Naga Videodisc

The Naga Videodisc was created in the late 1980s at Cambridge University under the direction of Professor Alan Macfarlane. It was a multimedia resource, including most of the known ethnographic material about the Naga ethnic groups living in the Assam and Arunachal Pradesh districts of India and parts of Burma. Approximately 30 minutes of moving film, some sound, seven thousand black and white photographs, 1200 photographs of artefacts were made available. There were also over six thousand pages of text from published works and unpublished diaries, fieldnotes, tour diaries and other materials. The entire system was searchable through a powerful probabilistic system and was linked to a book (by Julian Jacobs, with Alan Macfarlane, Sarah Harrison and Anita Herle entitled The Nagas) and museum exhibition. The visual and sound materials were held on a videodisc, the rest on a computer.

Videodisc technology did not take off in the west, and the materials became unavailable. Under the direction of Sarah Harrison, the entire contents of the Naga Videodisc has now been transformed into an online database with a new retrieval system (‘Bamboo’). Stored as XML files, the whole database can be seen and searched with powerful tools at the Naga database site.

Because of the limits on videodisc storage, films were edited so that very short sequences and shots without movement are shown as single frames. The 236 short film clips can also be seen without the wider search facilities on the University of Virginia's Shanti Database by clicking here.