SSI Archive Programme

Report of Activities in 2013 and a Roadmap for 2014

Maria Grazia Testa, March 2014

Report Purpose

The report describes the activities carried out in the year 2013 within the Archive Programme. The management of the Archive, property of the Associazione Culturale Dzogchen Merigar, has been entrusted by this organization to the Shang Shung Institute for Tibetan Studies (Associazione Culturale Shang Shung Institute). A workplan of the activities planned for 2013 had been issued in June 2013. This report will reference to what had been laid out in that workplan, providing updates and results of the planned activities.

Summary Report – Activities completed in 2013

New Acquisitions

  • The Institute has carried out the timely acquisition of new contents to the digital library (retreats, conferences, seminars) through a proactive activity of contact with Lings and Gars and ingestion to the digital archive and the relevant cataloguing of the delivered materials. All the retreats recordings delivered to the Institute by the single Gars and Lings have been acquired, copied to the archive servers, catalogued and the originals preserved or deleted according to the agreements made with the originator of the contents.
  • This year, of the 38 new retreats and events taking place around the world in 2013, we have completed the ingestion to the archive servers of 36 retreats, of which 29 with additional separate audio tracks (7 without separate audio track). Of the remaining 2 retreats we have not received any recordings.

Accessibility and Fruition

  • The Institute has provided assistance to teachers, instructors, researchers, scholars, students and practitioners looking for records and files within the archive. The activity has extended to the research of multimedia files, images and references for the publication of products by the Shang Shung Publications.
  • 50 requests for retreat recordings have been placed by individual users and have all been satisfied in 2013. More requests have been placed by Gars and ASIA and most have been fulfilled. The process is still reactive, may require hours of research and product editing but we have managed to fulfill most of the requests we received.
  • Remote virtual access: Work has been undergone in collaboration with European academic projects counterparts to set the requirements for a federated CMS platform of collaboration and initiate a project of crowd sourcing for the online fruition and categorization of the archive resources, that would also allow the participation and sharing of archive materials from other Gars and Institute’s branches worlwide.
  • Local virtual access: A preliminary evaluation has been undertaken for the creation of a media library in Merigar that would allow visitors to access locally, from dedicated workstations, the contents of the archive.

Backlog Reduction

  • While in 2013 we continued the ingestion of Audio backlog, with more than 70 retreats between 1989 and 2000 finally stored and catalogued in the server (>500 cassette tapes), the ingestion of Video records in backlog has been fragmented mainly due to the unavailability of candidates to assign to this activity.

Inventory and classification

  • 95% Of MiniDVs, original media containing the video recordings of retreats between the year 1997 and 2008 have been inventoried and correctly catalogued (ca 5000 MiniDV tapes= ca 5000 hours recordings)
  • All media types (VHS, MiniDVs, DVDs, Cassette Tapes, Mini Disks, CDs) have been counted and documented
  • All inventory repositories have been scrutinized and an analysis has been published of what is contained in each of them and the existing consistency issues
  • A draft Classification Structure of the contents of the archive has been prepared and circulated for review and acceptance


  • An ingestion software has been developed to speed up the ingestion of data, providing for the automation of several procedural steps and freeing up human time for quality control of the ingested materials and media
  • 2 dedicated ingestion workstations have been purchased to allow the synchronous ingestion of 4 video tracks. This means we can now import to the server 4 hours of MiniDVs (video format of our past backlog video recordings) recordings in 1 hour.
  • New software has been deployed for the multiple ingestion of audio tracks. This means that now we can import 4 hours of audio recordings from the backlog of cassettes tapes from past years retreats in 1 hour.

Assessment and planning of requirements for development

  • A complete analysis of the archive has been conducted, providing the detailed work flows of the current procedures of acquisition, an inventory and functional description of all the hardware and software in use and a complete map of the knowledge contents
  • In the analysis we have identified the current gaps and issues and addressed solution requirements for each area of the archival process (governance, human resources, technology, procedures, contents accessibility)
  • The analysis (The Dzogchen Community Archive – Briefing of Current Status, Maria Grazia Testa, October 2013) has been published to all the stakeholders responsible or collaborating to the resolution of the current issues
  • Quotes and solutions have been requested from multiple providers and have been evaluated to improve the technology and accessibility of the archive contents, providing improved acquisition hardware, secure and capable back office systems and online collaboration platforms

Back Up and Safety

  • A complete back up copy of all the audio materials available within our servers has been completed
  • We have identified innovative and extended lifespan systems for the complete back up of the video materials and obtained quotes from different providers (SSI – Archive Server Back Up Proposal, Kamil Selwa). We are now proceeding to the identification of a safe contained space for the repository of the back up and finding funds for the purchase of the hardware and the preparation of the space required


  • The closing balance for 2013 shows that in spite of a strong reduction in overhead costs the availability of funds for the development of important requirements is still an issue. While Merigar contributes financially every year to the Archive, there is no participation from other Gars even if the archive protects and makes available every year recordings from all over the world, sent to us by the same Gars.
  • A 3 days training and workshop has been conducted with a European consultant in Fundraising to develop fundraising knowledge within the Institute
  • Different fundraising plans have been laid out for the Archive Programme to allow its sustainability to improve through private donations, public grants and improved accessibility (SSI – Archive Development – Fundrasing Plan, Maria Graza Testa, August 2013)

Human Resources and Know How Development

  • Volunteer support from members of the public and of the Dzogchen Community has been pivotal, allowing the Institute to support core archival activities
  • International government and academic experts have worked with SSI conducting an evaluation of the archive condition and supported us with free training and formation (SSI – Archive Development – Briefing Meeting Colarossi, Maria Grazia Testa,  July 2013)
  • A 3 days training and workshop has been conducted on archival sciences to raise the staff’s and stakeholders’ awareness and ability to identify and implement improvements
  • The workshop has resulted in the identification of some major steps to be undertaken to improve the safety, availability, fruition and preservation of the knowledge stored within the archive
  • A roadmap for 2014 is now available thanks to the analysis carried out and the knowledge acquired

Our Thanks

The work conducted in 2013 would not have been possible without the generous collaboration of those who have shown sincere interest in the preservation of the immense knowledge contained within the archive and of the importance to maintain this available and accessible for present and future generations. We would like to thank:

  • Felice Storgato, who has relentlessly taken care of maintaining contact with Gars and Lings to obtain copies of the retreats and events taking place, analyzing new contents for quality and completion, copying them to the archive and ensuring the original media would correctly be routed
  • Cvetko Jovanovic, who has spent the best time of his summer vacations in diligently inventorying all the MiniDvs Videos stored within our media library and helping identifying and documenting gaps and issues
  • Antonio Assini and Magdalena Zych to help us going through mountains of materials and making sense of them and Maria Grazia Florido to share networks of competences vital for our development
  • Maria Olszweska, for dedicating her time and top expertise in International Fundraising to help us gaining some knowledge in this essential practice and laying out with confidence plans to improve the way we collaborate with those who wish to participate financially to our work
  • Fabio Andrico, Thinley Koblensky and Luigi Ottaviani for their constant dedication and collaboration to support the Archive very existence in manifold ways
  • Jamyang Oliphant, Mirella D’Angelo, Alex Siedlecky, Mike Beeston, Massimo Catalfo and Gino Vitiello for their collaborative minds, for the genuine interest and participation to our brainstorming and workshop activities
  • Bruna Colarossi, former Director of Sovrintendenza Archivistica within the Italian Ministry of Culture and Peter Horsman, Professor of Archival Sciences at the University of Amsterdam, for generously spending days taking care us, encouraging a sound sense for the development of our very precious archive and sharing know how that would have been very difficult for us to build without the assistance of their long life firsthand experience
  • Panspeech, for sharing with us their knowledge about CMS platforms and crowd sourcing.
  • The Dzogchen Community of Merigar and its Gakyil for granting again and again funds, facilities, logistics support and understanding to the Archive Programme, showing the awareness and sense of responsibility that each practitioner and gar may have
  • The Gakyil of IDC for the readiness in turning promptly their attention to the Archive, even at this very early stage of their involvement
  • Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, for being our polar star, inspiring and promoting our work and nurturing the constant commitment of all of us.
  • Donors: we cannot name all the people who have donated time, work, money, knowledge, interest and care, but we thank them all for the support they have given us
  • Finally our staff, stretching their time, competences and commitment to any extent  to take good care of the Archive: Kamil Selwa, Maurizio Mingotti, Fabian Sanders, Margherita Pansa, Topgyal Lama, Mateusz Kocilowsky, Franco Cocco and Sicilia D’Arista.

Related Documentation

The related documentation referred to within this summary report can be requested contacting the Shang Shung Institute:

Roadmap 2014


With the growth of the Shang Shung Institute, within the greater expansion of the International Dzogchen Community, it becomes essential this year to clearly define the governance surrounding the Archive and establish basic rules that can foster a coherent and solid development of this programme. For this reason a number of activities will have to take place:

  • Establish the ownership and management of the Archive. Until today the ownership is retained by Merigar while the management is entrusted to SSI. Both aspects will have to be evaluated and (re)defined in detailed terms of reference mapping obligations and responsibilities.
  • An Archive Regulations and Policy document needs to be created and published, clearly defining its denomination, mission and scope today. Part of this would for example clearly state what happens to the property of recordings when these are handed over to SSI or which of the millions documents produced every day by the Community we are supposed to keep (and for how long) and which others we can dispose of (and how or when). The regulation should also clearly define who can and should access the different collections within the archive. This would set forth the terms for clear present and future collaboration.

Public Support

Within Italian and European law the public has obligations towards private archives that contain knowledge deemed important to the general public or history and culture of a country. In this sense many private archives obtain public tutoring and support for their mission of retaining this knowledge. The Dzogchen Community Archive contains unique documents that mark the very pivotal milestones of the development in Western countries and society of Dzogchen and Buddhism in general, for this reason we can obtain public support, by fulfilling few administrative steps:

  • Issuing to the local Public Archives administration authorities (Sovrintendenza Archivistica) the document describing the Archive history, unique value, current collections, protocol processes and classification structure requesting to be notified with the status of “private archive of public interest”
  • Following the administrative recognition obtain the tutoring established by law in the form of:
    • Assignment of a senior State Archivist who can tutor SSI and provide advisory
    • Referral of newly graduated archivists that could offer their knowledge to SSI within internship programmes
  • Request the local Public Archives administration (Sovrintendenza Archivistica) to include the Dzogchen Community Archive within SIUSA (Italian Unified Information System for Archives Administration) and nominate the archive for inclusion within the World Heritage List.

New Acquisitions

With the definition of the Archive Regulations and Policy the interaction between SSI and Gars submitting new materials will be clarified and ensure these are promptly and adequately captured, retained and distributed.

Accessibility and Fruition

  • We will need to map the classification structure and the protocols to the physical media library and the server contents in order to speed up the intelligibility,  search ability and contingent fruition of the archive contents
  • Content access policies will have to be mapped to users to allow wider facilitated distribution and collaboration
  • Virtual access: continue the work towards the creation of online sharing platforms that can multiply the fruition whilst at the same time allowing crowd sourcing based collaboration
  • Local access: conclude the evaluation of requirements and assign local space and dedicated consultation workstations

Backlog Reduction

  • Assign dedicated personnel to the acquisition work of backlog documents, starting from most perishable media, working on the newly installed highly performing acquisition stations

Inventory and classification

  • Consolidate all the current different inventory system into one pivotal comprehensive system coherent with the classification structure


The technology in use will have to be developed in order to support wider accessibility through performing and capable systems coupled with sufficient local and wide area network accessibility.

The essential step in 2014 will be the installation of additional hard disks to the server in order to accommodate the growth rate (an average of >1TB per month), acquiring the recordings of past years retreats in backlog (>70 TB) and simultaneously duplicate the contents to back up systems to ensure their preservation and availability.

Archival Expected Growth (3 years, 2014-2016) Backlog still to be copied
40 TB 75 TB
Current Volume Occupied Current Free Space
53 TB 30 TB


  • Increase server space to allow for expansion and improve the efficiency of the file system and database
  • Duplicate data in a coherent and safe back up
  • Ensure sufficient network connectivity to support services and distribution platforms
  • Ensure adequate technical support to the hardware and software infrastructure based on well defined service level agreements

Back Up and Safety

  • Conduct the preparation of room to host the back up systems and medias
  • Purchase the systems and roll out the back up of all the current contents together with a strategy for ongoing duplication


We can only be successful in realizing our roadmap if we are good enough to share the needs of the archive and its importance with all those who benefit from it today and those who will benefit from it tomorrow. We can’t stress enough how unique and valuable is what we have been entrusted with. In 2014 our fundraising programs will have to raise this awareness and increase the financial participation of Gars, Lings and practitioners worldwide. In the meantime we keep our commitment to the responsible, well planned, accountable and transparent use of funds.

Human Resources and Know How Development

With the work to be undergone to get Public Support we expect to obtain at least competent advisory and even trained archivists to work with us in Merigar. Volunteers are a blessing in our Community and as shown in 2013 our work would be frozen without them. The Archive program, for its very nature and complexity, requires dependable, consistent, collaborative and long term committed people. At the same time we cannot let undone the work entrusted to us for lack of karma yoga participation that meets these requirements and it is our responsibility to provide the right skills and competences for the Archive Programme. Those who feel they have the right profile to join us can write to

A summary of the outputs in 2014

  1. A Property statement complete with Managed Services clauses
  2. An Archive Regulations and Policy document, complete of acquisition protocols published and distributed to all the Gars
  3. A request for “recognition as private archive of public interest” issued to the Public Archives administration authorities (Sovrintendenza Archivistica) complete of Archive history, unique value, current collections, protocol processes and classification structure
  4. Mapping of the Classification Structure to the server contents
  5. A single consolidated Inventory of the archive collections
  6. Purchase and installation of 85 TB to the existing servers to accommodate for archival growth and acquisition of remaining audio and video recordings in backlog
  7. Improved server file system and database structure
  8. Purchase and installation of a durable back-up system with sufficient capacity to back up current and future 3 years acquisitions
  9. Preparation of secure and safe room to accommodate the back up
  10. Contracting of a service provider for the ongoing maintenance of the systems with contractually defined service level agreements for the next 3 years
  11. The preparation of a dedicated space in Merigar to host a local media library to collect all the physical media, complete of acquisition and consultation workstations
  12. Enrollment of 1 dedicated resource for backlog acquisition plus additional seasonal volunteers
  13. Design document proposal and quote for the implementation of an Archive online sharing and collaboration platform

What do we need to accomplish this?

We need care. Promote the Archive, talk to your friends about it. Help us finding valuable collaboration and most of all funds to accomplish our work in 2014.

If you think you can help us, contact us. Our financials and forecast budget and all the documentation mentioned are available for review.

Questions, requests and/or proposals for collaboration?

Write to


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