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Huntington Archive of Buddhist and Related Art

Professors John and Susan Huntington, Ohio State University
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Reviewed by:
Robert DeCaroli
George Mason University
May 2003

This project began in 1986 when the Huntingtons decided to expand their Asian art history database to archive Pan-Asian visual resources. Currently the collection has more than 300,000 images from India, Pakistan, China, Japan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Tibet, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand and Myanmar (Burma). These images range in date from 2,500 BCE to the present, and include works of art in their original contexts as well as material located in museums.

This website offers a searchable database of approximately 30,000 black-and-white photographs from the collection, with the promise of more digital collections in the future. Despite its unfinished state, the site contains an impressive collection of material that is presented in an easily navigated format.

The “Online Exhibition“ section undertakes an intriguing and ingenious task: to preserve temporary museum exhibitions in a more permanent format. This section currently contains ten separate exhibitions. Four are on Chinese art, two deal with Indian art, two contain Japanese art, one is on the arts of Tibet, and the most recently added is on Buddhist meditational art. Each exhibit features high quality images of the art from the original exhibitions and includes museum labels and captions along with each work. In short, one can find a selection of virtual museum shows that provide a guided look at a number of topics. Specifically, these shows range from Hindu devotional practices and Chinese jade to Japanese basket-making and posters from the Cultural Revolution. Any one of these could serve as a short documentary-like introduction for students.

Resources“ is a rather eclectic mix of long-term undertakings that include teaching aids (such as maps of Asia) and research advice. However two of these projects are particularly noteworthy. The first is an amazing collection of 1,596 images depicting Newar Buddhist art from Nepal. The images are organized into chronological and thematic categories that are accompanied by concise but useful background information. It is an impressive collection that presents materials underrepresented in most textbooks.

The second noteworthy “project” is the “Photograps of Lost and Stolen Images from Afghanistan and Nepal.” This collection is a database of images that have been lost or stolen and which may currently be for sale illegally on the international market. The site is intended “to provide students and scholars with access to visual materials that have been lost or stolen from their place of origin.” In this way the site seeks to help raise awareness about the problem of looting and to assist in preventing its perpetuation by providing visual references to works of art that are known or believed to have been stolen. Needless to say, this is a significant and worthwhile undertaking.

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