Ginan Central: A Portal to the Ismaili Community’s Ginanic Literature

BY KARIM THARANI
University of Saskatchewan Library
Special to Simerg

Ginan Central is a web portal developed at the University of Saskatchewan Library with the goal of digitally preserving and providing access to ginanic literature in order to promote research and education. The projects undertaken and shared on Ginan Central are diverse and ongoing. For example, the Ginan Index and Search Tool or GIST initiative is a web-based application developed for researchers and scholars to locate and digitally access textual sources such as manuscripts and lithographs of ginans. The Ginan Recitals project, on the other hand, focuses on making oral sources of ginans available to students and researchers. Work is also underway to bring together these textual and oral sources to create an evidence-based master list of ginans in order to ascertain how many unique ginans and granths (titled ginans) are available and accessible today. In addition to these projects, the Ginanic Studies section on Ginan Central is dedicated to compiling and maintaining an online bibliography of research outcomes pertaining to ginans. In terms of education and outreach, the Ginan Central portal also hosts a multimedia Khojki Guide for those who are interested in learning the Khojki script to decipher ginan manuscripts.

Please click on image for enlargement

Ginan Central CEM

The Ginan Central portal uses the University of Saskatchewan Library’s Community Engagement Model (CEM), which was recently presented at the Ismaili Studies Conference, held at the University of Chicago in 2014. The CEM model uses the roles of protector and promoter as two contrasting endpoints to illustrate various possibilities and levels of individual and institutional collaboration to digitally share sacred traditions and literature. At one end of the CEM continuum is the role of an idealistic protector, whose basic instinct is to protect the sanctity of knowledge by limiting access as a security measure against real and imaginary threats. On the opposite end of this continuum is the role of an optimistic promoter who is driven by the sentiment of sharing literature to advance human knowledge.

At Ginan Central, we recognize and appreciate this paradoxical dynamic amongst community individuals and institutions. This is why collaborating and sharing collections with Ginan Central does not require our partners to forgo their identity or control over their collections. Our goal is not to appropriate collections or build massive repositories, instead we strive to build partnerships and processes that can unify and link disparate collections and repositories by leveraging work of our partners to advance study of ginans.

Aga Khan Quote

Collaboration, respect, and trust remain the guiding principles for Ginan Central to be able to carry out its purpose of preserving and providing access to ginanic literature. Libraries have been involved in digitally harvesting community knowledge for decades. At the University of Saskatchewan Library as well, we are capable of utilizing modern day technologies in responsible and respectful ways to balance the need of protecting the sanctity of sacred traditions and providing the necessary access to students and researchers to advance the study of ginans.

 Date posted: September 21, 2015.

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Please visit Ginan Central, and for more information on Ginan Central, please contact ginans@library.usask.ca.

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