The Helen Graham Park Collection

The Helen Graham Park Foundation has recently initiated plans to archive the complete Helen Graham Park Collection, a unique collection of Indo-Tibetan materials of great historical, cultural and aesthetic value to scholars and the public alike.

Tibetan Texts and Artifacts

The Collection features a cache of rare Tibetan materials acquired by Dr. Theos Bernard, an eminent, early 20th-century scholar of India and Tibet, and inherited by his third wife and research colleague, Helen Graham Park.

Mr. Bernard was a pioneer of Indian and Tibetan studies at Columbia University who made international headlines when he traveled to Tibet in 1937 with the blessings of the Tibetan government. The third American to ever set foot on Tibetan soil, and one of few foreigners allowed to visit the “Land of Snows,” Theos Bernard spent four months in Central Tibet conducting extensive research of Tibet’s rich Buddhist arts and sciences. His passion for Tibetan Buddhist civilization and knowledge of Tibetan language and customs earned him the trust and admiration of ranking Tibetan aristocrats, government and monastic officials and won him unprecedented access to Tibet’s monasteries and their sacred rituals. These connections enabled Mr. Bernard to amass an extensive library of rare Tibetan Buddhist texts and manuscripts and a sizeable collection of Tibetan sacred art and cultural artifacts.

The Helen Graham Park Foundation is privileged to have a small but important selection of Mr. Bernard’s Tibetan acquisitions. Our collection features seven antique thangkas ornamented with gold leaf paint and set in brocade. The collection also features over seventy Tibetan Buddhist texts, text fragments and manuscripts which are significant not only for their antiquity but for the wide array of Tibetan literary genres they represent including Buddhist logic, grammar, philosophy, spiritual biography, ritual, liturgy, medicine, and history.

To view the Collection’s thangkas, please click here

Theos Bernard Papers

The Collection  also holds an important selection of Theos Bernard’s unpublished essays, notebooks, correspondences and valuable historical documents from his historical 1937 trip to Tibet. These include records of official communications, accounts of expenditures and receipts, international telegrams and a fourteen-part inventory, composed in Tibetan, itemizing the hundreds of Tibetan texts and artifacts he acquired in Tibet. These rare documents offer important historical data about Mr. Bernard’s illustrious scholarly and quasi-diplomatic legacy of interest to scholars of religion, Asian cultures and world history. They also offer invaluable snapshots of life in Tibet prior to the Chinese communist invasion of 1949 which illuminate critical, little-known facets of Tibet’s traditional governance, monastic structures, religious curricula and social practices. As Tibetan culture and civilization continue to wane in the modern era, Tibet’s rich repertoire of Buddhist arts and sciences are at great risk of disappearing. In preserving and archiving this important collection, the Helen Graham Park Foundation hopes to make a small but significant contribution to preserving Tibet’s unique cultural and historical legacy and to promoting better understanding of Tibet’s sophisticated civilization.

Helen Graham Park Papers

The last section of the collection contains the complete archive of Helen Graham Park, Theos Bernard’s research colleague and third wife. Mrs. Park was a successful international architect who worked closely with C.V. Starr, an international insurance magnate and philanthropist with strong ties to East and South East Asia. In her spare time, Mrs. Park devoted herself to the study of consciousness, healing and the mind-body connection. She maintained a particularly avid interest in Tibetan Buddhism and spent a year in the Indian Himalayas in 1947 collaboratively researching Tibetan medical texts with Mr. Bernard under the guidance of Tibetan scholars. After Mr. Bernard’s untimely death later that year, Mrs. Park resumed her work as an architect for C.V. Starr but continued to pursue her interests in human consciousness privately. Upon retiring in 1968, she committed herself to full-time study of modern and ancient methods for healing mind and body.

Mrs. Park left behind an extensive archive of writings and personal papers which document her exploration of consciousness and healing and exemplify, through her own life-story, the potential for humans to heal themselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Her archive includes her translations of Tibetan texts on medicine, metallurgy, logic, philosophy, and biography, and extensive personal diaries and notebooks documenting her research of Tibetan Buddhism, Indian Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, Jungian psychology and other psychotherapeutic traditions, and quantum physics. These writings offer timely and prescient insights illuminating how the physical and human sciences can be bridged with the ancient healing traditions of the world to shed light upon the nature of consciousness and the innate human potential for self-healing.

Archiving the Collection

To date, the Foundation has completed a preliminary survey of its Tibetan text collection and a preliminary finding aid of its Theos Bernard holdings, in consultation with two leading Tibetologists. It is now preparing to archive the complete collection with specific plans to professionally clean and preserve its Tibetan thangkas, catalogue the Helen Graham Park and Theos Bernard papers, digitize the Tibetan textual collection and thangkas, and create an online scholar’s finding aid of the complete collection. The Foundation’s goals in creating this archive are to: 1) catalogue, preserve and maintain the collection for posterity, 2) provide an on-line inventory of its holdings for scholars interested in researching the collection, 3) make its digitized holdings available electronically to scholars worldwide and 4) make its Tibetan collection available for exhibits at museums and cultural institutions.