at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Endangered Archives Project: Buddhist Photography in Laos


An Endangered Archives Programme pilot project (EAP086) investigated the extent and conditions of an archive of Theravada Buddhist photographs now mainly preserved in one monastery of Luang Prabang/Laos, and started scanning and digitizing the material. The material found is of high scientific and documentary significance, and very rare. In more than 15,000 single photographs, it covers 120 years of Buddhist photography.

The archive has escaped loss, dispersion and voluntary destruction that afflicted many historic collections of photography in South East Asia with the extraordinary political and social changes that afflicted the region in the 20th century, only because a highly venerated monk, Phra Khamchanh Virachittathera, who for more than 70 years has been a collector of photographic documents, found ways to astutely gather, protect and, for many years, hide the archive from outsider intrusion and inspection. With the loss of the photographic collections of the National Archive and the National Library of Laos during the revolutions of 1975, this surviving collection is of particular significance and importance.

Find out more on the project page.