Bhakti Virtual Archive



With support from the AIIS Digital Scholarship Grant in 2021-22, we carried out the remaining steps to bring BHAVA to fruition in its basic form. This builds on important development work that was enabled by the American Library Association Carnegie-Whitney program, the DH@MSU seed grant, and a small MSU College of Arts and Letters Undergraduate Research Initiative grant. BHAVA has already garnered some name recognition, as is evidenced by invitations to present on it at Asia DH conferences at Emory University and Stanford University.

As we put together grant proposals, the conversations we have had with DH advisors and data librarians, especially at Michigan State University, and with other collaborators around the world have been invaluable for developing BHAVA to be robust and sustainable yet user friendly. The grant proposal process thus has been a learning experience in many respects—technical, intellectual, collaborative, and professional. By the Fall of 2020, with completion of the prototype for our WordPress plugin and our Faceted Classification System, BHAVA’s basic digital architecture had come into shape. Bibliography curators will now compile and catalog bibliographic references in earnest.


Beyond the basic infrastructure of BHAVA that we are finishing, two additional features could be added to enhance user experiences. The Faceted Classification Table contains URIs that have the potential to connect BHAVA to external repositories and cataloging systems through Linked Open Data. We felt that including these URIs at this stage was crucial as we developed the System in order to bring our cataloging metadata into alignment with wider standards and precedents from the start. But leveraging Linked Open Data to do things like pulling in external information that would aid BHAVA users in refining their searches is an secondary add-on that we have not actively developed.

When we put together interface mockups, we developed a more visually oriented search method that we called Word Cloud Browse. WordPress plugins exist for generating word clouds from data within WordPress databases. Our idea was to enhance them so that the clouds went beyond only displaying data and became vital, reusable parts of the search process that would constantly update with each new search parameter. (This is more easily illustrated visually than explained only in words.) BHAVA could be searched effectively as it stands, without the Word Cloud Browse feature, but adding it would make it easier for users to anticipate the size of BHAVA’s holdings, based on particular search terms.

A serious challenge that extends well beyond the scope of BHAVA is that of sequestered knowledge. Whenever possible, bibliographic references in BHAVA will link directly to freely available holdings that are public domain and open access. However, many references still would refer to items that exist only physically in libraries or behind paywalls of digital journal libraries. Although many scholars and students (who, from the start, have been BHAVA’s primary target audience) will be able to acquire these materials, some users in the wider public, especially outside North America and Europe, will not have the requisite access to interlibrary loan programs or digital library subscriptions. We continue to seek creative ways to address these inequalities of knowledge access, but they are deeply embedded in a larger academic business ecosystem. Even in the face of this challenge, we are resolute that BHAVA remains a project worth developing, for the benefits that it will provide to its users.