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Racing Against Time: Preservation and Digitization of the Integral Yoga Archives

Wisdom   |   July 31, 2018

Rev. Prem Anjali, Ph.D. has dedicated her life to the service of Sri Swami Satchidananda. Not surprisingly, she has made it her mission to preserve the history and teachings of Sri Gurudev and Integral Yoga through the Integral Yoga Archives and make them more accessible for all. Not only did she play an essential role in collecting items to be stored and catalogued in the Archives, she is also currently overseeing the ongoing archival preservation and restoration project. Racing against time, Rev. Prem Anjali and other Archives staff are working hard to preserve, restore, and digitize important historical assets before they are lost to deterioration forever.

The Integral Yoga Archives: An Interview with Rev. Prem Anjali, Ph.D.

Just one shelf of the Documents area of the Archives

The Archives began very informally as soon as Sri Gurudev came to the West. He was, of course, very foresighted and would have us start collecting things that had to do with his service and the organization. Throughout the Integral Yoga history, there were always archival materials, we just didn’t know them as such. We started to tape his talks, then transcribe them, and then videotape them; so then we needed a place to keep them! Every center had their own files—not formally an archive as such, but every center collected things. We had an archive at the ashram in Connecticut, but the main archive was established when we moved to Virginia. The construction of the physical space that currently houses the Archives was completed in 1989.

Various people have managed the archives over the years, including Swami Sharadananda, Swami Suddhananda, and Swami Priyaananda. I became an archivist because I was serving Gurudev as his personal and traveling assistant from 1979 to 2002. Shanti Norris and other assistants who came before me began gathering and documenting various aspects of Gurudev’s service and travels. I began overseeing all the different aspects of the office of Sri Gurudev and traveling the globe with him in 1979, so I began photographing, audiotaping, and videotaping his talks and then cataloging everything regarding what was quickly becoming his global service. This included not only all the places he traveled and the people he served, but also his service as an advisor to numerous Yoga, world peace, and interfaith organizations.

A few shelves of the video stacks in the Archives

It has been estimated that there are now well over half a million items—dating from the 1940s to the present—housed in the archives. This includes books, transcripts, handwritten and typed documents, newspaper clippings, printed programs, audio and video, photos, film, artwork, and items that were gifted to Gurudev.

As a senior archivist, I came on to manage the newest project of the archives: the Integral Yoga Living Legacy Project. The archives were always dedicated to storing and preserving items relating to Sri Gurudev and the Integral Yoga organization. However, with the passage of time and rapidly changing technologies, the archive assets were both in danger of deterioration and equipment obsolescence. As the digital age was now upon us, the archive assets needed to be re-evaluated in this light.

So, in 2008, I began consulting with some experts and realized we needed to adjust the mission of the archives: to preserve, digitize, and restore any assets that had begun to deteriorate, rather than simply serve as a storage facility.

It soon became clear that if we didn’t do something soon, we were putting precious photos, films, talks, and more at risk. So, I began working on preserving the photos (starting with color slides, which were at high risk) by scanning them and then working with a graphics specialist to clean and restore them. That project took almost 2 years with the thousands of images in the archives. It is very labor intensive to scan at high resolution, and even though images were stored carefully in the archives, we never had true state-of-the-art archival conditions, so there were images affected by color shifting, dust and debris, etc. that had to be carefully cleaned and restored.

UVA, home to the Swami Satchidananda Special Collection

Also, over time audio, video, and film degenerate, so it became necessary to look toward long-term preservation. In 2015, we formed the Archives Council to oversee a formal preservation and restoration project. We embarked on an overarching plan to a) catalog all the assets b) determine what assets were most in danger so those could be digitized sooner, and c) find a long-term storage solution of true archival standards for the physical assets once they were digitized. We partnered with the University of Virginia to create the Swami Satchidananda collection in their special collections library. This collection at UVA will essentially preserve the physical assets and will also make them available to serve students, researchers, and others. The University will also have the digital archive, which will be added to their catalog and which is an online resource for students, researchers, etc. It is wonderful that this prestigious university has recognized the historical importance of Swami Satchidananda’s service and will play an important role in preserving it.

We are now in the process of cataloging and digitizing all the archival assets. The cataloging would have been impossible if not for Digital ReLab, a cutting edge software company that pioneered a specialized database technology called “Starchive.” Starchive enables you to create a comprehensive and integrative database of all your assets. Digital ReLab first catalogued the Bob Dylan archives and has gone on to work with many other luminaries. It is our good fortune that the owners happen to be based in central Virginia and are friends of Yogaville! So, we partnered with them and they have created a customized database for our archives.

The video transfer area of the Archives

Once everything is catalogued and digitized, we will have 2 platforms: UVA and Starchive, which will help us to also create a virtual museum to showcase Sri Gurudev’s teachings, the Integral Yoga tradition, and all our archival assets.

With the virtual museum and online database that we are envisioning, if someone asks, “Where can I read about Swami Satchidananda’s opening address at Woodstock? Can I read his talks? Hear the talks? See video of the talks?” it would be possible to pull up the options for transcripts, audio, video, and experience it through all those formats in an integrated way. If you were wondering about a talk that you heard in 1973 in a particular place, you could search for it and the database could help you locate the places Gurudev spoke that year, all the transcripts of his various talks, and all the audio talks. It will be a very user-friendly virtual museum where everything will be beautifully curated.

Those are the current projects taking place in the Archives. These projects are comprehensive and long-term, and they need a lot of financing. We had a donor come forward for phase 1, which helped us to digitize all the color photos and ¾ inch video of Gurudev’s talks. Now, we are hoping to raise funds to cover the digitization of older photo negatives, 8mm and 16mm films, and audio that dates back to the 1940s and 50s that nobody has ever heard since it was recorded. But, this all takes resources—for digitizing costs, staff to work on all aspects of the project, software costs, and monthly cloud storage fees for terabytes of material. This project is invaluable because the archives are a priceless treasure. We want to ensure that all the items in the archives—all of Sri Gurudev’s talks, historic photos, history of his service and Integral Yoga, as well as all the teachings in every format—are completely preserved.

To help support this project, please click here to donate. Make sure to choose Integral Yoga Archives under the drop-down menu. Your donations are sincerely appreciated.

The Archives support all the ways we share the Integral Yoga teachings—including Integral Yoga Publications, Integral Yoga Magazine, our growing Integral Yoga YouTube channel, the Yoga Wisdom with Swami Satchidananda podcast, quotes and teachings offered via social media, etc. To get a preview of some of the wonderful photos (with the story of the photos included) we’ve preserved, go to: Instagram.com/swamisatchidananda. Our goal is to make the Integral Yoga teachings more widely available and easily accessible for the public. All donations to the Archives support that work.

A stellar team manages the Archives. Rev. Prem Anjali serves as Project Manager; Tilak Pyle is the assistant manager; Swami Vidyananda and Hariharan Goodman oversee the in-house video and cassette transfer project; Rev. Bharati Gardino is overseeing the documents cataloging project; Richard Mangum is the technical expert/equipment manager and in-house photo scanner; Swami Priyaananda oversees the physical plant; and Siva Moore is the administration liaison.

Thank you to all of these amazing beings who dedicate their time and energy to preserving the history, teachings, and legacy of Sri Swami Satchidananda and Integral Yoga.

Want to help support the Archives?

If you’re inspired by the archival material and you’d like to see more, consider donating to the Archives (select it in the drop-down menu) to support the ongoing projects. Your donations are sincerely appreciated!

 

 

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