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Gi-pyo Choi, Sung-doo Ahn, Jae-kwan Shim, Do-su Paek, Young-gil Park

Geumgang Center for Buddhist Studies, Geumgang University


University of the Punjab, the oldest and largest university of Pakistan, is located in Lahore, a town renowned for its long history and diversified culture. Its library preserves over nine thousand ancient manuscripts collected by the Indologist Alfred Cooper Woolner (1878-1936) during his sojourn in South Asia.
These manuscripts, collectively referred to as the 'Woolner Collection', were made known to academia through the publication of their catalogue, of which the first volume appeared in 1932, followed by a second one in 1941. However, the manuscripts themselves remained inaccessible to researchers for over half a century due to political circumstances.
Four years ago, the Center for Buddhist Studies at Geumgang University, informed of this situation, concluded that the study of these manuscripts would prove to be of great significance for Buddhist Studies, and took the initiative to create a database of these manuscripts, a project initially supported by Geumgang University.
In July 2006, with the then Acting President of Geumgang University, Cho Seong-hwan, I visited Lahore and ratified a memorandum between Geumgang and Punjab University. In November of the same year, the then Vice President of University of the Punjab, Arshad Mahmood, visited Korea and signed an agreement concerning the digitization of the Woolner Collection and the publication of a detailed descriptive catalogue.
In August 2007, the Korea Research Foundation(KRF) -now National Research Foundation(NRF)- decided to finance this project for a period of three years, thereby allowing a staff of full-time researchers to dedicate themselves to this project. However, the virtual absence of expertise in dealing with Indian manuscripts and paleography required us to seek the collaboration of specialists in this field. In this respect, the Institute for South Asian, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies of the University of Vienna proved to be a highly valuable partner. Dr. Kang Sung-yong, affiliated with that Institute, deserves special recognition, for it was him who initially provided the Center for Buddhist Studies at Geumgang University with valuable information about the Woolner Collection and subsequently also his good offices which made the interchange with University of the Punjab possible.
The director of the Institute for South Asian, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies of the University of Vienna, Professor Karin Preisendanz, likewise focused on the Woolner Collection in the context of an independent study project financed by the Austrian government. The Viennese institute also took charge of verifying the manuscripts deciphered by the Center for Buddhist Studies at Geumgang University, and to create a database program for these.
An agreement between the two research institutions at Vienna and Geumgang University was concluded in October 2009. The Woolner Collection thus became the focus of an international project involving researchers from Pakistan, Korea, and Austria.
So far, a significant percentage of the manuscripts at University of the Punjab has been digitized. Furthermore, a database providing detailed informations on the main contents and condition of these manuscripts has been created. I expect that within the next one or two years, it will be possible to consult this database online -at least partially.
As the project progressed, the Center for Buddhist Studies at Geumgang University felt the need to publish a new catalogue of the Woolner Collection. As mentioned above, a two volumes catalogue has already been published previously. However, meanwhile, the Woolner Collection has undergone significant changes of contents, and the previous catalogue does not contain the current access numbers for the manuscripts, which makes a search very inconvenient, to say the least.
Thus, the research team at Geumgang University produced a new catalogue with the following improvements:
-a concordance between serial numbers listed in the previous catalogue and identification numbers of the actual storage at Punjab University;
-additional information which is missing or has been omitted in the previous catalogue;
-corrections to errata and changed content.

This project has entirely been carried out at Geumgang University by the staff of researchers - Paek Do-su, Park Young-gil- and research assistants, Ryu Hyun-jung and Bang Jung-ran. This project would not have been possible without the assistance of University of the Punjab Library and the Institute of Vienna University. I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to both institutions and their affiliated researchers.

The digitization and storage of the entire Woolner Collection in a single database is a project requiring much time and effort. To secure its completion, it is imperative to maintain a close cooperation between University of the Punjab, the University of Vienna, and Geumgang University, and to provide financial support to both research institutions. At the present stage, it remains unclear how much of the Woolner Collection will actually be stored in the database. However, we have overcome several challenges and received helping hands. Hence I am optimistic and believe that our project will be successfully brought to completion.


Choi Gi-pyo,
Professor of Buddhist Studies, Geumgang University,
Leading Researcher of the Woolner Project at Geumgang University.


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