Jeff Wallman


Jeff Wallman was Executive Director of Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC) from December 2009 to September 2018. He led the organization on its journey from a fledgling start-up to a vibrant, information-rich global organization that delivers unique, open source technologies and open access resources. Under Wallman's direction, more than 15 million pages of vulnerable manuscripts and block prints were preserved and four major strategic plans were implemented. He expanded operations in Asia, developed an innovative technology ecosystem for digital archiving and data management, galvanized new global audiences, directed the creation of hundreds of thousand of metadata objects, and expanded a content delivery platform in multiple languages and countries.


Prior to becoming Executive Director, Wallman worked closely for eight years with the legendary E. Gene Smith, who founded the organization as Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center (TBRC) in 1999. TBRC was founded to digitize Smith's personal collection of Tibetan texts, but it has expanded to become the world's largest digital library of Buddhist texts. From 2001 through 2009, Wallman served as TBRC's Director of Technology. He managed the full scope of digital library operations and platform development. As technical lead for more than a decade, Wallman developed full-stack custom software solutions, spearheaded two major product releases, including a i18N multi-language digital library platform using Java/GWT, designed and implemented faceted browse interface to give user access to taxonomy and classifications, and authored XML Schema to capture complex knowledge requirements. In addition, he designed and implemented knowledge models, organized metadata creation resulting in 550K metadata objects, and designed an interlinked biographical database of 17,000 historical persons and a geographical database of 7,500 historical sites and regions. Moreover, he led the development of a cultural licensing and access policy to define digital rights for cultural heritage resources.


Wallman was personally selected by Smith to be Executive Director in 2009 and they worked closely together until Smith's untimely death on December 16, 2010. As Executive Director, he led organizational development, strategy retreats, board development, fundraising, donor and client relations, federal grant management, and built long-term partnerships with governments, agencies, universities and donors to ensure growth and maximize organizational impact. Under his direction, BDRC flourished as a resilient and creative cultural organization.


During Wallman's tenure, the mission of BDRC both deepened and expanded. His overall focus was on creating custom digital solutions to the challenges of textual preservation. Toward that end, he used a wide range of technologies in information science, digital asset management, digital libraries, digital archiving, digital preservation, and semantic web. This included specializations in information science, taxonomies, ontologies, metadata, search engine development, linked open data, database design, web development, usability and user experience, and multi-language platform development incorporating internationalization and localization strategies.

Wallman secured foundational long-term strategic plans from 2007-2018, securing new funding partners for BDRC and expanding its mission. He raised $12M for mission expansion from 2014-2017 and led the formal change of corporate charter and mission via long-term strategic plans in 2007, 2011, and 2015. In 2017, he secured $1.8M in funding and created an international network of 52 scholarly contributors and five major institutional partners to accelerate adoption of BDRC's current strategic plan.


Under Wallman's tenure, BDRC greatly expanded its cultural partnerships, both domestically and internationally. He established partnerships for digitization and scholarly exchange with Zhejiang University (Hangzhou, China), Southwest University of Nationalities (Chengdu, China), and Fragile Palm Leaves Foundation (Bangkok, Thailand). He also created a mission-fulfilling digital stewardship partnership with Harvard University Digital Repository Services to secure digital assets for the long term. In addition, he created key partnerships with arts and culture organizations to expand impact and secure growth. As part of these new initiatives, he was invited by Donald Rubin, then CEO of Rubin Museum of Art, to establish a new media technology accelerator. Ultimately, he advised and monitored technology grants for $30M for the Shelley & Rubin Foundation and was the architect of the Treasury of Lives re-implementation in 2009.


Since 2014, Wallman has managed the program design and implementation of an eight-year cooperative agreement with a major US government agency for a digital preservation and distribution program in China. The contract doubled from $2.5M to $5M, and in 2019 he secured a $3.7M extension due to stellar organizational performance. In connection with this program, he established and managed a collaborative network of nine librarians, five field reps and 72 field digitization teams in China, and designed monitoring and evaluation (M&E) and data quality assessment (DQA) systems that translated complex business processes into intuitive program outputs. This resulted in simplified, more accurate reporting on impact.


Most recently Wallman led the creation of the Buddhist Universal Digital Archive, an open source custom digital repository based on linked open data. As part of that effort, he managed a team of distributed developers to create key software components; co-authored a cultural heritage ontology using OWL/RDF; co-architected a JSON-LD graph database providing lightweight management of metadata documents; architected an integrated full-text and semantic search to combine deep and contextual search over multi-language data sets; and led the implementation of IIIF to provide direct access to image repository and a custom OCR platform to convert images to searchable text. Finally he integrated the suite of lightweight JavaScript applications for asset management, metadata editing, workflow and a public digital library interface, and added a mobile platform using React Native to expand user base on the ubiquitous mobile platforms in India and China.


Jeff Wallman was instrumental in the establishment and growth of BDRC. We remain deeply grateful for his dedication.