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92nd Conference of the South Asia Archive and Library Group

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We are pleased to announce that the next South Asia Archive and Library Group conference will take place on Friday 30th January, 2015 at the Salvation Army International Heritage Centre in South London.

The conference will include the following talks plus a chance to view items from the Salvation Army’s archive collection and museum displays, as well as the SAALG Business Meeting.

‘Cataloguing the Michael Stokes Indian postcard collection’ Rosie Llewellyn-Jones (Archivist, Royal Society for Asian Affairs)

‘Searching for Mahabharatas: An inquiry into the modern adaptations of an Indian ‘national epic’ in Hindi and English cultural spheres’ Chimnay Sharma (PhD Candidate, SOAS University of London)

‘Three books about South India in the days of the Raj. Discovering the life and work of the photographer A. T. W. Penn’ – Christopher Penn (Independent Researcher, Author)

‘Digitising with volunteers: the experience of the Centre of South Asian Studies’ – Dr. Kevin Greenbank (Archivist, Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge).

The conference fee is £20 including lunch and refreshments and is payable on the day. If you would like to attend please fill in the online booking form . For more information, you may contact Helen Porter (contact details included on the online booking form).

(forwarded from the SAALG Committee)

Burmese manuscripts on ‘The Life of the Buddha’ online

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Although the details of the life of the Buddha are not known for certain, there is scholarly consent that Gautama Buddha was an actual historical figure who lived around the 5th century BCE. Certain events of the Buddha’s life were recorded in the Buddhist traditions of South and Southeast Asia. The life of the Buddha is a favorite subject of Buddhist art, including manuscript painting.

In the Burmese manuscript tradition, ‘The Life of the Buddha’ plays an important role although it is not known when exactly the first manuscripts on this topic were produced due to the fact that few pre-18th century manuscripts have survived. However, narrative representations of the Buddha’s life can be traced back at least to the 11th century when episodes from the Buddha’s life were depicted on sculptured friezes, plaques and mural paintings in the ancient capital Pagan.

By the 19th century, series of manuscripts illustrating the life of the Buddha were produced and re-produced due to their great popularity. In this context, the Burmese manuscript tradition stands out among the Buddhist countries in Southeast Asia. The format of these manusripts is usually the parabaik, a paper folding book.

The British Library holds various illustrated parabaik manuscripts dedicated to ‘The Life of the Buddha’. Two of them  were described in detail by Patricia Herbert in her book ‘The life of the Buddha’ (British Library, 1993). Three more ‘Life of the Buddha’ manuscripts have been fully digitised recently in a digitisation project funded by the Henry Ginsburg Legacy. All three manuscripts are now available to view online on the British Library’s Digitised Manuscripts page (Or.14197, Or.4762Or.5757). More details about these manuscripts can be found in an article by San San May, Curator for Burmese at the British Library, with the title ‘Burmese scenes from the Life of the Buddha’.

Scene from 'The Life of the Buddha', British Library Or.5757

Scene from ‘The Life of the Buddha’, British Library Or.5757

Corpus of the Inscriptions of Campā online

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In 2009, the French School of Asian Studies (École française d’Extrême-Orient, EFEO) launched the project Corpus of the Inscriptions of Campā (CIC), aiming to renew the tradition of scholarship on these inscriptions that had thrived at the institution in the early 20th century.

The primary aim of the project is to update and to continue the EFEO inventory of the inscriptions of Campā, compiled in the early decades of the 20th century by the renowned scholar George Cœdès. In this inventory, each inscription received a unique ‘C.’ number (C = Campā), under which were recorded various types of useful information, such as: the place where the inscription had been found; the place where it was currently located (if it had been moved after discovery); the language(s) used in it; its date; availability of reproductions of it in public libraries; bibliography of publications about the inscription. A first version of this inventory was published in 1908, comprising 118 entries; a revised and updated version came out in 1923, and at that time the list comprised 170 entries; supplements published in 1937 and 1942 raised the total first to 196, and finally to 200 entries. After this, the inventory fell into disuse, and for many decades there was no central registration of newly discovered inscriptions, or of changes in the situation of previously registered items.

And it was not only the maintenance of an inventory that came to be neglected. After a small handful of publications of inscriptions of Campā by EFEO scholars that appeared in the 1920s and 1930s, the study of these inscriptions, inside and outside the EFEO, came to a complete stop due to World War II and the subsequent period of Vietnamese struggle for independence and reunification. At that time, only about half of all known inscriptions had been published, and in general the study of inscriptions in Sanskrit language had received much more attention — at least it had advanced more significantly — than that of inscriptions in Cam. Most Cam-language inscriptions whose texts had been published, had been published without translations. Even the existing translations were almost never precise renderings of the originals, but rather loose patch-works of understood, guessed and ignored elements of the originals. In this situation, the second important aim of the CIC project is to publish texts and translations of the inscriptions whose existence was known but had not yet been published; bring out texts and translations of newly discovered inscriptions; publish translations of texts that had been published without any translations; and, last but not least, review the texts published by previous scholars, which often allows the correction of wrong readings, and hence improvement in the interpretation of texts published a long time ago.

The project has opted for a two-pronged publication strategy. Results are being published in traditional print publications, both through international journals (mainly in French), and through publications in Vietnam (using Vietnamese). But simultaneously an online database is being developed, bringing together the corpus in its entirety, and presenting the most up-to-date versions of descriptions and translations of the individual inscriptions. About fifty detailed descriptions, some with translations, are accessible on this database already, with more information being added continuously. A very useful bibliography complements these online descriptions. To access the list of inscriptions, please view the homepage of the Corpus of the Inscriptions of Campā (CIC).

Khmer manuscripts online

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Originally posted on SEACOM southeast asia communication centre:

A very useful online resource for the study and research on manuscripts in Khmer and Pali languages is http://www.khmermanuscripts.org/.

This platform is the outcome of a long-term research, digitisation and preservation project carried out by the EFEO in collaboration with Buddhist temples in Cambodia and many Cambodian researchers and monks. The emphasis was on conservation of the manuscripts, preparation of a catalogue and digitisation. The digitisation and online publication of numerous manuscripts makes it possible to study the various facets of the Khmer manuscripts tradition as well as Buddhist and traditional literature in Cambodia.

g OR14068 folio 3

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16th General Conference of the Congress of Southeast Asian Librarians (CONSAL) XVI

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Bangkok, 11-13 June 2015

The 16th General Conference of CONSAL is one of the regular activities conducted by the host country of the CONSAL Meeting.

From 11-13 June 2015, the National Library of Thailand in cooperation with the Thai Library Association will be hosting the 16th Congress of Southeast Asian Librarians (CONSAL XVI). The Congress will be convened at BITEC (Bangkok International Trade & Exhibition Centre) in Bangkok, Thailand. The Conference theme is “ASEAN Aspirations: Libraries for Sustainable Advancement”. There will be numerous paper presentations on library and librarians issues from CONSAL country members in the conference. This is an excellent opportunity for networking between Southeast Asian libraries and librarians.

For more information, registration, programme, keynote speakers and important dates, please view the conference homepage.

Bangkok, Chulalongkorn University campus

Bangkok, Chulalongkorn University campus

National Archives of Singapore online

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The National Archives of Singapore (NAS) is the official custodian of Singapore’s collective memory. Ranging from government files, private memoirs, speeches and press releases, historical maps and photographs to oral history interviews and audio-visual materials, the NAS is responsible for the collection, preservation and management of Singapore’s public and private archival records.

To allow users easy access to the archival holdings, Archives Online is designed to allow users to seamlessly search information across NAS’ various independent databases and view selected photographs, maps and plans, listen to oral history interview samplers and watch snippets of audio-visual recordings, round the clock.

Archives Online provides the following information and services:

  • Inventory listings of all media records
  • Administrative history and brief description of government agencies’ function
    (This helps researchers identify relevant records by understanding the way records are created, such as the agency’s mandate and functions.)
  • Viewing of selected digitised records, such as photographs, posters, speeches and cartographic records
  • Listening to snippets of audio-visual recordings
  • Information on some of the exhibitions by NAS

Thai rainbow archives project: a digitised collection of Thai gay, lesbian and transgender publications now online

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The emergence of open gay, lesbian, and transgender (GLT) cultures in major world cities is a sociologically significant phenomenon. The Thai capital Bangkok is home to some of Asia’s oldest and largest GLT communities. Only a decade ago, Asian GLT studies was a neglected if not taboo field. However, the 1st International Conference of Asian Queer Studies in Bangkok in 2005 demonstrated the rapid maturing of this new field. Research libraries though have not kept up with this rapid academic development, and for a variety of reasons have not collected the publications of Thai GLT communities.

Since the 1970s, Thailand’s GLT communities have produced large quantities of Thai language publications including multi-issue periodicals and magazines and community organization newsletters. This large volume of vernacular materials, totalling several thousand items, documents the history of one of the world’s most important non-Western homosexual/transgender cultures and is a largely untouched research trove. Thailand’s GLT magazines are an academic resource of genuine international importance.

While extensive, like the communities they represent, Thai GLT magazines are socially marginalised and culturally stigmatised. Thai GLT publications have often been ephemeral and of an underground nature known only to the members of these marginalised communities themselves. They have rarely been distributed through mainstream bookstores or magazine outlets. As a result, there is currently no public archive of Thai GLT vernacular materials anywhere in the world, and research in this field is seriously hindered by this institutional deficiency. These materials are in danger of being destroyed and disappearing completely in the next few years. Since no Thai or Western library or archive has collected these materials, the only remaining copies are in the hands of private collectors.

This project, funded by the British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme, was part of an attempt by Thai community organisations, working in collaboration with the Australian National University, to preserve materials that have not been collected by any Thai institutional archive. In order to set the groundwork for this project, Thai community organisations were encouraged to physically salvage the materials that were finally digitised. These materials have never previously been collected in one location. This project also operated under the added disadvantage of a local situation where some authorities view the materials as deserving of destruction rather than preservation.

A total of 648 issues of Thai gay, lesbian and transgender community organisations and commercial magazines from 32 different series were digitised. A website hosted by the Australian National University has been created and pdf versions of each magazine issue have been posted there. Information on the website is in the process of being translated into Thai, to make this resource fully bilingually functional.

The original materials will be transferred to the Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre (SAC), Bangkok – the final transfer was delayed because of the disruptions caused by the massive flooding of Bangkok in late 2011.

The records copied by this project have been catalogued in the British Library’s Endangered Archives, where the fully digitized material has been made available online:

EAP128/1 Thai Rainbow Archives Collection: A digitised collection of Thai gay, lesbian and transgender publications [1982-2009]

In memory of Parathakorn (Joe) Nimsang (Born 12 March 1979, Died 10 April 2014) whose tireless dedication to preserving Thailand’s heritage of endangered gay, lesbian and transgender publications was pivotal to the successs of the Thai Rainbow Archives Project.

[Information from the Endangered Archives Programme]

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