Report from the SEALG Annual Meeting 2019, Leiden

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The Annual Meeting of the Southeast Asia Library Group 2019 took place on 28-29 June 2019 in the Rouffaer Room and the Vossius Conference Room at Leiden University Library (UBL) in Leiden, the Netherlands, and was organised by Doris Jedamski and Marije Plomp. Participants from Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom attended the meeting this year.

Jana Igunma (British Library, London, UK)
Doris Jedamski (University Library, Leiden, Netherlands)
Rahadi Karni (formerly University Library, Leiden, Netherlands)
Marije Plomp (University Library, Leiden, Netherlands)
Holger Warnk (Library of Southeast Asian Studies, Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany)

Friday afternoon the participants gathered for the first part of the programme. Doris Jedamski welcomed the participants present, noticing that the vice chairperson had not yet arrived. Due to a mix-up, an anxious search for Holger Warnk was started in the library building. Finally, it turned out that he had not even reached Leiden yet but that he was stuck in a major traffic jam. With some delay but very relieved the group opened the first session with a presentation by Marije Plomp, entitled War, Love and Paintings; The Correspondence Between Emiria Sunassa and Willem Pijper (1940-1963). Emiria Sunassa was one of Indonesia’s first modern women painters. Emiria was ‘rediscovered’ only about a decade ago, whereas many of the male painters of her generation had long become well-established names in the history of Indonesian Modern Painting. Due to the lack of data on her personal life and work, many questions related to her career have remained unanswered. Last year, Leiden University came in possession of the private correspondence (or a part of it) between Emiria and G.F. Pijper, a Dutch islamologist. Notwithstanding the personal nature of these letters, they contain references to Emiria’s work and career that provide answers to some of those unanswered questions.

The second presentation of the afternoon was given by Doris Jedamski: Resident Hartman, His Wife, and a Mysterious Album Amicorum. The album, although in a saddening state, contains, among other things, a number of extraordinary drawings. They are dedicated to Mrs. Hartman but often show Javanese temples discovered and/or restored by her husband, the Resident of Magelang, C.L. Hartman. One very rare, superb drawing by F. Junghuhn springs out; it shows the Hartman Residency in 1840 – ten years after the famous Javanese Prince Diponegoro had been trapped there by the Dutch to be banished. Not only did Junghuhn write a personal dedication to Mrs Hartman on the sheet, he also added a short poem-like text. The mystery of this album, however, lays in the fact that a well-concealed, handwritten ex libris proves that the album had a prior owner before Resident Hartman presented it to his wife as a gift.

After the tea break Doris Jedamski had prepared a small pop-up exhibition of selected items and manuscripts from the UBL/KITLV collections. She also invited the participants to visit the exhibition on the ground floor presenting the three items from the UBL and KITLV collections that have been inscribed in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register and related items.

In the evening the participants had dinner at The Prentenkabinet in Leiden. In preparation for the discussion scheduled for the Business Meeting on Saturday, the participants shared their thoughts on SEALG and its future: expectations, challenges and potential.

Saturday morning started with the South East Asia Library Group Annual Business Meeting.

Annual Business Meeting

After a short welcome the apologies of Christophe Caudron, Carina Enestarre, Annabel Teh Gallop, Claudia Götze-Sam, Per Hansen, Jotika Khur-Yearn, Mia Nilsson, and Margaret Nicholson were announced. Also San San May and Sud Chonchirdsin sent their apologies.

The minutes from the Annual meeting 2018 in Leiden, as well as the financial report that had been compiled by our treasurer Margaret Nicholson were presented and unanimously accepted by the present members. Margaret Nicholson had expressed her wish to step down as treasurer. She is willing to stay on until a successor has been found. The committee will seek a successor. Holger Warnk inquired if the so-called “Brexit” could have any impact on SEALG and its (modest) bank account in the UK. Jana Igunma explained that the account was set up before the UK joined the EU, hence no problems are to be expected.

Reports from the members:

Jana Igunma explained how she has been busy for the last two years with the preparations for the major exhibition on Buddhism in the British Library. Digitisation of Southeast Asian material at the BL continues, with Annabel Teh Gallop taking the lead in this initiative with manuscripts from insular Southeast Asia. Also, two staff members will retire in autumn 2019.

Holger Warnk informed the participants that his department might lose one junior professor. This will result in a lower budget for the library. The library will move to a new building yet to be built and with less space for the library. The library received several donations, among them two exhibitions (one on the caricaturist Zunar, whose work is banned in Malaysia). There is ongoing cataloguing work on the Kratz and the Vietnamese collection.

Marije Plomp has tried to expand the library’s acquisition by joining Library of Congress’ Collective Acquisition Program Southeast Asia for a two-year trial. Dropping student numbers for Southeast Asian Studies are disturbing. If this trend continues the library’s budget for SEA will be cut significantly (the KITLV budget is not dependent on student numbers). Other issues that keeps the subject librarian and her colleagues at the library busy: digital collections and copyright, a platform to offer access to sources in PDF and the need to preserve audiovisual collections through digitization.

With the Leiden University Libraries’ focus still on Asia, there is extra budget and thus extra work for the curator and subject librarian for South and Southeast Asia. As the convener of two double/triple panels at ICAS 2019 and as a presenter, Doris Jedamski is currently focusing on ICAS. She furthermore curated the current library exhibition on the three UNESCO items kept at Leiden University Libraries: Panji – Diponegoro – La Galigo. Furthermore she announced the successful wrapping up of the digitization project concerning a selection of ca. 260 Panji manuscripts.

After the institutional news, the group discussed the SEALG blog. In order to stimulate the contribution of blog posts it is suggested to set up a schedule. Contributors can contact Jana Igunma. In addition Jana proposes to ask SEALG presenters to convert their presentation in a blog post.

The main topic for this year’s Business Meeting was how to proceed with SEALG while facing a steadily growing workload and a shrinking number of active members. What is SEALG? What do we want it to be and what is feasible? These questions formed the basis for a lively discussion. Although the number of members participating in the yearly conference and attending the Annual Meeting has never been large, the number has been decreasing the last few years. This, in combination with recent developments in the field of European libraries holding Southeast Asian collections made that the need was felt to evaluate the current state of affairs. SEALG is a member organization with half of its members from outside Europe. All members are library or archive staff working with South-East Asian collections. One of the organisation’s main objectives is to provide a network or its members, facilitate the communication and exchange between libraries and researchers, and also to advance the education of the public in South-East Asian studies. At present SEALG activities comprise an annual conference and business meeting, a yearly Newsletter, a website, and a blog. The Newsletter and blog posts inform librarians, scholars and others interested in South-East Asian studies. The yearly conference and annual business meeting offers members the chance to share knowledge and experiences, as well as disseminate news about projects, digital initiatives, conferences, and exhibitions. Whenever the meeting is held to coincide with a larger conference, such as EUROSEAS for instance, SEALG strives to organize a conference panel.

The interest in the yearly SEALG-meetings seem to be decreasing, the number of members that attend the meetings is diminishing. One major factor that might be responsible for this is the lack of funding/support from the employer. Moreover, more and more South-East Asian collections are managed by subject librarians for Asia General. The enormous workload all library staff is facing does not help either, and library staff without Special Collections feel less appealed (SEALG’s output is often related to Special Collections). As one possible reason the point was also raised that holding the meeting twice in a row at the same location could have caused this year’s meagre participation. All members present at the meeting confirmed that they deemed it important and worthwhile to meet fellow librarians at the SEALG conference and Annual meeting for the exchange of knowledge and experiences, even in a small group. The annual meetings were seen as informative, inspiring and a good way to strengthen the network one could always rely upon for help and advice.

It was felt that SEALG could and should take some kind of action to attract more members to the conference. One important step would be to clearly communicate to the members that the topics presented and discussed are not exclusively related to Special Collections, on the contrary, topics are most welcome that are informative to librarians who work with modern collections only. Examples are copyright, metadata standards, workflows, acquisition, faculty liaison, library services for the various user groups, provenance issues, digitization and everything that comes with it, and so on. Hence, the invitations could be more specific, mentioning in particular topics that could be of interest to libraries with modern collections only.

It was also proposed to consider adjusting the conference format, as the idea of having to present a paper might discourage members to participate. Several panels with round table discussions on topics of immediate interest to the participants could be an alternative format.

Another point that came up was the possibility of engaging scholars in the conference by, for example, opening up the conference to the public. But it was also pointed out that there are just a few local academics working on Southeast Asia at any location that can host the annual SEALG conference.

An attempt could be made to reach out to each individual member by sending a personalized letter. To gain insight into what topics SEALG members are interested in, a survey among SEALG member was proposed.

Following the business meeting, the SEALG Annual Meeting continued with two presentations.

In her presentation Curating Buddhism Jana Igunma gave an account of her work as one of the curators of a major exhibition on Buddhism in the British Library. To be able to offer an exhibition that appealed to the public, an external consultant was involved at the stage of writing the initial proposal. In addition, visitor focus groups were invited to give feedback. This research resulted in four key messages that are addressed in the exhibition, 1) Diversity of Buddhist Culture, 2) Global Outreach of Buddhism, 3) Mindfulness and Contemporary Buddhist Practice, and 4) The Role of Women in Buddhism. One of the challenges was to offer a balanced geographic representation of Buddhism.

Holger Warnk’s presentation Cermin Mata: A Missionary Journal from 19th Century Singapore told the story of an early missionary journal printed in Jawi (Arabic script for Malay) in Benjamin Keasberry’s Missionary Printing House in Singapore in 1858. Much of the text was perhaps written by Keasberry and translated into Malay by Abdullah Munshi or Husin bin Ismail. Keasberry had a school where he trained young boys to become, among other professions, writers, printers and bookbinders.

The SEALG programme concluded with an extended lunch at the Hortus Botanicus.

This year’s Annual meeting, like last year’s meeting, was kindly sponsored by the UB Leiden.


Interior view of the UB Leiden with entrance to the Asian Library.



Panji – Diponegoro – La Galigo from the UB Leiden/KITLV collections

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Three Indonesian heroes in the Memory of World Register of UNESCO

The Panji stories, the autobiography of Prince Diponegoro and the epos I La Galigo are narrative works from Indonesia that, in their very own way, bear relevance to the cultural history of the region. The Leiden University Libraries hold a substantial number of manuscripts related to those three heroes. With an exhibition the UB Leiden is currently celebrating the extraordinary fact that, over the years, the above-mentioned items have been included in the Memory of the World Register of the UNESCO.

DorisSyair Ken Tambuhan

Cod.Or. 1965, Ken Tambuhan, one of the hundreds of Panji manuscripts held in Leiden. Image: Courtesy of Leiden University Libraries and KITLV collections


Masks used for staging Panji plays (loan Clara Brakel). Image: Courtesy of Leiden University Libraries and KITLV collections

Panji and I La Galigo stories always travelled between media, from dance performance to stage theatre to manuscript, from oral traditions and recitations to printed matters – the written text often being a mere ‘back up’ version. The exhibition focusses on the various forms of presentation of these stories.
Diponegoro, being an historic figure, takes a special stand in this group of Indonesian heroes.  However, the items on display confirm that historiography is just another form of narration (freely quoting Hayden White).

Panji stories originate from Java but gained a growing popularity throughout Southeast Asia from the 14th and 15th centuries onwards, competing successfully with the dominating Indian epics. Within the Javanese narrative traditions the Panji stories may be considered the most popular genre, one that is meant to entertain. The UB Leiden holds hundreds of Panji manuscripts, c. 200 of which have been selected for the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme. In essence and ignoring all the side tracks, these stories depict the adventures of the Javanese Prince Panji and his lost love, Princess Kirana (both keep changing their names continually). The narrative’s ingredients are universal: love, jealousy, even murder, grief and pain, and – at least in most of the Malay versions – a happy ending.

Prince Diponegoro (1785-1855), one of the first indigenous rulers to seek independence from the Dutch, wrote his chronicles in exile in North-Sulawesi. Tricked by the Dutch, he was captured in 1830 when he agreed to negotiations in Magelang. The original text has not even survived the 19th century, but an early Dutch translation could be preserved and is on display now. Diponegoro’s account is often championed as the first Indonesian autobiography, but more relevant is that it forms the core of a very powerful national narrative in the modern state of Indonesia.


D Or 13 Buku Kedhung Kebo  (1866)
Javanese manuscript that presents (part of) the ancestral history commissioned by Raden Tumenggung Cokronegoro of Purworejo (formerly called Kedhung Kebo). Raden Cokronegoro was in office from 1830 until 1862 and as fierce an opponent of Diponegoro’s as he was a loyal ally to the Dutch. Image: Courtesy of Leiden University Libraries and KITLV collections

Flourishing in South Sulawesi since the 14th century, this oral Buginese tradition was translated from the ancient Buginese and put in writing by Queen Siti Aisyah We Tenriolle of Tanete (and/or her daughter). This mythical epos, in fact a poem built upon a metre of five syllables, narrates the genesis from a Buginese perspective. The UB Leiden holds 12 volumes which form the largest and also the opening part of what is the most voluminous literary work in the world. The complete work is estimated to contain 6.000 folio-sized pages and, because of its enormous length, no single manuscript exists that contain the complete text.



DorisBC La Galigo

NBG Boeg 188 La Galigo. Image: Courtesy of Leiden University Libraries and KITLV collections

The Buginese, the largest ethnic group of South Sulawesi with an estimated population of 2.5 million people, have a distinct language and script. I La Galigo – apart from being considered sacred and by some an historical source – is certainly also an intriguing piece of literature.


Cod.Or. 5475, a fragment of the La Galigo epos on palm leave (late 19th or early 20th century) . The strokes of palm leaves are sewed to form one long stroke. Image: Courtesy of Leiden University Libraries and KITLV collections

UNESCO Memory of the World

By enlisting them in the Memory of the World Register as cultural heritage to be protected, UNESCO has certified the cultural (and socio-historical) relevance of the above-depicted manuscripts. In cooperation with libraries in Indonesia, Malaysia and Cambodia, the Leiden University Libraries/KITLV already successfully gained this special status for the three heroes Panji, Diponegoro and La Galigo.
Maybe it’s now time for a woman?

The exhibition is still on until 1 September 2019.

(Doris Jedamski, University Library Leiden)

Marhaen: An Indonesian Journal from 1980s West Berlin

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In 2011 the Library of Southeast Asian Studies of Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt acquired the library of the Stiftung Asienhaus (“Foundation Asia House”, then located in Essen, now in Cologne), an association of several German NGOs working on Asia. Among the many uncatalogued materials of this collection we recently found three volumes of a small Indonesian-language leftist journal named Marhaen: Analisa & Berita Bulanan.

Marhaen - Ill 1-page-001 (1)

Marhaen volume 1, front cover

This journal was published in West Berlin and does not have any reference to a particular publisher, thus, it must have been published by the editorial staff themselves. As editors are listed Christin Litan, Sammy Litan, Mohamad Isa and Agus Darmadji. In Frankfurt, the volumes 1-3 of this monthly journal are available. As in volume 3 a fourth volume is announced, one can assume that several further issues have been published  (Waruno Mahdi, personal communication, 11.01.2019). However, there is only one further holding of this journal known to me: The German Berlin-based human rights group Watch Indonesia! keeps the first volumes of Marhaen in their collections (Alex Flor, personal communication, 21.01.2019; Pipit Rochijat Kartawidjaja, personal communication, 04.04.2019).

There is no publication date found in all existing volumes, but as its contents contain citations from contemporary political magazines (such as Far Eastern Economic Review or Indonesie: Feiten en Meningen) from early 1985 it seems fair to estimate the date of appearance from 1985 onwards.

Marhaen - Ill 2-page-001

Marhaen volume 3, front cover

The last existing issue known to me is volume 6 from 1986, unfortunately not available in the Frankfurt collections (Pipit Rochijat Kartawidjaja, personal communication, 04.04.2019).

The text is completely written in Indonesian, the available issues consist of 10 pages (vols. 1-2) or 14 pages (vol. 3). Later issues became more voluminous, e.g volume 6 consists of 48 pages. They are among the last breaths of the pre-computer era, as they were type-written. The volumes contain some illustrations like photo-copied photographs or critical cartoons. As the volumes are small it is not surprising the articles and essays are usually very short and often bear the character of an annotation or footnote, in particular in the section “Berita & Ulasan” (“News & Commentaries”).

Not much is known about the editors except for the late Mohamad Isa (1922-2008). He became cultural attaché at the Indonesian Embassy in Prague in 1964 and was removed from this position in 1966. Mohamad Isa could not return to Indonesia after General Soeharto took over power in 1965. In 1967 he therefore moved to East Berlin to escape the harassments of the new representatives of the Indonesian so-called New Order-regime as there was no Indonesian embassy in the German Democratic Republic until 1976. He then worked until 1981 as lecturer of Indonesian at Humboldt University, until he was replaced by a former Indonesian student from Moscow and lost his work permit as well as his residence permit for the German Democratic Republic for political reasons. After his application for asylum was rejected in the Netherlands he and his family moved to West Berlin. Mohamad Isa’s daughter Reni became lecturer of Indonesian at Humboldt University in Berlin in 1989 (Keller 2014). The other editors are not known. For a good overview of Indonesian (student) activities in Berlin including their publications (but not Marhaen!) from the 1950s until today see Hasyim (2014). Pipit Rochijat Kartawidjaja thought that they might be of the same generation as Mohamad Isa (personal communication, 04.04.2019).

The title Marhaen indicates the closeness to the Sukarno-style form of socialism Marhaenisme, which the first President of Indonesia Sukarno labeled after a Sundanese peasant named Marhaen whom he had allegedly met in the 1920s (Sukarno 1970: 157, for deeper analysis of Sukarno’s form of socialism see Mintz (1965) and Mortimer (1974)). Thus, it is not very surprising that most of its contents and articles are highly critical towards the dictatorial regime of his successor Soeharto.

Marhaen - Ill 3-page-001 (2)

Example of a type-written page from volume 3 of Marhaen

For example, there is an article on the Roman emperor Caligula, seemingly unfavourably indicating a comparison to the former Indonesian dictator. Another essay is entitled “Betina yang Paling Kaya di Dunia” (“The Richest Woman in the World”), but the Indonesian term betina for ‘femaleness’ is used for animals only and here refers to Soeharto’s wife Siti Hartinah (called ‘Ibu Tien’), widely known for her greediness (Schulze 2015: 164). Other articles discuss contemporary developments in Indonesia such as “1985: Jakarta Bebas dari Becak” (“1985: Jakarta is Trishaw-Free”) or “ABRI lawan ABRI” (“ABRI Fights ABRI”, ABRI is the Indonesian acronym for the Indonesian National Armed Forces). Further essays e.g. are entitled “Moral dan Anti-Moral” (“Moral and Anti-Moral”), “Rasisme terhadap Cina” (“Racism towards the Chinese”), “Suharto di atas Punggung Macan” (“Suharto on the Back of the Tigers”) or “Teori-teori Kaum Penindas” (“Theories of the Suppressors”).

The existing issues of the journal “Marhaen” in Frankfurt are available under the shelf mark “ZS 1082” and can be ordered to be viewed in the reading room at Universitätsbibliothek J.C. Senckenberg.


Hasyim, Syafiq (2014): Challeging a Home Country: A Preliminary Account of Indonesian Student Activism in Berlin. In: ASEAS – Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies 7 (2), 183-198.

Keller, Anett (2014): Ziviler Ungehorsam als Lebensprinzip. In: Südostasien 30 (4), 34-36.

Mintz, Jeanne S. (1965): Mohammed, Marx and Marhaen: The Roots of Indonesian Socialism. London: Pall Mall Press.

Mortimer, Rex (1974): Indonesian Communism under Sukarno: Ideology and Politics 1959-1965. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Schulze, Fritz (2015): Kleine Geschichte Indonesiens: Von den Inselkönigreichen zum modernen Großstaat. München: C.H. Beck.

Sukarno (1970 [1957]): Marhaen, a Symbol of the Power of the Indonesian People. In: Indonesian Political Thinking 1945-1965 (Herbert Feith, Lance Castles, eds.), 154-160. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.


by Holger Warnk

J.W.Goethe-Universität, Library of Southeast Asian Studies

(Acknowledgements: I would like to thank Alex Flor, Pipit Rochijat Kartawidjaja and Waruno Mahdi for their help and for providing much background information.)

SEALG Annual Meeting 2019

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This year’s  annual meeting of SEALG will take place in Leiden on 28-29 June in collaboration with the Asian Library Leiden.

As in previous years, we aim to have the presentation of selected papers on library and archive related issues on Friday, followed by the Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Saturday.  We invite proposals for papers on themes relating to collections, archives and the library work as well as recent developments in the field of South East Asian Studies.

A paper presentation should not exceed 30 minutes (including time for questions/discussion). Paper abstracts should be no more than 200 words and must include a title, author’s name and affiliation, as well as contact details.

Please submit your paper proposal including an abstract to Doris Jedamski not later than by 31 May 2019.

We encourage submissions from library and archive staff as well as from scholars and graduate students. Publication of a paper will be possible in the SEALG Newsletter which is online at www.sealg.org.

It would facilitate our planning enormously if you could let us know by email if you are planning to attend, and if you are planning to stay for both days or only the AGM on Saturday.

Everyone will be most welcome and participation is not restricted to library or archive staff.

Leiden has an interesting range of museums and other attractions to explore. An overview with links to various sites can be found on https://www.holland.com/global/tourism/destinations/more-destinations/leiden/architecture-in-leiden.htm
http://www.planetware.com/tourist-attractions-/leyden-nl-zh-lei.htm. And of course, the new Asian Library itself is worth a visit, too.

The Southeast Asia Library Group is very much looking forward to meeting you in Leiden, the Netherlands.

Doris Jedamski (Chairperson of SEALG)


View of one of the many canals at Leiden city centre


50th anniversary issue of SEALG Newsletter published

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Founded in 1968, SEALG was one of the first organisations supporting and enhancing the study of Southeast Asia in Europe. On occasion of the 50th anniversary of SEALG a special issue of the SEALG Newsletter has been published recently.

The contents of the Newsletter include:

Report of the SEALG Annual Meeting 2018, Leiden (by Holger Warnk and Doris Jedamski)

SEALG: Fifty years in 2018 (by Rahadi Karni)

My first SEALG annual conference and annual meeting (by Carina Enestarre)

Cremation volumes as a study of Thai society (by Preedee Hongsaton)

Kammavaca: How collectors’ tastes and curators’ choices shaped manuscript collections from SEA in the British Library (by Jana Igunma and San San May)

The making of Shan manuscripts: Ritual, art, and knowledge (by Jotika Khur-Yearn)

An Inventory of the Javanese paper manuscripts in the Mackenzie Collection, India Office Library, London, with a note on some additional Raffles mss (by  Donald E. Wetherbee, introduced by A. Gallop)

The newsletter can be viewed and downloaded for free from the SEALG homepage.



Report from the SEALG Annual Meeting 2018, Leiden

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The Annual Meeting of the Southeast Asia Library Group 2018 took place on 5-7 July 2018 in the Vossius Conference Room at Leiden University Library (UBL) in Leiden, the Netherlands, and was organised by Doris Jedamski and Marije Plomp. Participants from France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom attended the meeting this year.


Interior view of the Asian Library, Leiden

Early arrivals met up on Thursday evening, 5 July, for a nice welcome ‘borrel’ and a bite to eat in one of the many lovely Leiden cafés. On Friday morning, 6 July, the SEALG meeting commenced with a welcome address by Doris Jedamski and Marije Plomp.

During the first session the UBL specialist for the digital Special collections, Saskia van Bergen, introduced the ‘Leiden University Library New Digital Library’ and exemplified the many digitization activities of the library which allows also ‘digitization on demand’ services at very reasonable fees. The second speaker, Martijn Storms, curator of the map collection, presented in his paper ‘Maps in the Crowd’ an overview on the impressive collections of more than 81.000 maps of UBL/KITLV/KIT, c. 28.000 of them related to Southeast Asia. Many maps are already accessible online but UBL is seeking ways to put all maps online, supplemented by metadata and user-friendly accessibility modes. A crowd sourcing project led by Martin has been very successful. Both papers were discussed intensively regarding questions of copy rights, digitization problems of pictures, newspapers, music and the like.

After the lunch break Doris Jedamski had prepared a small pop-up exhibition of selected items and manuscripts from the UBL/KITLV collections, among them the very first manuscript in the Leiden library originating from the Malay archipelago, a palm leaf manuscript from Java dated 1597. Marije Plomp opened the afternoon session with her presentation of ‘The Asian Library’, which had officially been opened by Queen Maxima on 14 September 2017. The Asian collections of UBL contain more than 1.000.000 books and journals on about 30 km shelves, more than 200.000 photos and print cards, 20.000 manuscripts and more than 16.000 maps. Marije also explained the UBL Fellowhip Program which allows visits up to four months in the special collections of UBL. After her presentation Marije took us on an impressive tour through the new locations and reading rooms of the Asian Library of UBL.

In the afternoon a guided tour through the world famous Hortus Botanicus of Leiden University followed. In the evening we were served an excellent conference dinner on the terrace of the restaurant Het Prentenkabinet.


View of the Zen Garden at the Botanical Garden in Leiden

The first paper on Saturday morning was presented by Christophe Caudron on the ‘The French Professional Network DocAsie’ . This network brings together 38 French libraries with Asian collections, among them 18 with important Southeast Asian holdings.
The next speaker was Jotika Khur-Yearn who gave a talk on ‘Learning through Cataloguing: Notable Burmese and Shan Manuscripts’, conveying many relevant insights into the problems of cataloguing manuscripts, highlighted by examples of Burmese and Shan manuscripts from the British Library and Northern Illinois University Library.
Then Holger Warnk spoke on ‘Rub Up the Table Till It Shines’: Household Management in a ‘Kitchen’ Malay Phrasebook’. He explored the colonial female sphere of Malay communication in British Malaya through a small booklet entitled ‘Malay for Mems’ by Maye Wood.
Finally Doris Jedamski showed us in her presentation ‘The Silent Witnesses of the Dutch-Indonesian War 1945-49 in the UB Leiden Collections’ how the most varied materials, such as posters, diaries, letters, photos, propaganda flyers or minutes of top secret negotiations together form a collection that not only documents the Dutch-Indonesian war, but which makes it tangible for generations to come.

South East Asia Library Group Meeting

After a short lunch break, we continued with our annual business meeting in the early afternoon. After a short welcome the apologies of Sud Chonchirdsin , Annabel Teh Gallop, Per Hansen, Mikihiro Moriyama, Margaret Nicholson, Stella Schmidt, Virginia Shih, Laura Muldowney, Louise Pichard-Bertaux, San San May, Cao Thi Lieu, Prachark Wattananusit were announced.

The minutes from our annual meeting 2017 in Oxford as well as the financial report that had been compiled by our treasurer Margaret Nicholson were presented and unanimously accepted by the present members. The election of the SEALG Committee came next. Doris Jedamski as chair and Holger Warnk as vice-chair were re-elected. Jotika Khur-Yearn had announced his resignation as SEALG secretary; Marije Plomp was elected as new SEALG secretary.

Doris Jedamski reported on the book project of SEALG and the many problems emerging during this effort to combine papers from the SEALG panel at the EUROSEAS Conference in Oxford (2017) with papers from the ASEASUK Conference in 2016 in one book publication. The group then discussed the SEALG Newsletter for 2018. It was agreed that the 50th Anniversary of SEALG should be celebrated by a special newsletter. Due to the great work load (see below) it was agreed by everybody that Jana should receive as much assistance and help as possible. For the special newsletter it was agreed to contact former members of SEALG in search for personal notes, memories and other contributions.
As to the SEALG blog, Jana sent out a very clear SOS: If she does not receive some contributions soon, the blog might appear ‘dead’ to the outside world! We are hence looking forward to interesting contributions, research notes, announcements etc. to be posted on the SEALG blog!
As one last point before the concluding round of institutional news, the new EU regulations on personal data were mentioned as one urgent issue to be addressed by SEALG soon, as it touches upon, among other, its use of its mailing list.


Members of SEALG during the AGM on 7 July 2018

Holger Warnk reported for the Library of Southeast Asian Studies at Frankfurt that more than 40.000 items (among them more than 1.000 journals) had been catalogued. The ongoing cataloguing also includes the entries of the former social science collection of the KIT on Southeast Asia and the first 500 titles of the collection of Ulrich Kratz of Malaysian, Indonesian and Bruneian literature. Furthermore, the library received the Indonesian collection of the late Leonhard Pohl, a former Olympic bronze medal winner in athletics in 1956 and TV editorial journalist. The collection included shadow puppets, Indonesian daggers (keris), batik stamps (cap batik), betel knives, Wayang Golek puppets and two (Javanese?) palm leaf manuscripts.

Carina Enestarre and Mia Nilsson from Lund University informed us that in January 2019 the Library of the Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies will organizationally be moved to The Joint Faculties for Humanities and Theology. They will still stay in their new premises, which they moved into in December 2016, when some of the older material (about 7.000 books mainly in Chinese) was moved to the HT Faculties. Both the Centre of East and South-East Asian Studies and the Asia Library will still be focusing on interdisciplinary, contemporary East and South-East Asia. They will also start listing their unique collection of Kampuchea documents.

Claudia Götze-Sam, Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz in Berlin, mentioned as one major point of attention in her library the next application for the Specialized Information Services, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DfG), which has to be submitted shortly. Furthermore, more intensified contacts with the academic community, also outside of Berlin, are desired and will be worked on. The inter-librarian loan services and the database Cross Asia will be extended and enhanced. Good news from the Staatsbibliothek Berlin was that a special budget could be secured for replacing titles that were lost during World War II, for restoring books (particularly from the years 1933 onwards, as those had been printed on fragile paper), and for purchasing images from and on Southeast Asia. However, lack of sufficient staff remains a constant problem.

Jana Igunma provided a summary of the activities of British Library, covering digitization projects that are carried out continually and which are all externally funded. Jana is also lead curator of a major exhibition on Buddhism at the British Library (Oct. 2019 to Feb 2020), with assistance by San San May. Jana is also editor of the exhibition book and a special issue of Arts of Asia that focuses on Buddhist manuscript art. Finally Jana announced the publication of her new book co-authored with San San May with the title ‘Buddhism Illuminated: Manuscript Art from Southeast Asia’, published by the British Library in May 2018. She presented a copy to Leiden University Libraries as a gift.

Christophe Caudron gave his report on the library of Aix-en-Provence, again emphasizing the good work of the French network DocAsie. There are, however, difficulties caused by a shortage in personnel and lack of space for the extensive collections. Digitization projects linked to relevant material on Southeast Asia and the Pacific could be carried out, for instance, of material pertaining to the Bernaud family who had specific relations with Burma.

Marije Plomp reported on the official opening of the Leiden Asia Library on 14 September 2017 and the week surrounding that date. A yearly ‘Asia Day’ in September will be introduced as an annual commemoration with special activities and lectures on the Leiden collections. The Asia Library activities can now be followed via Facebook and Instagram. As to English-language acquisitions, Marije is currently exploring the possibility to acquire books via the Library of Congress. Linking back to Claudia’s report, Marije announced that, very likely, material from UBL will be included in the Cross Asia database in 2018/2019.

Doris Jedamski informed us about an ongoing digitization project of c. 70 Malay manuscripts, including some of the top items in the collection. They will be available online soon. Furthermore all Malay manuscripts records have been completed or enriched and can be found in the online catalogue. The digitization of posters and images is still carried on. The accessibility and visibility of the newly built ephemera collection still causes some problems though. Doris has also initiated and is currently preparing a special exhibition focusing on the three top items from the UBL/KITLV collections that have been registered as UNESCO World Heritage: the Buginese epos La Galigo, the diary of the Indonesian national hero Prince Diponegoro, and the collections of Panji manuscripts (in the UB building; May to September 2019). Furthermore initial plans are made (together with Dick van der Meij) to raise funds for digitizing the palm leaf manuscript collection held at the UB Leiden.

Jotika Khur-Yearn from SOAS Library in London mentioned reduced funds for printed materials and an increased budget for e-books and digital material. Currently SOAS Library is carrying out extensive re-shelving, while also tracing and deselecting duplicates at the same time. A Philippine group sponsors SOAS Library digitization projects of books and archival material. Furthermore, Jotika has been involved in two exhibitions, respectively on the 19th century Scottish photographer John Thomson and on the Burma Campaign Memorial Library at SOAS.


50th Anniversary cake for SEALG

After a long and intensive discussion, various options were listed for a future SEALG meeting (Berlin, Lund, Marseille) but none for 2019. Doris agreed to explore the possibility of holding next year’s SEALG meeting once again in Leiden.
Last but not least SEALG founding member Rahadi Karni shared with us his memories of the founding year of the Southeast Asia Library Group in 1969. His contribution formed the bridge from the formal meeting to the very informal little SEALG birthday celebration – an ‘after-glow’ with a slide show and a special 50 years SEALG anniversary cake.

Doris Jedamski and Holger Warnk


View of Leiden city centre


Buddhism Illuminated – A new book on manuscript art from Southeast Asia

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I would like to draw your attention to a new book with the title Buddhism Illuminated – Manuscript Art from Southeast Asia which is a fully illustrated guide to Southeast Asian Buddhist manuscript art based on the British Library collections. Many years of research and digitisation have resulted in this major publication that goes far beyond Buddhist manuscript illustration. The book consists of six chapters covering all aspects of Buddhist manuscript art in mainland Southeast Asia. A brief overview of the contents is below:

  • Introduction: The British Library collections – Some aspects of Buddhism in SEA – The Burmese manuscript tradition – Manuscript production in Khmer and Tai cultures
  • Buddha: The Enlightened One – The names of 28 Buddhas – Previous Lives of the Buddha – The Life of Gotama Buddha – The future Buddha
  • Dhamma: The Righteous Way – The Tipitaka and commentaries – Kammavaca ordination texts
  • Sangha: The Monastic Community – Ordination in Theravada Buddhism – Interaction between the Sangha and the lay community
  • Kamma: Cause and Effect – The thirty-one planes of existence – The sixteen sacred lands of Buddhism
  • Punna: Making Merit in Everyday Life – Royal donations – Death and afterlife – Pagodas and monasteries – The Buddha’s footprints – Monasteries during Buddha’s long ministry – Communal festivals

Buddhism Illuminated – Manuscript Art from Southeast Asia includes over 200 coloured photographs of Buddhist manuscript art from the British Library’s collection, relating each manuscript to Theravada tradition and beliefs, and introducing the historical, artistic, and religious contexts of their production. It is the first book in English to showcase the beauty and variety of Buddhist manuscripts in Southeast Asia and reproduces many works that have never before been photographed.

The book is available from British Library Press and University of Washington Press, as well as all major book sellers and online suppliers (ISBN 9780712352062).

A free review copy can currently be requested from Newbooks Asia.

Read a short article revealing some more details about the book on the British Library’s website, and a short promotional film (part 1) can be viewed online.

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