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Eric Parker fonds
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Eric Parker fonds

  • 4
  • Fonds
  • ca. 1910-11 - 198?

The fonds consists primarily of material accumulated and/or created by Lt. Col. Parker during the period of his military duties in Tibet and time spent there after his release from the military (1921-1924). This material includes textual records such as correspondence relating to military matters with Sir Charles Bell, and those written to, and received from, Tibetan officers and the 13th Dalai Lama. A few letters written in Tibetan have been recently translated into English and are included in the fonds. Other textual materials includes handwritten speech and other notes, published documents such as an Almanac (written in Tibetan), newspaper clippings, and miscellaneous items such as philatelic materials and handwritten children's rhymes and songs.

The fonds also contains a collection of black and white photographs and negatives, the majority of which were images taken by Lt. Col. Parker, while others, predate Parker’s time in Tibet. The photographs are housed in two albums (Photograph Collections A and B), and show Tibet primarily in the 1920s. The images depict military and domestic scenes in Tibet including photographs of individuals from all social strata, as well as local architecture and landscapes. Some of the places (e.g., monasteries) no longer exist. The albums also contain more recent colour prints of the many Tibetan objects acquired by the Parkers (and now housed in the Ethnology Collection at the Museum of Anthropology). Some duplicates occur within and between albums. The negatives correspond to prints in one album (Photograph Collection A). Only a small number of negatives have not been printed.
The fonds is arranged in the following 3 series:

  1. Correspondence
  2. Photographs
  3. Miscellaneous Materials

Eric Parker

Correspondence

Series consists of two files of correspondence:

  1. Military Period (1921-1923)
  2. Other Correspondence (1961-1985)

Materials in the ‘Military Period’ file include ten letters written to, or by, Lt. Col. Parker while on duty as the Commander of the Military Forces in Tibet. Two other letters were written by Sir Charles Bell in which Bell arranges to meet up with Lt. Col. Parker and an escort on his return journey from Lhasa. One additional letter is handwritten in Tibetan and stamped with ‘British Trade Agency – Gyantse – Tibet’ (which suggests that it may be from Parker’s military period), but it is not kown who authored it or when it was created. Five of the letters are written in Tibetan and translations and transcriptions for four of the five letters are available in hard copy and on compact disc (see ‘Notes’).

Of significance among the letters written in Tibetan is correspondence from Lt. Col. Parker to the 13th Dalai Lama in which Lt. Col. Parker states that he has received and inspected the troops from the Dalai’s personal escort and suggests that they be kept for training. In this letter Lt. Col. Parker also raises question on military dress and deportment, specifically, the length of the officers’ hair (a translation of this letter was provided by Father Donald but no original copy of the translation exists). An original draft of this letter, written in English by Lt. Col. Parker, is also included in this file. A second letter is from the Dalai Lama to Lt. Col. Parker and is an acknowledgement of Parker’s training of Tibetan soldiers. This letter is written on rice paper and includes the Dalai’s official ink seal and an envelope with the Dalai’s wax seal and a postmarked Tibetan stamp. Three other letters were sent to Lt. Col. Parker from officials of the Tibetan government. These letters are also written on rice paper and ink stamped with official seals. The first of these letters is written by a member of the Tibetan Supreme Council (known as Shapes or Shapees) and is a response to Lt. Col. Parker’s questioning of hair length of the Tibetan troops, and includes explanations of cultural and religious differences. The second letter is from the minister responsible for the Tibetan military in which permission is granted for training of the Tibetan troops, and the sending of further troops to be trained. The third letter is written by two Tibetan Officers in which praise is given to one of their officers along with a request for his return. Of those letters mentioned above, translations and transcriptions are available for the letters written from the Dalai and the officials of the Tibetan government, and accompany the series.
The five other letters in this series include four that were typewritten by Lt. Col. Parker in English: two are from his military period; two others were written decades later to the editor of a publication. As mentioned above, one was written in Tibet and has not been translated. The two letters from his military period are lengthy and provide significant details of Lt. Col. Parker’s perceptions of his work, the people, the country, events and festivities and are an important accompaniment to many of the prints in Photograph Collection A.

Materials in the “Other Correspondence” file consist of more recent records. Two letters from 1961 relate to an address Lt. Col. Parker accepted to give to the Victoria Section of the Royal Over-Seas League about his experience in Tibet. The two other letters also relate to Lt. Col. Parker’s time in Tibet and were sent to the editor of “Country Life.” The first letter (dated 1966) describes Lt. Col. Parker’s unique experience of being the first European to see a Takin, “the rarest mammal in the world,” while the second letter (dated 1977) discusses a pony that Lt. Col. Parker bought in the early 1920s. The file also contains a letter (dated 1985) from the Office of Tibet in New York City acknowledging receipt of a donation for $20.00 along with a brief update on certain individuals. This letter is signed by two people; one, “T.C. Tethong,” was the translator for the 14th Dalai Lama in the 1960s.

ref # 4-1

Photographs

The series consists of over 600 hundred black-and-white photographs and negatives that relate to Lt. Col. Parker and his wife’s time in Tibet (1921- 1924), and a collection of more recent colour photographs of Tibetan objects that were collected by the couple. The majority of the b&w photographs were taken by Lt. Col. Parker during his military period, as well as the year following his release. The images depict military scenes, festivals and events, individual and group portraits, as well as various landscapes and architecture. Significant among these photographs are images of: the photographer who accompanied famed British climber, George Mallory; the Dalai Lama’s personal escort; and the first Lhasa Apso dogs out of Tibet. A small number of images (e.g., those of the Dalai Lama in 1910-1911) predate Lt. Col. Parker’s time in Tibet and are believed to have been given to him by some unknown person(s). The original photographs were not labelled; however, valuable contextual information has been provided by Father Donald, whose descriptions and commentary accompany a large number of these images (see Item List).

The prints are located in two photograph albums identified as Photograph Collections A & B. Photograph Collection A contains 243 b&w photographs, all of which are considered to be original prints. Although duplicates of images occur, these simply represent copies developed on different paper. It was reported (by Father Donald) that the last 48 photographs in this album were found loose and spread throughout Lt. Col. Parker’s papers. A total of 189 prints in Photograph Collection A have acetate negatives. Collection B contains 170 b&w photographs, of which all are considered original prints. A total of 67 b&w prints in Photograph Collection B have acetate negatives. Collection B also contains 74 colour photographs of artefacts to which there are no negatives. Duplicates of 68 b&w prints exist between the Photograph Collections A & B.

The series also includes 210 b&w negatives which correspond in number and sequence to print images found in Photograph Collection A: 193 negatives have corresponding prints; 17 negatives have no prints associated with them. A small number of negatives are duplicated. There are no negatives for the colour prints.

Accompanying the series is one compact disc (CD No. 5) consisting of 243 scanned b&w prints and 104 scanned negatives. The scanned prints also correspond in number and sequence to print images found in Photograph Collection A. Ten of the scanned negatives have acetate negatives but no prints associated with them; one scanned negative has neither acetate negative nor print (see Item List).

Dalai Lama + sectaries [sic] 1912

Item is a photograph showing Thub-bstan-rgya-mtsho, or the Dalai Lama XIII, sitting in the centre with four men standing behind him. This photograph was taken at the Yutang trade agency when the Dalai Lama was going into self-imposed exile.

Dalia [sic] Lama bless citizens of Chumbie 1912

Item is a photograph showing Thub-bstan-rgya-mtsho, or His Holiness the Dalai Lama XIII on the far left blessing citizens at the Yutang trade agency on his return to Lhasa. The Dalai Lama can be seen on the left at the very back of the gathering.

Military Period

This file contains correspondence between Eric Parker and Charles Bell, the 13th Dalai Lama, and his wife Minnie Parker.

ref # 4-1-1

Governor Gyantse Kenchung

Item is a photograph showing one man, the Kenchung, and his sectaries. Kenchung is the title given to the ecclesiastical Governor of the district surrounding Gyantse.

Other correspondence

This file contains correspondence between Eric Parker and Harold Nation, Tenzing Chhodak, and the editor of Country Life Magazine.

ref # 4-1-2

PACHEN [sic] Lama

Item is a photograph showing Thubten Chökyi Nyima, or the Panchan Lama, seated in front of his monastery in Shigatse. He is wearing robes and has an item placed in his lap.

Jongpen, Gyantze

Item is a photograph showing one man, the Jongpen, in traditional clothing. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a jongpen is "a Dzongkha term roughly translated as governor or dzong lord".

Oracle Gyentse [?]

Item is a photograph showing one man, the Oracle of Gyentse, seated with two others standing behind. The men are wearing robes, and the two men standing are also wearing hats with large brims.

Rajah Tering and family, at their home outside of Gyantse

Item is a photograph showing five people seated with other people in the background. The image depicts Rajah Terrng, the brother of the King of Tering, seated in the center and his family. From left to right is Rajah Tering's unidentified daughter, son Chigin, son Shimi and his unidentified wife. The two women on the ends are wearing head dresses.

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