The Digital Himalaya project was conceived of by Professor Alan Macfarlane and Dr Mark Turin as a strategy for archiving and making available valuable ethnographic materials from the Himalayan region. Based at the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, the project was established in December 2000. From 2002 to 2005, the project moved to the Department of Anthropology at Cornell University and began its collaboration with the University of Virginia. As of 2009, Digital Himalaya is colocated at Cambridge and Yale Universities.
When established in 2000, Digital Himalaya project had three primary objectives:
- To preserve in a digital medium archival anthropological materials from the Himalayan region that are quickly degenerating in their current forms, including films in various formats, still photographs, sound recordings, field notes, maps and rare journals.
- To make these resources available over broadband internet connections, coupled with an accurate search and retrieval system useful to contemporary researchers and students.
- To make these resources available on DVD to the descendants of the people from whom the materials were collected by making them both easily transportable and viewable in a digital medium.
Five ethnographic collections representing a broad range of regions, ethnic groups, time periods, and themes were selected for digitisation in the first phase of the project, along with a set of maps of Nepal and important journals on Himalayan studies.