About the collection

The Ames Library collects materials on and from the countries of South Asia, principally in the areas of the arts, humanities and social sciences. Geographic coverage includes:

  • Afghanistan
  • Bangladesh
  • Bhutan
  • India
  • Nepal
  • Pakistan
  • Sri Lanka / Ceylon

The Ames Library also collects material related to Burma / Myanmar and Tibet, due to prior historical and political involvement with India.

The majority of the collection is in English, but we also collect materials in the vernacular languages of South Asia, particularly in Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Marathi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu.

The Ames Library began as a gift from Charles Lesley Ames (1884-1969)


The book that started it all

Ames Fireplace Bookplate Charles Lesley Ames took W. H. Fitchett's The Tale of the Great Mutiny on a trip to England in 1907 as reading material. The book impressed Ames, and he spent the rest of his life building a library on the British-Indian interaction.

In 1961, after more than 50 years of dedicated collecting, Ames gave his library to the University of Minnesota.

The gift held over 25,000 titles, including manuscripts, photographs, maps, prints and drawings. It immediately established the University as having one of the pre-eminent libraries for the study of South Asia in the western world.


Mr. Ames' gift

The main focus of the collection donated by Mr. Ames is the British-Indian interaction. Particularly noteworthy are the holdings of:

  • Military and regimental histories
  • Administration of India (including many manuscripts of Viceroys and Governors-General)
  • Travel and description
  • Histories and accounts of wars and battles
  • Official publicatons

A Department of Education Title IIC grant provided funding for the cataloging of rare books, pamphlets, tracts and manuscripts in the collection.


Additional gifts

Several others have followed Mr. Ames' example and have given their libraries to enrich the Ames Library:

  • The Abdus Salam Collection of Persian and Urdu materials
  • The Long Beach Collection of Bengali materials
  • The Trois Johnson Collection of Portuguese materials

Strengthening the North American Collection 

We actively participate in the South Asia Cooperative Collection Development Workshops.  Through these workshops, the community of South Asian library specialists in North America works together to build broader and deeper coverage of South Asian resources collectively accessible in North American libraries, spanning all subjects and formats.


Supporting the South Asia Open Archives

SAOA logoWe support the South Asia Open Archives, a free open-access collection of key historical and contemporary sources in arts, humanities and social sciences, from and about South Asia. SAOA contains hundreds of thousands of pages of books, journals, newspapers, census data, magazines, and documents, with particular focus on social & economic history, literature, women & gender, and caste & social structure.  


Other collections at the University of Minnesota Libraries

The University of Minnesota Libraries holds additional materials related to South Asia in other collections, which can be found using the Libraries search.

In particular, the James Ford Bell Library focuses on expansion of western commerce and civilization from the 14th to 18th century.