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The Tibetan and Mongolian Rare Books and Manuscripts project came about as a collaborative effort between many scholars and institutions in the UK, US and Europe and the Tibetan Academy of Social Sciences (TASS) in the Tibet Autonomous Region. The project was conceived through the inspirations of the late E. Gene Smith and Alak Zengkar Tudeng Nima, seated below, the two most respected and renowned bibliographers of Tibetan literature in the world. Their visit to Cambridge in 2003 and preliminary assessment of the collections of the Tibetan and Mongolian books in the University Library, Cambridge and the British Library gave the first impetus for this project. Following this, Dr Stephen Hugh-Jones, Dr Hildegard Diemberger and Dr Craig Jamieson set out to establish a co-operative venture among librarians, Tibetologists and anthropologists at Cambridge, the British Library, the Bodleian Library, and the TASS in order to work on the many rare Tibetan and Mongolian books in UK libraries.

Gene Smith et al.

They made an application to the Arts and Humanities Research Board (now Arts and Humanities Research Council) for funding to conserve, consolidate and catalogue the Tibetan and Mongolian resources available in the three libraries, with primary focus on the books collected by the Younghusband Mission to Tibet in 1903–4. In Autumn 2003, they were awarded a generous Resource Enhancement Grant to be administered in Cambridge. Subsequently, the project built a network of professional consultants and advisors. In relation to the Tibetan Materials these include: Alak Zengkar Tuden Nima (Paltseg Research Institute, New York), Dr Robert Barnett (Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University, New York), Prof. David Germano (Tibetan & Himalayan Digital Library, University of Virginia), Ralf Kramer (Keeper of Tibetan Collections, Bodleian Library), Dr Ulrich Pagel (School of Oriental and African Studies, London), Burkhard Quessel (Curator, Tibetan Collections, British Library) E. Gene Smith (Tibetan Buddhist Resource Centre, New York), Pasang Wangdu (Tibetan Academy of Social Sciences) and Per Sorenson (Leipzig University). Dr Karma Phuntsho was appointed as the chief researcher for the project in March, 2004.

For the Mongolian Materials these include: Professor Bat-Ireedui (Mongolia National University, Professor Erdenibayar (Inner Mongolia University), Dr Hürelbaatar (Depty Director, MIASU, University of Cambridge), Dr David Sneath (Director, MIASU, University of Cambridge), Professor  Caroline Humphrey, (Department of Social Anthropology,University of Cambridge), Uranchimeg (Ph.D student, SOAS)

Dr Karma Phuntsho, an expert in Tibetan literature, was appointed as the chief researcher for the project. His expertise was obtained through both a rigorous traditional monastic education and form academic training (PhD in Buddhist Studies, University of Oxford). In March 2004 work began on the project to microfilm, digitize and catalogue the materials.