Penn has acquired materials of research and teaching value on South Asia in both Western and South Asian languages since the early 1800s, and now has one of the premier South Asia collections in the United States. The goal is to support scholarship on South Asia from antiquity to the present day. The collection is housed primarily in Van Pelt, the Fisher Fine Arts Library, and the Museum Library. The primary focus is on the humanities and the social sciences with particular strength in the areas of anthropology, archaeology, art history, classical Indology, linguistics, literature, religion, philosophy and political science.
The South Asia Reading Room, on the fifth floor of Van Pelt, houses a collection of reference works as well as the South Asia Art Archive, which consists of over 115,000 photographs and more than 3,000 color slides of Indic architecture, painting and sculpture. The Archive has the same holdings as the Center for Art and Archaeology of the American Institute of Indian Studies in Gurgaon, India and is open to all who are interested in the study of Indian art.
Video Recordings: The Library collects very strongly in the area of South Asia cinema, with a concentration on the cinema of India, along with documentaries. Films are selected based on a variety of criteria and suggestions for purchase are also welcomed.
Sound Recordings: The Library also collects sound recordings from India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Nepal. The Van Pelt Ormandy Listening Center has a large collection of CDs and sound cassettes in the following subjects: Hindustani, Carnatic, and tribal music, film music, modern songs and devotional music. The Library is developing a small and highly selective video collection of films which are acquired in conjunction with new program initiatives.
Maps: There are approximately 1500 maps dealing with South Asia and these can be found in the South Asia Reading Room. New maps are acquired very selectively insofar as they deal with the research and overall teaching mission of the South Asia program.