Endangered archives blog

News about the projects saving vulnerable material from around the world

17 June 2024

A Horizon Europe MSCA Secondment at the British Library Endangered Archives Programme: Accessing the Textual Literary Heritage of Bhutan

by Dr. Dagmar Schwerk, Leipzig University, Institute for the Study of Religion

From October to December 2023, I had the great opportunity to work with the British Library Endangered Archives Programme as part of my Marie Skłodowska Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship and Horizon Europe research project BhutIdBuddh: Buddhism, Diplomacy, and Travel: Identity- and Nation-Building in Bhutan.

The main objective of my secondment at the British Library was to gain further training in digital and physical archival work at this important and large library, learn more about Tibetan palaeography and codicology, and, in return, to provide helpful information about the open-access digitised Bhutanese collections of the EAP for researchers and interested readers of the British Library.

In my article “Butter Lamps, Natural Disaster, and Climate Change in the Himalayas: Preserving and Accessing the Textual Literary Heritage of Bhutan Through the Endangered Archives Programme of the British Library,” I, therefore, provide an introduction to the five Bhutanese collections: (1) EAP310 “The digital documentation of manuscripts in Thadrak, Tshamdrak and Nyephug Temples;” (2) EAP105 “The digital documentation of manuscripts at Drametse and Ogyen Choling;” (3) EAP039 “Archival records from digital documentation of manuscript collection in Gangtey;” (4) EAP570 “Digital documentation of Dongkala, Chizing, Dodedra and Phajoding temple archives;” and (5) EAP1494 “Digitisation of 20 remote Bhutanese archives.” The latter and fifth project is a major area grant and still ongoing. It will not only include libraries of monasteries and temples but also fortresses as traditional seats of religious and political power and covers a much wider geographical area, including Western, Central and Eastern Bhutan.

Besides introducing the content, structure and research value of these collections, I also briefly address the role of preservation of these endangered textual collections in relation to natural disasters and the climate crisis. The digitised EAP projects indeed enable long-lasting access, engagement and inclusion of everyone, as intended by the Knowledge Matters Strategy of the British Library.

Please find the article, which is published as a project deliverable (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) on the Zenodo repository, here



Dagmar Schwerk in front of the King’s Library Tower in the British Library.


During my secondment at the British Library, I also conducted archival research about the very early entangled histories between Bhutan, Tibet, the East India Company and the British Raj in the India Office Records and Private Papers of the British Library. Moreover, being already conveniently located at the British Library enabled me to add some archival research days at the Bodleian Library and the Victoria & Albert Museum Art, Architecture, Photography and Design Department to work on additional Bhutanese materials.

In sum, my secondment and collaboration with the British Library were very fruitful for my current research project but also for further in-depth archival training, due to the great Endangered Archives Programme team, especially my supervisor Dr. Sam van Schaik, and the very knowledgeable and helpful curators and library staff of the British Library who generously supported me during my research and archival work (despite the limitations due to the cyber-attack on the British Library).

A big thanks to everyone at the British Library!

For more information about my ongoing research project (BhutIdBuddh: Buddhism, Diplomacy, and Travel: Identity- and Nation-Building in Bhutan), please see here


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