Smithsonian Institution NMNH

Accessing Anthropology: Featured Collection - 2008.16 Richard Kenneth Saker Collection

500 ft (44 minutes) 8mm silent, color film
395 black and white and hand-colored still photographs negative and prints

This collection consists of film and photographs taken by Richard Kenneth Saker (1908-1979) a Captain in the British Army in India. In 1933 he was assigned to the Indian Political Service where for many years he served in both the major and minor provinces of the British Raj. Between 1941 and 1943 Captain Saker was posted to Gyantse, Tibet in the role of British Trade Agent.

Saker traveled to Lhasa in 1942 to witness the festivities of Losar, the Tibetan New Year, where he filmed and photographed the celebrations. The following summer he and his wife (who had trekked into Tibet on the back of a mule to visit her husband) toured western Tibet, a sparsely populated region that few Europeans had visited. There he met nomads and Indian traders, visited the sacred lake of Manosawar and took a three-day pilgrimage to Kailas, a mountain held sacred by Buddhists as well as Hindus who consider it the home of Shiva and his consort Parvati.

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View the catalog records to access a slideshow of the photographs and to see a video clip.

The collection was donated by Saker’s sons and includes three chapters from his charming, unpublished memoirs.  He concludes his memories of Tibet: "Tibet and its people will always remain vividly in my memory, and it is always painful to me to think that the chapter of Tibet as I knew it has since been closed forever.”

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