In the early 1990s, Peter Skilling and E. Gene Smith discovered that palm-leaf Buddhist manuscripts were being sold as souvenirs in the markets of Northern Thailand and neighboring countries. Distressed by the potential loss of original texts, Peter Skilling launched a preservation effort that led to the creation of the Fragile Palm Leaves Foundation in 1994. An archive of one of the largest collections of palm-leaf manuscripts in Pali and Southeast Asian languages, including Burmese, Mon, Shan, Khun, Lue, and Thai, the collection includes approximately 16,000 bundles of palm-leaf manuscripts, many of which are rare, uncataloged, and yet to be studied. As primary sources for the study of Burmese and Theravāda Buddhism, Pali philology, history, literature, and more, these manuscripts are valuable resources for historians, theologians, and Buddhist practitioners.
In 2016, the Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC) joined forces with Fragile Palm Leaves to begin the work of digitizing its extensive collection of Theravāda texts, naming this focus the Fragile Palm Leaves Digitization Project. Khyentse Foundation grants aid the day-to-day operations of Fragile Palm Leaves with funding for staff salaries, health insurance, medical costs, and utilities.