The Center for Research on Tibet was founded in 1987 with the goal of conducting research and teaching on Tibetan history, society, culture, language and human biology so as to understand traditional Tibet and the manner in which it has changed and still is changing. Since then, the Center's co-directors, Professors Melvyn C. Goldstein and Cynthia M. Beall, both members of the National Academy of Sciences, have conducted numerous stints of fieldwork in Tibet to study a wide range of topics such as the farming and nomadic pastoral ways of life in rural Tibet, Tibetan monasticism, fraternal polyandry (when brothers share a wife), fertility and family planning, the cultural revolution and biological adaptation of Tibetans to high altitude.
The Center also has undertaken a major project to preserve and organize its unique collection of primary oral history data. With support from The Henry Luce Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, it is creating a major online archive that will include roughly 30,000 pages of English transcripts of interviews with top Tibet government officials from the pre- and post-Chinese era (on modern history and politics), monks from Drepung Monastery (about life in what was the world's largest monastery in 1959, housing 10,000 celibate monks), and almost 1,000 common folk from all social strata in the traditional society and the socialist era including the cultural revolution (life history interviews). The on-line archive also will allow users to listen to the original unedited Tibetan interviews and will be indexed and searchable. It will be permanently housed in the U.S. Library of Congress, which will start publishing the corpus online in early 2011.
CWRU and the Center also established the world's first academic collaborative agreement with Tibet in 1986-7 and have maintained since then a collaborative relationship with the Tibet Academy of Social Sciences (TASS) in Lhasa. The Center and the College of Arts and Sciences have hosted eight Tibetans from TASS for periods ranging from six months to one year. Two of these visitors have received Masters of Arts degrees in Anthropology (1988 and 2003), and a third earned a Doctorate of Philosophy in Anthropology in 2001. All but one have returned to Tibet to work as researchers and development experts. In addition, scores of CWRU students have worked on the data from the many projects over the years.
The Center maintains a large educational website that is widely used by students, scholars and journalists throughout the world at www.case.edu/affil/tibet.