Grants:Project/Bhutan Rare and Historical Documents Digital Project

statusnot selected
Bhutan Rare and Historical Documents Digital Project
summaryThe digitization and analyses of various 17th and 18th century rare and historical documents related to early Bhutanese foreign policies and affairs will happen with translations and examinations of early documents related to cultural and religious affairs, trade, and numerous other Bhutanese foreign policy and diplomatic relations. In the second phase of this project, after this grant, a free, public, and online searchable database of these translated documents will be created for the Wikimedia community, public, and scholars.
targetWikimedia Commons, Several editions of Wikisource (Sanskrit, Mandarin, Portuguese…) [There is currently no Dzongkha or Tibetan-Chhokey edition of Wikisource]. Potential collaboration with Wikipedia in English and Dzongkha.
type of grantresearch
amount$11,340 USD
type of applicantindividual
contact• mgivel(_AT_)
this project needs...
created on15:53, 13 November 2018 (UTC)

Project ideaEdit

What is the problem you're trying to solve?Edit

Currently, our understanding of the history of how early Buddhist Bhutan during the 17th and 18th centuries progressed religiously and culturally is only partially complete and growing. There is no centralized archive of these documents. The incorporation in digital format of a corpus of new and unique rare and historical 17th and 18th century Bhutanese diplomatic and foreign affairs documents will significantly enhance novel insights and interpretations by scholars of Buddhist and Asian studies on how early Bhutanese governance, society, and culture changed over time.

What is your solution?Edit

We will create a public, permanent, free, and searchable database of translated 17th and 18th century rare and historical foreign affairs documents for the Wikimedia community, public, and scholars. After the equipment is purchased from this grant, the translation of the digitized documents by professionals will occur. The translators and translations will be overseen by Bhutanese Royal Princess, Ashi Kesang Choeden Wangchuck of the Thangka Conservation and Restoration Centre in Thimphu, Bhutan. We will negotiate the appropriate access permissions to these materials in a way that is sensitive to the Bhutanese culture and also the western copyright principles of Public Domain. We would also then upload all culturally-acceptable Public Domain materials to Wikimedia Commons, and translations to WikiSource, having obtained permissions the documents’ traditional owners.

Initially, and with this grant, we will purchase equipment to digitize Bhutanese documents. This includes: digital cameras, laptops and appropriate software to digitize documents, rare-document scanners, stand lighting units, color calibration sheets, and light exposure meters. After this equipment purchase, transcription and then translations conducted in Bhutan will occur, from several languages including, but not limited to: Tibetan Chhokey, Mandarin, ancient Chinese, Sanskrit, Portuguese, and Hindi - into Dzongkha and English.

Funding for transcriptions and translations as well as travel and research expenses, office expenses, maintenance and development of a public access web site, and staff will occur through grant assistance applied for through the American Council of Learned Societies.

Although it is not the primary purpose of this grant, at this stage of the project, it would be possible to introduce the potential for further Wikimedia-specific partnership activities, once an initial good relationship had been established. The team behind this project are not Wikimedians ourselves, and therefore would not teach Wikipedia editing etc., but we are happy to use this digitisation project as an opportunity to introduce our Bhutanese partners to the Wikimedia community.

We will then publish these documents in a permanent and public database for the Wikimedia community, public, and scholars. The location of this mirrored public access website in Bhutan is: We are also constructing at the University of Oklahoma with considerable input from Bhutan a mirrored public access website using Omeka and utilizing a variation of Dublin Core metadata standards for inputting data and digital pictures.

Project goalsEdit

Based on this grant, a top and immediate goal of this project is the purchase of initial equipment for digitization and processing of 17th and 18th century rare and historical foreign affairs documents.

Another goal of this project, before, during, and after this grant is the continuation of a permanent team in Bhutan working in conjunction with the University of Oklahoma to transcribe, translate, digitize, enhance, and maintain a comprehensive, free, and public database of rare and historic 17th and 18th century Bhutanese foreign affairs documents. This effort will also enhance Wikimedia Commons and several Wikisource editions. Wikipedia pages in English and in Dzongkha may also occur during the project but is not the primary target.

The other top goal of this project, is after this grant, the maintenance of a public and free database of translated 17th and 18th century Bhutanese historical foreign affairs documents for the Wikimedia community, public, and scholars. Modern Bhutan is heavily based in oral traditions and very much now in the Internet age. The Bhutanese members of our team are on a quest to preserve ancient Bhutanese culture, history, and traditions including art and storytelling. This is at the center of our project to preserve rare and historical foreign affairs documents of Bhutan on the Internet.

At the University of Oklahoma, our focus is also to assist, maintain, and preserve Bhutan's culture and to promote greater academic understanding of ancient Bhutan. One area that needs to be considered carefully in all of this is western and eastern expectations of intellectual property rights. Bridging these worlds is not only a legal question, but a question of cultures and expectations on all sides. The documents we are looking at are from a variety of sources each with their own requirements ranging from the Vatican Library to strict requirements in Tibet to museums to the private holding of powerful families including princes. They all have their own expectations on "ownership" some more restrictive than others. Once we negotiate with each of the parties this will be our on-line digital humanities rare and historic Bhutanese database that will be in the public domain with free and universal access.

Examples of documents include:

  • The first Legal Code of Bhutan of 1652 written in Tibetan Chhokey,
  • five Qing Dynasty documents written in ancient Chinese located in Taiwan,
  • and at least two long and original and hand written diplomatic communications to Vatican City by Portuguese missionaries in pre-Bhutan in the 1620s.

We expect that the total number of documents to number around 700.

Project impactEdit

How will you know if you have met your goals?Edit

Once the initial purchase of equipment due to funding from this grant occurs, in three months or less we will have purchased:

Two digital cameras, two laptops, one light meter, one scanners, one standing light unit, and one color calibration units. One or two of each of this equipment will be located in Bhutan.

This equipment purchase will then further the rest of the project including: transcription, translation of documents, digitization, and maintenance of an on-line digital humanities rare and historic Bhutanese database that will be in the public domain with free and universal access.

We expect around 700 rare and historic documents will be in this database.

Do you have any goals around participation or content?Edit

This proposal will be the basis, after the equipment purchase and with the creation of an open access database to enhance public and scholarly interest and analyses of the documents. Those documents that have no copyright issues will be provided to Wikimedia Commons for free and univeral access. They will also be on our web site and have public and free access to the general public. Those that have copyright restrictions like from the Vatican Library will be on our web site after we have negotiated copyright issues and will also be free for general public access.

Additionally, online participation will occur through mass-upload of appropriate content to Wikimedia Commons, and thence the transcriptions shared with the Wikisource communities in several languages. Development of English and Dzongkha Wikipedia can also occur - specifically with content about these individual digitised items and also with the use of these items to illustrate broader themes about Bhutanese culture and history.

With this equipment purchase, activities will continue in Bhutan and the University of Oklahoma to advance the project including with interested volunteers. We will be seeking assistance through our international advisory board, personal contacts, and social media networks in particular and welcome further offers and actions of assistance. Wikimedia is now engaged in a serious effort to do sensitive cultural outreach to nations, in which there has been little or no Wikimedia contacts in the past. In this regard, we will have an advisory board set up in Bhutan to address and provide advice on all matters related to Wikimedia.

Collaboration between Wikimedia and our Bhutanese local partners may then occur directly, or in future projects with the University of Oklahoma team, depending on the needs and willingness of all partners. For example, a “Wikipedian in Residence” project could be foreseen at a later stage in either country.

Project planEdit


We will endeavor to purchase high quality equipment for digitization. We will set up the equipment both in Bhutan and the University of Oklahoma. Equipment will be purchased both in Bhutan and the University of Oklahoma.


  • Digital Cameras (2) $1667 USD
  • Laptops (2) $2200 USD
  • Light Exposure Meter (1) $500 USD
  • Scanner (1) $1000 USD
  • Standing Light Unit (1) $700 USD
  • Color Calibration Chart (1) $20 USD

Budget Justification:

Senior Personnel: Dr. Givel, jointly in conjunction with Bhutanese Royal Princess, Ashi Kesang Choeden Wangchuck of the Thangka Conservation and Restoration Centre in Thimphu, Bhutan will provide management and active participation in the project at no cost to the sponsor. Equipment purchased with this grant will only be used in Bhutan.

  • Other Personnel: No funds requested.
  • Fringe Benefits: None requested.
  • Equipment: None requested.
  • Travel: None requested.
  • Participant Support Costs: None requested.
  • Publication/Dissemination Costs: None requested.
  • Consultant Services: None requested.
  • Computer/ADPE services: None requested.
  • Subcontracts: N/A
  • Tuition Remission: N/A
  • Other: None requested.

We have requested other funding from the American Council of Learned Societies to fund other aspects of the project.

Community engagementEdit

There are several separate communities we need to engage with during the project. We will obtain input on an ongoing basis from our international advisory board as well as other digital experts related to the equipment purchase. This is both for technical advice on the relevant materials for the specific digitisation work, and also cultural advice for working in this specific environment. This is important to ensure cultural sensitivities of Bhutan are understood and incorporated into the digitisation work. After this grant and with funding from subsequent grants, we will continue on an ongoing basis to seek input from our Wikimedia advisory board, international advisory board, and digital and Bhutanese diplomatic history and affairs experts.

We will work with Wikimedians in the local region including through a Wikimedia advisory board, as well as those involved in cultural partnerships (GLAM) to ensure that appropriate materials are uploaded from our database to Wikimedia Commons, and incorporated in WikiSource and Wikipedia. Further Wikimedia-specific partnerships may be developed including a local Wikimedia advisory board to the project with local cultural and educational institutions once that initial relationship has been established.

We operate a dedicated Facebook page established for this project: with a large following considering the nature of the project.

Get involvedEdit


At the University of Oklahoma, the project related to initial equipment purchases will be administered by Director--Professor Michael Givel, Department of Political Science of the University of Oklahoma.

In Bhutan, the Director of the project is Bhutanese Royal Princess, Ashi Kesang Choeden Wangchuck of the Thangka Conservation and Restoration Centre in Thimphu, Bhutan. Princess Wangchuck will administer the purchase and setup of equipment at the Centre.

The project’s Co-Directors include:

  • Tshering Tashi, Historian and Archivist, Office of Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother of Bhutan, and
  • Dorji Wangchuck, Laurea Magistrale, Director, Contentment Foundation and Ph.D. Candidate--University of Macau.

The project’s Co-Directors will assist in the purchase and set up of the equipment.

International Advisory Board

  • Dr. Anna Balicki-Denjongpa-Namgyel Institute of Tibetology, Sikkim
  • Dasho Sangay Dorji, Scholar and Adviser to Dzongkhag Development Commission, Thimphu, Bhutan
  • Professor Samuel Huskey, Associate Professor of Classics and Letters, University of Oklahoma
  • Barbara Laufersweiler, Coordinator, Digitization Lab, University of Oklahoma Libraries
  • Pema Rinzin, Video and Graphics Editor, Thimphu, Bhutan
  • Dr. Brian Shaw, University of Hong Kong
  • Dr. Kuenga Wangmo, Researcher in Her Majesty’s Secretariat, Thimphu, Bhutan

Community notificationEdit


NOTE This application was published on-wiki on behalf of Mgivel1 by myself. Having been introduced to the proposed Bhutan digitisation project by a mutual friend, I have assisted Mgivel1 in drafting/wiki-formatting this Project Grant application. The project itself is entirely pre-existing, I have merely assisted in writing it in a way that is applicable to Wikimedia's interests. I did not know the Mgivel1 prior to this, nor anyone else mentioned within this proposal. I do not stand to personally benefit from this project. Wittylama (talk) 16:22, 13 November 2018 (UTC)
  1. I support the proposal because I believe it is an excellent opportunity for the Wikimedia projects to help further the overarching mission of providing access to the sum of human knowledge - from a culture and community that is otherwise extremely difficult to access. Wikimedia has extremely limited connections to this ancient culture. It is my belief that this grant represents extremely good "value for money" to be able to support a major project which will have direct outcomes (as described in the grant) but ALSO potentially provide a respectful introduction of the Bhutanese academic community to the Wikimedia community/projects - which might begin a longlasting relationship. Wittylama (talk) 16:22, 13 November 2018 (UTC)
  2. I endorse this project for a number of reasons
    • The documents are extremely rare and relevant, pertaining to Bhutan's role in world affairs which is little-known, and has historical and political significance for India, Britain, and Himalayan history more broadly.
    • Bhutanese citizens use Wikipedia as a reference but have had a troubled history of publishing on English Wikipedia themselves and the Dzongkha edition is dormant. I've been researching the media in Bhutan for about 16 years and am currently pursuing a project within Bhutan to increase their use of Dzongkha and English Wikipedia. (I have an application in for a small Rapid Grant at present, to help fund a pilot training day which will form part of an application for funding from the Australian government for a 3-year project.) To have these documents digitized in Wikimedia Commons in 2020, would be extremely beneficial. It would also help considerably to position Wikipedia as a site for serious research, demonstrating to Bhutanese leaders the quality of information.
    • I can see wide application for Bhutanese historians and scholars, as well as providing opportunities to build education projects around the new documents.
    • I read about Professor Givel's project via Facebook and contacted him, suggesting he approach Wikimedia for funding because I could see how his aims matched the aims of the Wikimedia movement and how his work would help my own long-term goals.
    • This project will demonstrate to other academics the role Wikipedia can play in knowledge dissemination. Doctor 17 (talk)
  3.   Strong support This is an unprecedented AFAIK opportunity for us. We definitely need this to happen, in order to use it as an example of outreach to unrepresented Countries. Sannita - not just another sysop 17:28, 12 December 2018 (UTC)