Washington South Asia Report

Vol. XXVI, Number 2
Spring / Summer 2010

LIBRARY NEWS: Notes from Suzzallo
by Deepa Banerjee


Library Acquisitions – South Asian Art History Materials

In the summer of 2009, the South Asia Section of Suzzallo Library acquired several important South Asian Art History materials. These materials will enable specialized teaching and research on modern and contemporary art in South Asia, a new program supported by the Departments of Art History and Comparative Literature, and by the South Asia Center at the University of Washington. Additionally, the South Asia Section has greatly benefited from the financial support of the Allen Library and the U.S. Department of Education. The acquisition of these materials is a stepping stone for developing and maintaining an admirable Art History collection which now includes monographs, journals, documentaries and video works by prominent artists. According to Assistant Professor of Art History, Sonal Khullar:

These materials will be useful to students and faculty working on South Asia broadly and in disciplines like Art History, History, Anthropology, Sociology, Literature, Film Studies, Architecture, Geography, Women’s Studies, International Studies, and Communications. Given the strength of the UW libraries’ existing holdings in South Asia and these new additions to our collection, the university is well-poised to become a national resource on the subject of South Asian art and culture of all periods. Indeed these acquisitions mark UW’s commitment to a global vision of education and its willingness to lead not only in established fields of study, but also in emerging ones. The enthusiasm and dedication of library staff at UW—from research and acquisitions to cataloguing and circulation—testifies to a culture of excellence that is the hallmark of a great university."

Approximately 100 new titles were acquired by the university, including Partha Mitter’s The Triumph of Modernism (2007) and Gayatri Sinha’s Art and Visual Culture in India, 1857-2007 (2009). Importantly, these volumes can serve as textbooks in courses on modern art, colonialism, globalization, and cosmopolitanism. Catalogs of major international exhibitions, such as Amrita Sher-Gil: An Indian Artist Family in the Twentieth Century (2006) and Rhythms of India: The Art of Nandalal Bose (2008), make available previously unpublished images, archival materials, and scholarly research on artistic careers in early twentieth century India. Twenty-first century media practices are now also well-represented in the UW collections, including a strong body of work by feminist photographers: Dayanita Singh’s Privacy (2003); Pushpamala N.’s Native Women of South India, Manners and Customs (2006); Sheba Chhachhi’s Women of the Cloth (2007); and Gauri Gill’s The Americans (2009). Documentary films such as Out of Thin Air (2009), a study of the film industry in Ladakh, and Nishtha Jain’s City of Photos (2005), a look at studio photography in urban India, are excellent resources for thinking through the production, reception, circulation, and consumption of visual culture in contemporary South Asia. Books and exhibition catalogs such as Memory, Metaphor, Mutations: Contemporary Art of India and Pakistan (2007) and Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan (2009) enable comparative study of artistic production in India and Pakistan. This first-hand experience of artworks produced in South Asia has provided students of Art History a “capstone” in studies of continuity and change in twentieth century art. Many of the newly acquired texts complement subject matter in History and Anthropology courses and provide insight into globalization, social conflict, and the politics of gender and sexuality outside the United States.


South Asian Oral History Project interviews now part of a long term exhibit at Ellis Island

The University of Washington Libraries' South Asian Oral History Project interviews are now being used for a long term exhibit at Ellis Island National Immigration History Museum in New York City. The History Channel is producing an audio installation which will play short, spoken comments from migrants about their journeys to America, including the stories of South Asian immigrants. Excerpts will be read by an actor in both the native language and in English. Beginning in 2011, the audio will stream continuously out of speakers embedded in the wall at the museum. These interviews are currently accessible from <lib.washington.edu/saohcweb/index.html>

About the Project

Scholars and librarians at the University of Washington Libraries have organized the South Asian Oral History Project into three temporal phases. Each phase is marked by key historical events that drew South Asians to the United States: the end of World War II; the partition of India and Pakistan; the opening of U.S. immigration laws in 1965 to people from South Asia; and the growth of key technology industries in Seattle that attracted South Asian students and workers.

Amy Bhatt, a PhD candidate in Women Studies at the University of Washington and Dr. Nalini Iyer, Assistant Professor of English at Seattle University, have been working with the University of Washington Press on a manuscript about the project. The anticipated publication date of Roots and Reflections: South Asians Map the Pacific Northwest is 2011.

Processing of the Krishna C. Gairola Collection of 9, 512 slides of South Asian Art and Architecture

UW Libraries has recently hired a student intern, Brittany Buckingham, to process the Gairola Slides collection. The Gairola Slide Collection consists of 9,512 slides of South and Southeast Asian artwork that have not been catalogued or accessible to researchers. Donated to the UW Libraries by Krishna Gairola, a former Indian Art History professor at the Virginia Commonwealth University, this collection is a unique set of images that includes substantial representation of Indian art and architecture from the dynastic periods through the early 1960s, as well as art from Cambodia, Burma, Thailand, and Indonesia. The wide variety of subject matter should prove useful to students and scholars of South and Southeast Asian architecture, art, anthropology, political science, religion, and history. Included in the collection are excellent images of religious architecture across India, detailed images of religious art dating to the second century, and pre-industrial photographs of areas that are now major metropolitan centers. The images, photographed by Dr. Gairola between 1950 and 2000, offer a unique perspective of Indian art works and historical sites.

South Asian Librarian Deepa Banerjee, Visual Materials Curator Nicolette Bromberg and Brittany will work to preserve and catalogue this immense collection, making it accessible to local and international researchers. Ultimately, this project will generate an online database of the images, process the materials in Special Collections, and digitize many of the most important images.


Deepa Banerjee is the South Asian Studies Librarian. She can be reached at dbaner@uw.edu.

Return to South Asia Report Spring 2010

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