While archiving the personal papers of Edward Williams West, Aadityakrisha Sathish '19 learned about the importance of publicizing texts for everyone to study.While archiving the personal papers of Edward Williams West, Aadityakrisha Sathish '19 learned about the importance of publicizing texts for everyone to study. Credit: Yoi Ashida ’20

The Royal Asiatic Society (RAS) of Great Britain and Ireland was founded in 1823 “for the investigation of subjects connected with and for the encouragement of scienceliterature and the arts in relation to Asia.” The Society provides a forum for people interested in religion, culture, history, and languages of Asia, and offers lectures, seminars, and multiple facilities for research. It also contains a large library, digital library, and archive that contains multitude of historical texts relating to the exploration and observation of many different Asian cultures.

Sathish spent eight weeks of his summer at the RAS, archiving the papers of Edward William West.

“As a student interested in postcolonial studies, I have only read literary and historical accounts of colonialism. The internship at the RAS offered me a chance to work with documents from that period whilst giving me a taste of what archival work entails, a path I have considered pursuing upon the completion of my undergraduate degree,” Sathish said.

Papers from the Edward Williams West collection at The Royal Asiatic Society's library.Papers from the Edward Williams West collection at The Royal Asiatic Society's library.

Born in London in 1824, Edward William West was an engineer and scholar well known for translating Zoroastrian texts from Pahlavi into English. West was also a member of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, and on July 6, 1901 he was presented with the Society’s Triennial Gold Medal, along with an address by the Prince of Wales. Many of his published texts can be found at the British Library.

Sathish was responsible for archiving West’s personal papers, a total of around 90 notebooks, 20-25 books, and six-eight correspondences.

“Some of these texts haven’t been touched for hundreds of years, so they need to be made available to the public to be studied,” Sathish said.

To start off his experience, Sathish read “A Provisional Handlist of the Late E. W. West’s Papers Preserved in the Library of the Royal Asiatic Society,” written by P.J. de Menasce in the “Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland”. Following this existing hand list gave Sathish an order to retain. But he soon realized the only papers de Menasce was interested in were translations of Pahlavi texts, yet there were so many more to be seen and studied.

“I was told by a Professor at College of the Atlantic that the role of the archivist is to structure knowledge—to identify their genealogies, make connections. That responsibility came to the forefront of my thoughts as I made my own hand list,” Sathish said. Using the hand list he created, Sathish found at least 15 more handwritten manuscripts than de Menasce had listed.

Aadityakrishna Sathish '19 interns inside the library of the Royal Asiatic Society in London, England archiving texts.Aadityakrishna Sathish '19 interns inside the library of the Royal Asiatic Society in London, England archiving texts.

In addition to cataloging, Sathish also wrote a biography for Edward William West and curated an exhibit on West’s papers that was displayed in the Royal Asiatic Societies of Great Britain and Ireland’s reading room.

Sathish has a passion for archiving and looks forward to furthering the education gained from this study. He believes the ability to access the material present in archives is something very important in the technological age, and is very happy to expand that access.

As for the future of his education at COA, Aaditya hopes to use this internship to broaden his ongoing study on the relationship between colonialism and colonized people, as well as his study of archiving. He also hopes to use this internship as a way to someday become a career archivist himself.

For Sathish’s write up about his experience and biography of Edward Williams West, click here .