The Phiroz Mehta Trust
The Phiroz Mehta Trust was a UK registered charity promoting the study of the world’s great religions and the art of religious living. It preserved the works of the late Phiroz Mehta, who was an an Indian-born writer and lecturer on philosophical and religious topics. The Trust held over 800 recorded talks made by Phiroz and also housed his extensive library of religious literature.
Phiroz Mehta (front centre, with his wife Silvia) and fellow students outside his house in Forest Hill, London
Talk archive system
Phiroz recorded his talks live onto reel-to-reel audio tape, and in later years these recordings were transferred onto MiniDiscs.
In 2002 I undertook a major project at CASS Limited to archive and catalogue these talks, preserving them for the future and making them available to the public on CD and online for the first time.
The talks were digitally transferred from the MiniDiscs to networked hard disk drives, digitally enhanced to remove noise where possible using Syntrillium Cool Edit 2000 (now Adobe Audition), and then stored on hard disk drives, DAT, and CD media.
Multiple copies of the CD archive were produced, two of which are now housed at the Philosophical Society and in the library at the University of California. Today the entire archive will fit onto two DVDs in MP3 format!
The project was managed using the Talk Archive System which I developed to run on the CASS Limited intranet. With this I could create a catalogue record for each talk, monitor the transfer and enhancement process as it progressed across multiple computers, grade each talk for recording quality, and make notes on any problems.
In addition the system could print batches of CD labels and artwork using Microsoft Word automation and produce metadata for the Windows Media format copies of the talks originally available online.
The talk archive system
I also created a version of the Talk Archive System using a Microsoft Access form for use with the Trust website:
The talk archive system
In 2010 the Trust rebranded both their website and their newsletter, renaming them ‘Being Truly Human’.
The website homepage
The Talks and Articles sections are entirely database-driven, with automatically-generated issue, article, author and talk catalogue indexes. Visitors can also search articles and talk transcripts.
Each day a random talk is selected to be Today’s Talk, and this is syndicated to Apple Podcasts and Spotify via RSS.
The Talks section of the website
Other features included an events calendar and the ability to order Phiroz’s books and talks via integration with PayPal.
The website is managed from a custom Content Management System (CMS) incorporating several features:
- Online editing and indexing of articles, newsletters and talks.
- Customisable e-mail and document templates for mail-outs and media labels.
- Automated mail-outs to subscribers with automatic calculation of printing, postage and packing costs.
- Logging and analytics.
In 2022 I redeveloped the website to remove the Trust branding and preserve it as an archive.
In 1997 I began producing the Trust’s quarterly newsletter in collaboration with its Editor, Rosemary Monk. It was a full-colour eight-page A4 publication generally featuring a full transcript of one of Phiroz Mehta’s talks per issue.
In 2016 two rare video recordings surfaced of Phiroz Mehta speaking at the 1987 Buddhist Society Summer School.
I edited and colour-corrected these recordings, integrated them into the talk archive, and uploaded them to the Trust’s YouTube channel.