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Fisher Fine Arts, one of Penn's libraries, on Sept. 28, 2021. Credit: Gundappa Saha

Kenneth Robbins and his wife, Joyce Robbins, have designated Penn Libraries to receive over 100,000 items of South Asian historical significance in their estate planning. 

The collection includes items from South Asia, the Indian Ocean, and Jewish history, according to the Almanac. Members of the Robbins family have spent much of their life collecting these valuable items, which include books, artworks, and manuscripts. 

Moreover, the collection includes items that have not historically been collected because of a misconstrued view of their significance, according to Robbins. These items include Bollywood movie posters and manuscript ledgers from Indian synagogues.   

Robbins said in a Penn Libraries press release that “there also are a lot of things that nobody has collected because unless they are in huge quantities, they don’t have any historical importance. You get a much fuller picture, and that’s the idea.”

Robbins, who received a Bachelor's of Arts from Columbia University and Doctor of Medicine from New York University, has co-authored and co-edited many pieces of work based on research from his collection.

Robbins believes that his collection allows for deep delves into new facets of research, hoping that these rare artifacts will make their way into the “general historical discussion," according to the Almanac.

Director of Special Collections and Research Services Mitch Fraas spoke to the Almanac about the significance of the Robbins’ collection and the benefit it will provide to those within the Penn community.

Frass told the Almanac that “this is the largest collection of Indian ephemera outside of India. It provides a lot of insight [into] social and cultural history topics that people are interested in. Generations of scholars will find research topics here and use this material in their teaching.”

In addition to the collection, the Robbins family is donating an additional $400,000 for processing and preservation. 

The collection will be known as the Kenneth and Joyce Robbins Collection of South Asia History.