SOAS University of London

Garfield Weston Foundation awards SOAS Library grant towards Unlocking SOAS Collections Project

3 February 2022

Garfield Weston Trustees have awarded SOAS Library £200,000 towards its Unlocking SOAS Collections Project. 

The funding will help establish a digitisation hub and a collection care unit. The physical creation from current space and co-location of these facilities will transform access to the world-class collections at SOAS today, enable deeper research collaborations, facilitate access and ensure our collections are preserved for future generations. 

The Unlocking SOAS Collections is a three year programme of catalyst projects to enable deeper engagement, access, learning, teaching, research and outreach through a planned programme of digitisation, access, and preservation of the SOAS Collections to ensure their use for future generations to come and in a meaningful way.

The SOAS Library is one of the world’s most important academic libraries for the study of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. It attracts scholars from all over the world to consult its holdings and further their research. It is the custodian of some unique, priceless and extraordinary collections. For example, it holds four volumes of the Yongle Dadian, a partially lost Chinese encyclopedia commissioned in 1403 by the Yongle Emperor of the Ming Dynasty and considered one of the most important texts in Chinese history and scholarship.

Each of the regional and disciplinary research collections, the objects in the Brunei Gallery, as well as Special Collections, contain material that is of national and international significance to a range of researchers and which supports teaching and research across a range of academic disciplines.

This contribution follows those from the Foyle Foundation, The Wolfson Foundation, the AHRC and UKRI for the same project. 

Oliver Urquhart Irvine, Director of Library and Learning services said:

"SOAS Library is a library of the world and for the world.This generous donation from the Garfield Weston Foundation will enable us to complete the significant progress already made with our digital library and will be vital in transforming access to SOAS Library's unique holdings and making them available freely for students, scholars and the public to use, reuse and explore. The collections are exceptionally culturally diverse and rich in content and languages and we are excited to be able to transform our physical stewardship of these internationally significant collections."     

Previous grants from the Garfield WestonFoundation have played a major role in transforming the Schools facilities and enabling the creation of a dedicated student hub in 2014 known as the Weston Student Hub, which has become a vital central point for students at SOAS.

The Garfield Weston Foundation is a family-founded, charitable grant-making foundation, which supports a wide range of causes across the UK, donating over £80 million annually.  It was established in 1958 by the Weston family and is one of the largest and most respected charitable institutions in the UK which has donated over £1 billion in total.