The study of and research on South Asia has been carried out at the University of Pennsylvania since the latter part of the 19th century. The South Asia Regional Studies Department was established in 1948 and is currently called the Department of South Asia Studies. However, faculty involved in the teaching and research of South Asia are distributed throughout various departments in the School of Arts and Sciences. A full program is offered through the graduate level both within the South Asia Studies Department and the various disciplinary departments and professional schools which allow students to specialize in South Asian Studies to varying degrees. The Center for the Advanced Study of India and the South Asia Center also use the Penn libraries as a resource.
Faculty research on South Asia is within the ambit of many disciplines, including anthropology, archaeology, art history, economics, education, history, Indology, linguistics, literature, political science, religious studies, and sociology.
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.
Guidelines for Collection Development
There are no chronological limits to the collection which ranges from the prehistoric period to the present.
Materials are acquired in the following formats: books, journals, newspapers, microform, audio- and video recordings, maps (selectively), and electronic media (selectively).
The primary geographical coverage is South Asia which includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Indian, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sikkim, and Sri Lanka with some coverage of Tibet. Materials are also acquired which cover the diasporic community of South Asians in the U.S., UK, and elsewhere in the world outside of South Asia proper.
The Library maintains research level collections in Sanskrit (Vedic and Classical), Prakrit, Pali, Hindi and Urdu, and has large holdings, with an emphasis on belles-lettres, folklore, history, and linguistics, in Arabic, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Marathi, Mongolian, Nepali, Panjabi, Persian, Rajasthani, Sindhi, Sinhalese, Tamil, and Telugu. The Library also acquires publications in several of the lesser-known languages of the Subcontinent such as Baluchi, Brahui, Manipuri, Newari, Pushto, and various tribal languages and dialects. The Library has not actively collected in Assamese and Oriya. The Library also acquires materials pertaining to the study of South Asia in English, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, and Russian.
5. Publication dates
The Library acquires current publications in the disciplines mentioned above as well as actively seeks to collect retrospectively in areas of research interest as these titles become available.
Principal sources of supply and major selection tools
Materials from South Asia are acquired partially through the Foreign Acquisitions Program administered by the Library of Congress with offices located in New Delhi, India and Islamabad, Pakistan. Publications from North America and Europe are chiefly acquired through approval and slips with major vendors such as YBP, Harrosowitz, Casalini, etc. Foreign materials are also acquired through standing orders for major academic series. From South Asia, publisher catalogs are routinely searched for additional titles.