The Ronald M. and Dianne J. Bernier Archive: Himalayan, South, and Southeast Asian Visual Culture

Material Description

In 2012 the estate of Ronald M. Bernier, former professor at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU-Boulder), donated his 35mm slide collection to the Department of Art and Art History’s Visual Resources Center (AAHVRC). Dr. Bernier was an art historian who wrote Himalayan Architecture (Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, 1997), the first and perhaps most authoritative book to date on the subject. During his career he traveled extensively with his partner Dianne Bernier, with repeated and extended visits to the Himalayas, South Asia, and Southeast Asia in particular. Beginning with their earliest visits to Nepal in the 1960s, the Berniers documented their research trips with over 30,000 high quality photographs, capturing many examples of underrepresented cultural artifacts and activities. While the entire archive includes many images from regions across Asia, Africa, and Oceania, this proposal covers the highly significant images from the Himalayas, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Comprising approximately 20,700 slides, the unique breadth and depth of this collection reflects Dr. Bernier’s expertise in art and architecture, and also his wide-ranging cultural interests as a scholar over a span of decades. The many highlights include rare photographs of esoteric Buddhist initiation rituals in Nepal in the 1970s and 80s, and key historical sites from Myanmar (Burma) and Bhutan, taken when travel to those countries was particularly rare. The collection documents a number of world religions, lesser-studied indigenous traditions, and the material cultures of dozens of countries, often recorded in multiple visits over time. AAHVRC staff has been processing the collection, and a pilot project to digitize and catalog a set of 1,000 images is underway, with digitization and scholarly consultation funded by grants from Artstor and the Visual Resources Association Foundation. Buddhist art scholar Dr. Ariana Maki is providing scholarly expertise to facilitate descriptive metadata.

Year Added:



The Regents of the University of Colorado


Ms. Elaine Paul
University of Colorado Boulder

Date Range

1965 - 2007

Geographic Scope

The collection includes 6,269 images from India, and another 4,400 from the Himalayas (Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan). An additional 1,768 images are from South Asia, with particular depth in Pakistan. For Southeast Asia, of 8,310 total images, 6,706 represent Indonesia, Burma, Thailand, and Vietnam.


  • 20700 Photographs