Shan Collections at the British Library

Hosted by the British Library

Closed for applications

The Shan Collections Fellowship is aimed at individuals from Cambodia, China, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand

This fellowship will be hosted by the Asian and African Collections department. The British Library holds about 3000 manuscripts from Southeast Asia, forming the largest and most significant collection of Southeast Asian manuscripts in the UK. Of these, approximately 100 manuscripts, divided between the Burmese and Thai collections, are written in Shan language and script, spanning from the 18th–19th centuries, and including some of the highlights of these collections. The Library also holds ca. 100 print publications in Shan, including early printed books from the 19th century. This Chevening British Library Fellowship is an opportunity to work closely with curatorial staff in the Library’s Southeast Asia Collections on cataloguing and researching Shan language manuscripts and print publications.


The Chevening Fellow will bring their understanding of Shan language and scripts to catalogue the items in a uniform way using Shan unicode (replacing Burmese or Thai script) and the Library of Congress romanisation table for Shan, as well as assess the contents of the items in order to produce full catalogue records. In addition, the Fellow will create a Shan collection guide, produce a hand-list of Shan manuscripts for researchers, help identify a suitable supplier of Shan print publications, and help organise a workshop or show-and-tell of Shan language material. The Fellow has the opportunity to connect with other Shan collections in the UK, Europe, USA, and in Myanmar to promote a wider understanding of Shan literary culture. The Fellow will also promote the Shan collection to wider, non-specialist audiences, using blog posts and social media. They are furthermore encouraged to present on the collection in conferences, to write research articles, and to participate in possible exhibitions and projects.


About the British Library

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and a public-facing cultural institution. We care for collections that encompass all fields of knowledge and a wide range of formats in hundreds of languages, covering 3,500 years from some of the earliest written records to the digital collections of the present day. This rich and diverse resource presents countless opportunities to support traditional and digital research and cultural engagement with scholars and organisations across the globe.

British Library Chevening Fellows are based at our St Pancras site in London and benefit from a unique research and professional development experience. They are embedded in their host department, but also in the Library’s wider postgraduate research community. The fellowship projects that we offer enable new types of research, inform strategy and foster international collaboration, and we deeply value the insights and expertise that Chevening Fellows bring.


Southeast Asian collections are made available through a number of platforms, such as the British Library Treasures, the Discovering Sacred Texts resource and the Digitised Manuscripts catalogue, to encourage their use for education and research and promote understanding and enjoyment of Southeast Asian culture. Information about the collections, the work of the Library’s curators, research collaborations and other projects is also published regularly on the Asian and African studies blog. In addition, the Endangered Archives Programme facilitates the digitisation of archives at locations around the world, which includes a range of manuscripts and archival material in Southeast Asia.


Key Responsibilities

  • Catalogue ca. 200 Shan collection items, with appropriate script and romanisation, resulting in full catalogue records
  • Promote the Library’s Shan collection by creating a collection guide, writing blogs and social media posts, and by participating in events
  • Encourage the development, research of and collaboration with the Library’s Shan collection via UK and international contacts



  • Full catalogue records of all ca. 200 Shan items, with a hand-list of Shan manuscripts
  • An online Shan collection guide
  • Identification of a regular supplier for Shan print publications
  • Blogs on the Asian and African Studies blog page and social media posts
  • A workshop or show and tell session on Shan items in the Southeast Asia collection


Development Opportunities

  • Behind-the-scenes experience of curatorial work at a national library and major cultural institution in the UK
  • Staff-level access to unique British Library collections and research resources including access to staff training courses, workshops and talks
  • Work experience in identifying and examining special collection material, and in identifying collection care needs
  • Opportunity to work closely with staff in the Asian & African Department, and with the Southeast Asian curatorial team in particular
  • Hands-on training in metadata systems, cataloguing processes and bibliographic standards
  • Opportunity to gain experience in disseminating project outcomes and engaging different audiences through various communication channels
  • Opportunity to enhance spoken and written English through work practice and collaboration with colleagues
  • Networking opportunities across the British Library and a range of external networks in the UK and internationally
  • Opportunity to gain confidence in the production of writing for different audiences in English and native languages, with support from curators



  • 12-month period of project-based activity at the British Library
  • Living expenses for the duration of the fellowship
  • Return economy airfare from home country to the UK
  • Up to £1,000 from the British Library for approved project-related expenses
  • Access to a programme of cultural events and activities organised by the FCDO and the Chevening Secretariat
  • Access to a highly regarded global network of over 50,000 Chevening Alumni


Candidate Requirements

  • Fluency in Shan language and the ability to read a variety of Shan scripts, including Old Shan essential. Knowledge of Pali and Burmese desirable.
  • Experience (work or voluntary) with Shan manuscripts and familiarity with Shan literary culture
  • Experience of producing written works either in the form of academic articles, online articles, catalogues or bibliographies essential. Experience of communicating one’s work online, via conference presentations or otherwise desirable.


Individuals must be residents in their home country at the time of making their application.

This fellowship is open to candidates from Myanmar, Cambodia, Malaysia, Laos, China and Thailand.

For all other eligibility criteria, please refer to the Chevening website:

Applications are closed

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