Manuscript Selection & Contextualisation for JAINpedia
Many people often comment about the aesthetic beauty of the manuscripts on JAINpedia, and are surprised at the detailed illustrations that are found on such ancient manuscripts, not expecting them to be brightly coloured and decorated. Although many ancient manuscripts have very few images and colours accompanying the text, a framework for the selection of manuscripts for digitisation was created for the purpose of JAINpedia.
The criteria that we used to select some of the manuscripts (especially for those we have displayed in the exhibitions) were as follows:
- The fact that a manuscript is illustrated. Illustrations are attractive to all potential users; digitisation is a way to make these documents accessible to a wide public without any danger of damage for the manuscript itself, and is a way to preserve the paintings too. Illustration is a good starting point for contextualisation as it gives possibilities for all types of links and connected information (origin of colours, use of colours, human types in the painting, conception of the landscape, themes for illustration, influence of other trends, such as Persian and Moghul, etc.).
- Rarity of the text copied on the manuscript is also a priority. This would concern about 50 manuscripts from the British Library collection which are unique and are not represented in other collections.
- Digitisation of groups of manuscripts which are not rarities, but which are interesting from a specific view point pertaining to contents, e.g. manuscripts containing prayers in Gujarati of relevance for the practice of the faith by the Jains in today’s Britain. They could be a starting point for contextualisation and introduction to the principles of Jainism for transmission to young generations and understanding of this faith and its principles by non-Jains.
The framework was important in ensuring that the resulting database had a range of topics, historical periods and styles so that the resultant contextualisation provided an encyclopaedia of all things Jain.