition, rights to the digitized version of the material, etc.

Anticipating the scope of work required for digitization of the collection

Once the collection itself has been inventoried, it will be necessary to estimate the work required for digitization. Some of the materials may have already been digitized by another library or digital archive project; some can be easily scanned; some are fragile and will require special handling. Ideally the scanned texts should be made searchable, which will require that OCR be performed on them and that a system for proofreading the OCR output be anticipated. The architecture of the online collection must be designed.

  • Fifth recommendation: before preparing a list of requirements, the Gurus may wish to review exemplary digital archives of comparable material in order identify the ones which most nearly meet their expectations. Action: I will request the assistance of a librarian and others in the field to prepare a list of model archives.
  • Sixth recommendation: Venu should be asked to guide the process of scoping out the work to be done.

Devising a business plan for funding the work

Although there is modest start-up funding available on campus, and some funds available through the Guru Foundation, much of the funding will have to come from external support. Likely sponsors include the NSF and NEH, as well as members of the local Kashmiri community.

  • Seventh recommendation: a list of target grant programs should be drawn up in consultation with Venu and with a specialist from Sponsored Projects Services.
  • Eighth recommendation: the Gurus should come up with a list of prospective community and overseas supporters and begin mentally devising the solicitation.

Planning for the project

The persons involved in initial discussions may or may not be involved in the execution of the project, given travel plans and professional obligations. The preliminary team consists of interested persons who have not worked together before and who have no common affiliation. It will be important to facilitate communication among collaborators, both within this preliminary group and especially on the eventual project team.

  • Ninth recommendation: Once grant targets have been identified and the scope of the project described, a project manager should be assigned to coordinate project personnel and assignments, negotiate a timetable, and set up a communication system and a workspace.


  • Khurshid Guru, principal, Roswell Park, [1]
  • Lubna Guru, principal, Women & Children’s Hospital, [2]
  • Venugopal Govindaraju, consultant, CEDAR/CSE, [3]
  • Maureen Jameson, consultant, DHIB, [4]
  • Ramya Sreenivasan, consultant, Dept of History, [5]
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