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UCR Professor Wins NEH Grant


UCR Religious Studies Professor Wins $30,000 NEH Grant

Justin McDaniel will lead the Thai Digital Monastery Project, which will archive the contents of five Buddhist religious centers online.

(April 23, 2007)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) — Virtual tours of Buddhist monasteries in Thailand will be just a computer mouse-click away in a project led by Justin McDaniel, assistant professor of religious studies at UC Riverside. The Thai Digital Monastery Project recently was awarded a $30,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

McDaniel’s proposal was one of 16 funded under the NEH’s new Digital Humanities Start-Up Grants.

“Given that the National Endowment for the Humanities has been retreating on funding, this is particularly gratifying,” said June O’Connor, chair of UCR’s Department of Religious Studies.

McDaniel, whose research focuses on Buddhism and Southeast Asian religions and literature, will lead a team of documentary film-makers and monks in Thailand to create a digital map and archive of five monasteries. The project will include three-dimensional representations of the monasteries, interviews with monks and digital preservation of manuscripts.

For example, a visitor “touring” a monastery could click on an image of a statue and read manuscripts, scholarly articles or historical documents about it, view comparative images at other sites, hear oral commentary by a monk, and see ritual offerings.

The Thai Digital Monastery Project initially will provide information in Thai and English, but eventually will expand to include French and Mandarin. Access to the web site will be free.

McDaniel said the collaborative project will bring religious and scholarly communities together in Asia and the West, and will encourage interdisciplinary research. “Instead of art historians only looking at the style of the image,” he said, “they will have full access to the resources of textualists, linguists, political historians, ethnographers and vice versa.”

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