The publishing effort Melville House has an interesting article today about Mongolian manuscripts that are in dire need or preservation. Maintaining Mongolian Manuscripts: Mildew, Mismanagement, Megalomaniacal Monks gives a brief history of the archives in that country, that have been protected from all manner of perils only to be left in less than ideal conditions due to an apparently stalled digitization project.
This digitization project was initiated by The Asian Classics Input Project, a worthy endeavor that also works with digitizing texts in India. They have two names that might be familiar to readers of this blog, Dr. Vesna Wallace and Dr. Robert Thurman as advisors among others.
There does seems to be some kind of problem with the Board of Directors however, and considering that Michael Roach is included there, that might come as no surprise to some. And there have been other problems including “funding for the ACIP operation fell through in 2008 and has resumed only this past February.”
As the Melville House article indicates:
What goes unmentioned is that the ACIP was founded by the notorious Michael Roach, an American monk who teaches something akin to a church of prosperity, whose many students have accused him of gross mistreatment, whose bizarre relationship with his wife ended in divorce and lurid tragedy last year. This is akin to discovering that the Dead Sea Scrolls are being preserved by Creflo Dollar. (Don’t know Dollar? Look him up. He’s a mess.)
Roach’s involvement does not mean that the ACIP is anything less than professional—when funding is forthcoming—or doing their utmost to preserve these irreplaceable manuscripts. It simply means that broader support for the preservation of the manuscripts is even more imperative. The greater the backing for the digitization of the Mongolian archive cache, the less impact Roach himself can have on the project. After all, if defending West African manuscripts from fundamentalist arsonists can get the world’s attention, surely saving a tree bark canon from mildew and megalomaniacs deserves a few eyes and dollars.
It is difficult to offer any suggestions that could improve the situation, not knowing what sort of contracts, if any, are in place between ACIP and the Mongolian library. Hopefully such contracts, should they exist, don’t place the digitization and preservation efforts solely and exclusively with ACIP because it appears they are having some performance difficulties.
Addenda: It is interesting that there is no mention of ACIP in this outline of strategic planning from 2010 on the Ariadne website regarding the future of the National Library of Mongolia and various text digitization projects. Planning the Future of the National Library of Mongolia What is of further interest are the claims made by ACIP that seem to indicate they are the drivers of strategic partnerships with libraries in Russia, among other places:
MONGOLIA NATIONAL LIBRARY
ACIP established its catalogue and digital imaging project in Mongolia, located in the National Library of Mongolia in Ulaanbataar, in 1999. There are approximately 650,000 Tibetan titles housed in this collection, many of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
The Mongolian staff includes 12 cataloguers and digital imaging personnel. Most of them have a degree in Textology and Tibetology from the National University of Mongolia. The cataloging portion of the project is managed by a Tibetan, Ngawang Gyatso, who was trained by ACIP in India.
The primary focus of the center has been the cataloging and organization of the vast Tibetan collection, as well as the digital imaging of the Peking and Tempangma Kangyurs.
Yet there is no mention of ACIP, at all, in the Ariadne document. Instead credit for originating and continuing the project is given to an organization EIFL which:
… is an international not-for-profit organisation based in Europe with a global network of partners.
ACIP is not listed as one of the EIFL partners.
There are obvious discrepancies here. If one were the skeptical type one might wonder just how involved ACIP actually is in the entire project. I urge you to make comparisons between the claims made at each of the links so you can make up your own mind about it.