Sheriar's Jive from the Sheriar Newsletter 1996

The Role of a Database in Recording Baba's Advent
Sheriar Foundation Newsletter, Summer 1996
Database Mission Statement

The overall purpose of Sheriar Foundation's database is to provide access to an authentic record of Meher Baba's advent for future generations. It will be used by individuals wishing to know more about Baba, researchers, artists, and the general public. Making the database available to Baba groups will provide continuity, and in the future will facilitate communication of the massive record of His advent. To make possible this long term goal, it is critical to preserve the record (i.e.: photographs, correspondence, diaries, films, video and audio recordings of talks by individuals about His impact on their lives, objects worn by Him, etc.) — safeguarding their availability in the future. Preservation is the critical first step in this process.

Imagine a person just hearing about Baba 100 years from now and wanting to know as much as possible about the Beloved. Much can be done today to assure that the fragrance of Baba's life passes on to future generations. Whether it's the special privilege of listening to Eruch telling Baba stories in Mandali Hall, or that sudden appreciation for Baba's extraordinary compassion and gentleness as revealed in a cable or personal note from Him, there exists today a true abundance of material that must be safeguarded for the future.

The preserved records of films, videos, audio tapes, photographs, papers and documents, and museum objects eloquently communicate the uniquely human and glorious aspects of Baba's life.
Sheriar Foundation is increasingly absorbed in the challenge of how to preserve and archive the extraordinary record of Baba's advent that currently exists. We have continued to research the disciplines and methodologies used by experts engaged in this kind of work professionally throughout the world. And we have been blessed to have received a response of great generosity of time and knowledge from many authorities in their fields.

Preserving an authentic record of Baba's advent is not a simple matter. If the necessary work is not done well at this point in time, much of the record may be lost forever. As a vital part of this process, Sheriar Foundation made the development of a database a high priority. Upon its completion it is the intention of Sheriar Foundation to make this database available to anyone for whom it would be useful in archiving Baba collections.

The potential applications are almost unlimited. For example, wouldn't it be great if there was a way a person who is interested in finding out about Baba's relationship to animals could access these records. And see a cable from Baba consoling a lover grieving over the loss of a dear pet, see a film of Baba playing with a cat at His feet, become immersed in a video of Mani telling the story of how Pegu the cat found Baba in Guruprasad, enjoy the humor of listening to an audio tape of Margaret Craske describing the work Baba gave her of caring for the spectacular and proud peacock, Moti, on Meherabad Hill. The search could lead to photographs of a museum object of a special dog collar, related to an animal encountered by Baba. And on, and on.

The work of preserving the record of Baba's advent divides into two phases: Collections Management, and Access and Retrieval. During the Collections Management phase original materials are preserved. This includes rehousing, establishing a numbering system, inventorying, providing treatment to stabilize materials, and starting a catalog record. Safety copies of original audio and video recordings, films, photographs and papers are made during this phase. The database is a tool for managing these records and scheduling ongoing maintenance.

During the Access and Retrieval phase the database will be used to index these materials. It will provide the underlying structure for access and retrieval by interrelating different kinds of materials.
These include Audio, Moving Image (film and video), Still Image (prints, negatives and slides), Paper/ Documents (correspondence, diaries, clippings, manuscripts, etc.) and Museum Objects: clothing (i.e. sadra, handkerchiefs), furniture (i.e. chair Baba sat in), and other items (i.e. alphabet boards, games, etc.).

As technology advances collection records will be linked with still and moving images, sound recordings and scanned images. The database will be used to maintain all aspects of access programs, such as Internet access, and will administer various aspects of loan and duplication programs.

The database, once it is fully developed, should function as a critically important element in safekeeping the record of Baba's advent.