PL-480: The First Major Preservation Program
From the 1960s through the mid-80s, a tiny though significant fraction of the written spiritual and cultural heritage of Tibet was temporarily preserved through a publication project of the US Library of Congress. This program was developed in New Delhi by E. Gene Smith. Far-sighted as it was, the Tibetan Text Publication Project of the US PL-480 Program was essentially salvage oriented. At a historical juncture, it encouraged Tibetan refugees and the Tibetan Buddhist populations in India, Sikkim, Bhutan, and Nepal to publish their literature.
Many of the texts and sets of collected works were incomplete, but they represented all that was available outside of Tibet at that time. In total more than 5,000 volumes were published. Western cataloging rules were adapted to the Tibetan texts, yet over the years the bibliographic entries from this period proved inadequate. In addition, although the best paper available was used, most of it shows deterioration. Many of the books lithographed in the first refugee camps in India can no longer be read because of the bleed-through from acidic ink.
TBRC: Cutting-Edge Technology to Preserve Ancient Wisdom
In 1999, E. Gene Smith founded the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center, seizing the opportunity presented by technologies that were, at that time, just emerging.
Beginning with the first generation of hand-held scanners, and progressing alongside rapidly advancing tech developments, TBRC has built the world’s largest Tibetan library – online – available to everyone.
Through TBRC, these priceless texts of the Tibetan literary tradtition are digitally preserved and shared freely with all.