School of Arts & Department of History of Art and Archaeology

Tibetan Buddhist Monastery Collections Today


In 2016, Christian Luczanits (PI) and Louise Tythacott (CI) were awarded an AHRC Research Grant of £356,759 for a three-year project (2016–2019) to research Tibetan Buddhist monastery collections in Ladakh, India (Hemis, Chemrey) and Mustang, Nepal (Namgyal, Choede, Kag Choede, Tsarang, Gheling).

The research yielded numerous discoveries, among which is a collection of important Buddhist texts dating to the 14th century at Namgyal Monastery in Mustang, which are now published in a monograph. Documentation of the collection required three visits by Christian (2015 to 2017) and more than 10,000 photographs. A lecture summarising the most important discoveries during the documentation is available to view:

With Kunsang Namgyal Lama and Chiara Bellini (Postdoc Researchers), Christian and Louise documented the collections of Chemrey Monastery Museum in Ladakh. They developed gallery layouts, themes, case designs and collaborated with the monastic community to install the new museum in 2019. They also worked with monks at Hemis Monastery Museum to redevelop their displays.

In Kagbeni Monastery in Mustang, the team documented the collections, redisplayed the Tibetan Buddhist shrine and created an interpretive booklet for visitors. Louise worked with Kunzom Thakuri interviewing local people in remote villages near Kagbeni to ascertain views on a proposed new museum in the early 15th century monastery.

Christian, Louise and Chiara also organised an international workshop at SOAS, with more than half participants being monastery representatives. Christian and Louise subsequently co-edited a book from the proceedings – Tibetan Monastery Collections and Museums: Traditional Practices and Contemporary Issues (Vajra Academic, 2022).

The institutions participating in the documentation are provided with yearly updated inventories of their collections. Throughout the project, the abbots and monks gained wider awareness of the treasures they hold, as well as methods of preserving and displaying their important historic collections.

This project formed an impact case study for REF2021.

Christian and Louise are planning to submit another AHRC application to continue the work.