Feb. 2, 2009

'Beyond the Taj': To Asia and back again

From the Beyond the Taj Collection of Robert MacDougall
Robert MacDougall stands in front of a statue of Madurai Viran and a horse at the Kochadai Aiyanar Koil.

"Beyond the Taj" -- a collection of visual and written materials on South Asian architecture and material culture -- is now positioned to travel beyond Cornell to become an online collection at ARTstor.org.

The collection is the life's work of anthropologist and architect Robert "Scotty" MacDougall, a former Cornell professor in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning and dean of the School of Continuing Education. After his death in 1987, researchers in the Knight Visual Resources Facility in collaboration with his widow, associate professor of architecture Bonnie MacDougall, began to identify and catalog his photographs of architecture, pilgrimage locales and domestic life in India and Sri Lanka.

Digitizing the project became the next big hurdle. In 2004 Bonnie MacDougall received a Faculty E-Grant for Digital Library Collections, which funded the creation of digital images by experts at Cornell University Library. In 2006 a Faculty Innovation in Teaching Award enabled the project to be completed.

Ultimately, 7,000 images were scanned and included in the collection. An agreement was recently signed to allow these digital resources to be published as an open collection on ARTstor, making it broadly available to subscribers by fall 2009. See the collection at http://beyondthetaj.library.cornell.edu.

Gwen Glazer is a writer at Cornell University Library.