ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Can joint digital projects and linked repositories enhance the ability of cultural heritage actors to interact across social and national boundaries?


Widorn Verena - Institute for South Asian, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria


47 – Recent Cultural Heritage Initiatives in Nepal and the Himalayas


 In 2003, the ethnographic museum in Vienna was offered the head of a Dipankara Buddha, which, based on the extensive photo documentation of a scholar, could be identified as an artefact stolen two years earlier from the Nag Bahal in Patan. Thanks to the cooperation of various actors from different countries, the Buddha was finally returned to its original sacred environment.

Today, 20 years later, there are numerous image sources and image databases that, through their global internet presence, can probably also be seen as a kind of protection of at least more prominent objects from such thefts and illegal transactions. At the same time, we can also use these digital sources to document the rapid encroachment on the tangible and intangible heritage of the Himalayas and its cultural sites, which since 1970 has radically changed their design and setting and led to the loss of important historical material.

But how can we ensure that this knowledge is preserved not only in digital archives and scholarly repositories for scholars and researchers, but also in the memory of local people? How can we effectively use the potential of new digital tools and methods to share our knowledge with all relevant actors and increase the understanding of the value of cultural heritage?