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SEALG Annual Meeting and Panel at the EuroSEAS Conference, Paris 2022

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The SEALG Annual Meeting 2022 took place in Paris in collaboration with the 12th EuroSEAS Conference, 28 June to 1 July 2022. On this occasion, our group organised a conference panel with the title Southeast Asia Libraries between Open Science, heritage collections and ethical standards of custodianship, which was held on 1 July as part of the EuroSEAS Conference. The Annual General Meeting took place on the same day, following the panel presentations, at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), on the new Campus Condorcet, Paris-Aubervilliers.

The program on 1 July started with the SEALG panel which was chaired by Marije Plomp (Leiden University Libraries) and Jana Igunma (British Library). The theme of the panel was inspired by the fact that the foundations of European libraries holding Southeast Asian heritage collections are rooted mainly in the colonial enterprise. Both the collections and the accumulated knowledge about them bear the stamp of the values and beliefs of the European, nineteenth and early twentieth century collectors and scholars, whose assignments were inextricably bound up with the mission of the colonial state. Post-colonial voices from both academia and the broader society have exposed how some of these values have continued to influence the way European libraries manage, describe and present heritage material. As a result, some of these institutions have begun to critically investigate the make-up and provenance of their colonial collections, as well as the manner in which the collections are being managed. These endeavors have given rise foremost to policies directed at bridging the physical distance between heritage collections and the various stakeholders in Southeast Asia. Most libraries have begun taking measures to facilitate access to the collections and academic output through, for example, digitisation and digital collections, Open Access institutional repositories, research scholarships and facilities, and online catalogue tutorials, seminars and Open Access e-publications promoting the collections.

The panel explored these and other practices that can be taken up by libraries aimed at reducing inequalities related to access to heritage collections and knowledge production, next to other topics related to ethical custodianship. Topics for discussion included aspects of supporting Open Science and Open Access; opening up the collections for everyone, not just academia; providing free access to primary and secondary sources, independently from language/script, place of publication, peer-review, and format of publication; improving discoverability of material in non-European languages; critical re-evaluation of the language, scripts and standards used for cataloguing; heritage collection crowd sourcing projects; (re)discovery of collections; provenance research and acquisition transparency in the context of data protection and privacy legislation; optimization of the digitization process and projects; ethical issues arising from digitisation.

During two sessions, which were attended not only by librarians but also scholars and researchers, six papers were presented.

The first session was opened by Marije Plomp (Asian Library, Leiden University Libraries) with her presentation on “Bridging the gap: Managing colonial heritage collections, best practices and opportunities at the Asian Library”. With the transfer of the KIT and KITLV collections related to the former Dutch East Indies/Indonesia to Leiden University Libraries in 2013-14, the library’s Indonesia collection became the second largest in the world. A notable part consists of heritage material that was collected during the colonial period. In the last five years in particular, post-colonial voices from both academia and the broader society have called upon institutions holding colonial collections to critically assess their collections and the manner in which they manage them. Leiden University Libraries reacted with measures directed at bridging the physical gap between heritage collections and the various stakeholders in Indonesia. Marije discussed these measures in her presentation, as well as other actions directed more generally at accommodating Indonesian user groups and stakeholders in the library. Besides this, she looked into the best practices of other institutions that could perhaps be implemented at Leiden University Libraries.

The second presenter was Awang Azman Awang Pawi from the Academy of Malay Studies, University of Malaya Kuala Lumpur, with his paper “From Malay to Malaysiana: Collection between Access and Preservation”. Since the establishment of University of   Malaya (UML) of Kuala Lumpur’s campus in 1959, UML has been developing a collection of publications known as Malaysiana, which are technically defined as material about Malaysia published locally or overseas. The nucleus of the collection itself was inherited from a British colonial who initiated the field of Malay Studies at the UML in Singapore 1953. UML possesses a unique Malaysiana collection with research potential, however, in general the information about it is still superficial. Awang Azman Awang Pawi discussed the accessibility of the Malaysiana collection, as well as the preservation of the collection in the context of the Open Science concept. UML has started several digital initiatives to improve access to the collection for its users, alongside the library’s obligation to preserve this heritage collection. There is also a need for metadata and information enhancements of the materials in the collection to promote research and to encourage researchers from around the world to use this unique source.

The next speaker was Taufiq Hanafi, a researcher at the Royal Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) and the Leiden Institute for Area Studies (LIAS), Leiden University, with his presentation “The Irony of Abundance: Open Science, Copious Resources, and yet Low Research Output”. According to recent research, with relatively low per-capita GDP, underdeveloped electronic text markets, and rapidly growing student population, Indonesia belongs to top users and largest downloaders of shadow libraries. It ranks second in the use of Library Genesis via the B mirror – after Russia – and becomes a major traffic source for data transactions. In addition, other channels for Open Science and data dissemination, such as the official mailing list group for Indonesia’s largest scholarship program LPDP and accompanying social media accounts, have a strong archival function and consistently address the lack of access to digital copies. In this regard, despite the seemingly-illegal nature of this mode of sharing, to date, Indonesia does not only have the ability to access knowledge but also to collect or even hoard. Nonetheless, Indonesia accounted for only 0.65% of academic publications in the ASEAN region and just over 0.2% of global publications, indicative of narrow engagement in science and a weak knowledge sector of the country. Taufiq Hanafi emphasized that his paper did not aim at negating the noble aim of libraries in the European setting at reducing inequalities related to access and opening up their collections for everyone, but rather questioned what can be done to address the issue of insularity in knowledge production.

Taufiq Hanafi presenting his paper during the first session of the SEALG panel

After a lively discussion of the first three presentations, the second session of this panel was opened by Jotika Khur-Yearn, SOAS Library, London, with his talk on “Digital Collections of Shan Manuscripts: Access, Discovery and Evaluation”. His paper discussed the digital collections of Shan manuscripts that have been made available for Open Access through digitisation projects with the support of generous funding from various organisations and institutions in the last few years. Through both Jotika Khur-Yearn’s participation in some of the digitisation projects and his own research interest in the Shan manuscript literature, these digital collections of Shan manuscripts have become treasure troves for exploration and discovery of rare literary material and information resources on various areas in the fields of humanities and social sciences as he illustrated with some examples in his talk. In addition to the digital collections of Shan manuscripts, he was also involved in a few projects to catalogue Shan manuscripts, and as a result he became aware of many more collections of Shan manuscripts that are still awaiting digitisation and preservation.

Jana Igunma from the British Library, London, followed next with her presentation on “The Thai tradition of manuscript copying and related curatorial challenges”. Until the introduction of printing technology in Thailand (then Siam) in the 1830s, the tradition and art of manuscript copying was one of the two main methods to preserve texts, the other being oral transmission by way of memorising texts. While some scribes and artists aimed to perfect their copying skills to produce luxurious manuscripts for the royal family, others explored ways to integrate their individual creativity and innovation with the process of copying, and yet others worked mainly for patrons who ordered custom-made manuscript copies for Buddhist ceremonies, rites of passage or personal use. For the curator or librarian working with Thai manuscripts certain aspects of the manuscript copying tradition pose challenges – especially in the context of establishing the provenance of manuscripts whose creators remain mostly anonymous – namely creation date/period of undated manuscripts, possible place of origin or art school, patron and purpose of manuscripts. Jana Igunma asked what the term “copy” means in the Thai cultural context, discussed problems that arise with the copying of colophons and art styles, and considered what constitutes the fine line between copy and forgery in the light of a revival of the tradition of manuscript copying in Thailand in the 21st century. 

The final talk in this panel was given by Wahyu Widodo, Leiden Institute for Area Studies (LIAS), Leiden University and Fakultas Ilmu Budaya (FIB), Universitas  Brawijaya, Malang, on the topic “Whose Manuscripts are These? The Problems of Authorized Custodianships of the Exiled Clerics Manuscripts in the Nineteenth Century of Colonial Java”. In February 1886, accused of raising a rebellion against the Dutch colonial government, Mas Malangjoeda, a charismatic religious leader of the Banyumas-based Akmaliyyah Sufi order in Central Java, together with seventy-two of his loyal followers, was apprehended and sent to imprisonment in Buitenzorg, West Java.  Shortly afterwards, he was tried in colonial court under the colony’s criminal law and exiled to Buru Island. To add insult to injury, the manuscripts on Islamic mystical teachings that he had authored were seized and brought to Batavia. With interference from Snouck Hurgronje, these manuscripts are now kept in Leiden University Library, coded as “notes of Malangjoeda” with Cod. Or. 7577-7588. Wahyu Widodo’s presentation aimed to investigate the detailed processes of the manuscripts’ acquisition by asking: Whose sinful hands were used to expropriate these manuscripts from their rightful owner? This aim is further problematized by the fact that the European library has treated these colonial loots with high regard, which suggest legitimate custodianship. Should these manuscripts find their way home through restitution, would they be treated with equally high regard and used to contribute to the knowledge production in the postcolonial country?

Q&A and discussion following Wahyu Widodo’s presentation during the second session of the SEALG panel

After the lunch break, the Annual General Meeting of the SEALG was opened by the group’s secretary, Marije Plomp. Members from France, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and the US attended the meeting. Jana Igunma gave a short summary of the minutes of the last AGM 2019 in Leiden, which are also available on the SEALG website. Treasurer Margaret Nicholson informed the group in advance that, unfortunately, the financial report had to be postponed due to unforeseen circumstances resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. There had been no expenses the previous two years.

The secretary received notifications from the group’s Chair, Doris Jedamski, and Treasurer, Margaret Nicholson, that they both wished to step down from their roles. This year, the election of the committee that had to be postponed twice due to the Covid-19 pandemic finally took place. Christophe Caudron was elected as the new Chair of SEALG, and the attendants of the meeting congratulated him to his new role. Jotika Khur-Yearn agreed to be interim co-treasurer to assist Margaret Nicholson until a new Treasurer can be found.

Jana Igunma presented the usage statistics of the SEALG blog which saw very good results in the previous year 2021, with 10,562 views in total. However, views for the current year were below average due to the fact that only four blog posts had been published so far. Generally, newly published posts, especially those with a topic related to heritage collections, trigger higher viewing numbers also for previously published blog posts.

Usage statistics of the SEALG blog for the past decade by 30 June 2022

For example, the top five posts with the highest views during the past 12 months (as of 30 June 2022) were: An illuminated Malay Qur’an, A Treatise on Siamese Cats, Two early 19th-century Malay documents, Remembering the Black African Heroes of WWII in Burma, Buddhist manuscript textiles: Southeast Asia. The top ten countries from where the blog was accessed (all time) were the US, Thailand, the UK, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Myanmar, Singapore, Germany, Philippines which shows that the blog is reaching audiences in Southeast Asian countries.

The next points of discussion were General Data Protection Regulations which affect how we publish information on the SEALG website and blog. The challenge is to follow the regulations, while at the same time we have to fulfil the requirements of transparency and accountability in terms of leadership and how SEALG is run. Another issue that was raised was the cost of the SEALG website (domain name and file storage) which have increased recently, so that the group has to look at possible alternatives.

Last but not least, the attendees gave updates from their libraries, including new and ongoing projects, exhibitions, staff changes, significant new acquisitions, funding, fellowships, news from partner organisations in the US, the use of digital platforms etc. Details of the updates are included in the minutes of the meeting which were distributed to the members of SEALG. Various suggestions for locations to hold the AGM in 2023 were received, including Hamburg, Marseille and Venice.

Apart from attending the SEALG panel and AGM, members had the opportunity to visit two exhibitions that took place during the EuroSEAS conference: Remembering 1965 and its Aftermath and Yadeya & the Coup: Taking Action in Myanmar’s Revolution. In addition, there was a rich cultural programme to accompany the conference, including film screenings, concerts, and book prize award ceremonies.

The SEALG committee, on behalf of the SEALG members, would like to express their gratitude to the organizing team of the EuroSEAS Conference 2022 for their dedicated work and the excellent support given to our group, and especially for accommodating the SEALG panel and AGM!

Performance of Khmu musicians from Northern Laos at the EuroSEAS Conference 2022

Online tools for Southeast Asian librarianship

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In the past decade, various online tools and Open Source software that can be useful in Southeast Asian librarianship have been developed. This article looks at a selection of online tools that are available to help in areas like cataloguing and creation of Romanised versions of Southeast Asian scripts, text recognition, text and image annotation, date conversion, presentation and creative usage of digitised material.

Transliteration and Romanisation tools

Aksharamukha is a free online tool that facilitates the conversion between various writing systems that descended from the third-century BCE Brahmi script. It can be used for Sanskrit- and Pali-based Romanisation of many Southeast Asian scripts. In addition to the simple mapping of characters, Aksharamukha attempts to implement various script/language-specific orthographic conventions such as vowel lengths, gemination and nasalisation. It also provides several customisation options to fine-tune and to apply the correct orthography. Aksharamukha currently supports 120 scripts, including 40 extinct scripts like Ariyaka, as well as 21 Romanisation methods. It is possible to upload images with printed text in any of the supported scripts, which the tool can process by way of automated text recognition and then can be Romanised or converted into any other of the supported scripts. A report on the conversion of Burmese script with Aksharamukha is available from the British Library. However, Aksharamukha is currently not yet suitable for the Romanisation of modern Thai and Lao scripts according to the ALA-LC Romanisation method. Aksharamukha was developed by Vinodh Rajan, a computer scientist and graduate in the field of Digital Paleography.

Screenshot of Aksharamukha displaying some of the supported scripts.

To assist with the Romanisation of modern Thai, the online transliteration tool Plangsarn offers a solution. This free tool, which is easy to use by inserting a Thai word or phrase into a mask and then convert it to the Romanised version according to the ALA-LC standard, was developed by Thammasat University Library, Bangkok, and the National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC), a statutory government organization under the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA), Ministry of Science and Technology of Thailand. Problems encountered with Plangsarn are word/syllable separation and capitalisation, which can result in incorrect spacing within words and erroneous capitalisation of names or parts of names. For example, the conversion of the name “มหาวิทยาลัยมหาจุฬาลงกรณราชวิทยาลัย” resulted in “mahāwitthayālai mahā čhulā long kō̜n Na rāt witthayālai”, which acccroding to OCLC should be “Mahāčhulālongkō̜n Rātchawitthayālai”.

A free online tool for the Romanisation of modern Lao script is the Lao Romanisation converter, although it has its limitations since it does not support the ALA-LC Romanisation standard. The tool is based on the newly developed Romanisation system MoH 2020 which had been adopted by the Ministry of Health of Laos since 2020. In this system, each character corresponds to only one phonetic sound (with few exceptions). Diacritics (accents) and tone marks are not used, and short and long vowels are romanised the same. Geographic names are written in Roman script as a single word with only the first letter capitalised. The Romanisation is based on the Lao spelling reforms by the Lao government in 1975. The tool was initially developed for the Department of Planning and Cooperation, Ministry of Health of Laos, with the hope that it will be adopted as the national Romanisation system by the Lao government to mitigate the risks of the widespread “Karaoke” Romanisation of modern Lao script that is often used in social media.

Text recognition and annotation tools

Automated text recognition is becoming increasingly important in the work with manuscripts, not only among scholars and researchers, but also in the library world. Transkribus is a platform that uses machine learning technology to automate text recognition of handwritten and printed documents. By using a transcription editor to manually transcribe historical documents, members of the Transkribus community train specific text recognition models that are capable of recognising handwritten, typewritten or printed documents in any language. A pool of existing text recognition models is available for mainly European languages, which makes the process of training a specific model for an archive or manuscripts easier and faster. There are many models for non-western languages on Transkribus, but they are still mostly not available publicly. However, one can get in touch with the model creator/s and ask for them to be shared. Curators at the British Library have created a trained model on Arabic scientific manuscripts, for example. Transkribus was developed by the READ project. When the project ended, they have established a cooperative, the READ-COOP, a consortium of leading research groups from all over Europe headed by the University of Innsbruck, to continue the development and maintenance of the software and its community. Transkribus Lite is the web based instance of Transkribus. Users can upload documents, perform layout analysis, run text detection, and can experiment with their own digitised collection items.

Recogito is an online platform for collaborative document annotation with the aim to foster better linkages between online resources documenting the past. Recogito provides a personal workspace where users can upload, collect and organise source materials – texts, images and tabular data – and collaborate in their annotation and interpretation. Recogito helps to make research more visible on the Web more easily, and to expose the results of research as Open Data. An online tutorial explains in simple steps how Recogito can be used. For Southeast Asian librarianship the function of identifying geographical names within annotations as references to places and plotting them on a map, as well as the possibility to tag persons and events are useful functions to make connections between different sources in different collections. Recogito is an initiative of the Pelagios Network, developed under the leadership of the Austrian Institute of Technology, Exeter University and The Open University, with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Date conversion

Southeast Asia librarians, cataloguers and curators are often confronted with various calendar or time recording systems that are used to date manuscripts, archival and early printed material as well as published books. There are numerous online tools to assist with date conversion, many of which are supported by adverts or religious contexts.

The website Ancient Buddhist Texts offers a selection of Buddhist-Christian/Common Era converters specifically for Buddhist calendar systems used in Thailand/Laos/Cambodia and Sri Lanka/Myanmar/India. In addition, it also provides date conversion for the Cūḷasakarat (Chulasakkarat) calendar. The Ancient Buddhist Texts website is maintained by the Theravada monk Bhante Ānandajoti.

A simple and advert-free tool for the conversion of Hijri A.H. (Islamic) dates and Christian (Common Era) dates is available from Islamic Philosophy Online, a website that was developed my members of the Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies at the University of Zurich.

A Javanese calendar (Saka era) online converter can be found on the front page of the website for Javanese literature, Sastra Jawa. This website is run by the non-profit organisation Sastra Lestari whose mission is to preserve and disseminate the literary works of the Indonesian archipelago.

Librarians and researchers working with manuscripts from mainland Southeast Asia often find themselves confronted with colophons mentioning dates according to the luni-solar calendar, like for example “eighth day of the waxing moon of the seventh month”. The website timeanddate offers a tool to calculate moon phases at any given place anytime in the past or future (not ad-free, but advertisements can be switched off). This website has been developed by Time and Date AS, a team of almost 30 programmers, designers, journalists, and administrative staff from four different continents based in Norway.

Screenshot of the timeanddate website displaying the moon phases of the year 1723 CE in Luang Prabang.

Presentation and creative usage

Digitisation projects of the past decade have resulted in huge collections of digital content that are accessible online via library websites. This has created the need to raise awareness, and to promote engagement and learning with these online collections. One useful free online tool is Exhibit, a user-friendly, fast, and responsive editor to create stories and quizzes with 3D models and IIIF-compatible high resolution images. Exhibit has a range of presentation modes including scrollytelling, slideshows, kiosks, and quizzes that can be embedded in websites or social media channels via an iframe. They can also be duplicated and remixed by users, which is perfect for online learning and classroom environments. Exhibit is supported by a group of the world’s leading libraries and museums and has a vibrant supportive community at its core. The tool was developed by Mnemoscene with the support of the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund. Initiated to meet the online teaching needs of The University of St. Andrews, it is now used by major organisations in the UK including The British Library, Bodleian Libraries, University of Cambridge and Royal Pavilion and Museums Trust Brighton. An example of an exhibit of the Vessantara Jataka with illustrations from a Thai manuscript at the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, can be viewed by clicking on the image below.

Asian Division Florence Tan Moeson Research Fellowship Program, Library of Congress

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Applications are open for the Asian Division Florence Tan Moeson Research Fellowship Program at the Library of Congress, Washington DC.

The Asian Division Florence Tan Moeson Research Fellowship Program is made possible by the generous donation of Florence Tan Moeson, who served as a cataloger at the Library of Congress for 43 years until she retired in 2001. Mrs. Moeson passed away on November 15, 2008.

The purpose of the fellowship is to provide individuals with the opportunity to pursue research in the area of Asian studies, using the unparalleled collections of the Asian Division and the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. The fellowships are for a minimum of five business days of research at the Library of Congress. The grants may vary from $300 to $3,000 and are to be used to cover travel to and from Washington, overnight accommodations, as well as other research expenses. All research trips need to be completed before September 15, 2023. Graduate students, independent scholars, researchers, and librarians with a need for fellowship support are especially encouraged to apply.

The fellowship application is accepted only via email submission of the completed acrobat application form and must be submitted by midnight Monday, January 16, 2023. For more details on the application process and contact information please consult the website of the Library of Congress.

Main reading room, Library of Congress. Image source: Wikipedia

Virtual symposium on “Contested Collections: Grappling With History and Forging Pathways for Repatriation”

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A virtual symposium taking place 17-19 May 2022, organised by University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Library, aims to examine the complicated histories of cultural heritage collections, the expropriation of artifacts through colonialism and looting, the ethics of ownership and restitution, and decolonization in libraries, archives, and museums.

Repatriation has increasingly become an important topic in the museum, anthropology, and archaeology worlds, yet it is but a blip on the radar in library and archive circles. In conjunction with its return of Judaica items to the Jewish Museum in Prague (JMP), the UCLA Library’s International & Area Studies Department is hosting an online symposium featuring international experts, who will discuss the complicated histories of Western cultural heritage collections, the expropriation of artifacts through colonialism and war, the politics and ethics of ownership and restitution, and decolonization in libraries, archives, and museums. Using case studies as the bases for these discussions, the symposium is intended to bring greater awareness of these issues within libraries and archives. It will also be of interest to scholars in anthropology, archaeology, area studies, art history, history, Indigenous studies, information studies, law, and museum studies. 

The symposium will consist of four sessions spread out over three days. The first two panels will focus on the historical roots of the problem and the current calls for rectification. The latter two will focus on existing and potential pathways for repatriation. The detailed program can be viewed online.

Online registration is now open and it is required to receive the links to the sessions. More detailed information on the symposium, speakers, a list of resources and a digital exhibit can be found on the symposium webpage.

Library of Southeast Asian Studies, Frankfurt: Cataloguing of books in Javanese script completed

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From July to November 2020 the Library of Southeast Asian Studies at the University Library Johann Christian Senckenberg in Frankfurt was able to complete the cataloguing of its collection of Javanese, Sundanese and Madurese books in Javanese script.

Illustration 1: Lelara Influenza. 52 pp., Weltevreden: Balé Poestaka, 1920. Shelf mark: 84/LI Jv/J 57.

Several titles of this collection were previously included in the online catalogue during the retro-conversion of material in the outdated Dutch spelling system for Javanese which sometimes was given on the back covers. Most of the catalogue records were incomplete and did not mention page numbers, illustrations or series data which are normally part of the cataloguing. The transcription of titles and/or title metadata in Javanese Hanacaraka script was carried out by student assistant Prabono Hari Putranto, who is a native speaker of Javanese and able to read the script. Altogether more than 90 volumes are now completely catalogued in modern Romanized Javanese spelling.

Illustration 2: Purwaning Dumados: Genesis in Javanese. 173 pp., Singapore: British and Foreign Bible Society, 1913. Printed in Yokohama, Japan by Fukuin Printing Company. Shelf mark: 84/LI Jv/J 31.5

Most of the titles in this collection were acquired in 1963 by Prof. Otto Karow (1913–1992) with funding from the Volkswagen Foundation for the library. Karow visited several antiquarian booksellers in the Netherlands such as Gé Nabrink (Amsterdam), C.P.J. van der Peet (Amsterdam) and Brill (Leiden) and bought Javanese books in Hanacaraka script in addition to plenty of titles in Indonesian/Malay, Javanese in Latin characters, Sundanese, Batak or Madurese.1 Unfortunately, the inventory book of the 1960s does not mention the precise bookshops where Karow found these books, but only gives Dutch guilders as prices. However, during the period of the late 1950s and early 1960s many former Dutch or Indonesian colonial officials and scholars gave up their private libraries which were of no interest for Dutch public collections, as e.g. the KITLV Library, since most of these books were already held in their collection; thus, instead they were sold by antiquarian booksellers.2

Illustration 3: L.F. van Gent: Carita Peperangan ing Aceh. 142 pp., Weltevreden: Commissie voor de Volkslectuur – Balé Poestaka, 1921 [Balé Poestaka, No. 265]. Shelf mark: 84/LI Jv/J 22.6

The majority of the books in Javanese script in the Frankfurt collection date from c. 1875 to 1935. Only a handful of books in Javanese letters published in Indonesia after independence had been acquired since the 1980s by the Library of Southeast Asian Studies. This explains why most of the collection contains books and booklets which were published nearly exclusively by Dutch publishers, both governmental (e.g. Commissie voor de Volkslectuur or Landsdrukkerij) and non-governmental (e.g. Ogilvie & Co. or Albert Rusche). Only very few publications by Indonesian publishers were found in the collection.

Illustration 4: Karta Subrata: Punika Serat Piwulang: Wawaton Bab Agami Islam, Saking Wulangipun Ngulama Dhateng Anak Muridipun, Mijil Saking Suraosipun Kitab (Jauhar Tauhid) Tuwin Sanes Sanesipun. 66 pp., Semarang: G.C.T. van Dorp & Co., 1918. Shelf mark: 84/LI Jv/J 43.

The collection includes 25 titles published by the governmental printing house Landsdrukkerij in Batavia and 19 titles by Balé Poestaka (Ind. Balai Pustaka) resp. Commissie voor de Volkslectuur (Ill. 3). 17 of the Balé Poestaka titles were published before 1925 and belong to a group of publications which Waruno Mahdi (2006: 85) has referred to as only “cursory” mentioned, if studied at all.3 More than ten books were released in the Netherlands by well-known publishing companies like E. J. Brill in Leiden, Johannes Müller in Amsterdam or Martinus Nijhoff in The Hague. Independent Dutch publishers located in Java include, among others, Ogilvie & Co. (Batavia, 6 titles), Albert Rusche (Surakarta, 2 titles), G. Kolff & Co. (Batavia, 1 title), H. A. Benjamins (Batavia/Semarang, 2 titles) or van Dorp & Co. (Semarang, 4 titles)

Illustration 5: Prawira Hamijaya: Serat Wedha Agama: Anyariyosaken King Kawonteranipun Sarengating Para Kanjeng Nabi Sasaya Pipiridan Saking Kitab Bayan Udayan lan Kitab Kisasul Anbiya. 20 pp., Surakarta: Kantor Pangecapan NV. Budi Utomo, 1918. Shelf mark: 84/LI Jv/J 19.7

Only a few books by local Indonesian publishers or printing houses found their way in the collection: Boedi Oetomo (Surakarta, 2 titles) (ill. 5), Radja Poestaka (Surakarta, 1 title), Boekhandel Tan Khoen Swie (Kediri, 1 title) or Deng Tjun Gwan (Magelang, 1 title). Two publications of the Dutch East Indies Theosophical Society are also present in the collection. The existence of these two titles is significant, as their inventory number is close to the inventory number to the Javanese manuscript of the Jayalengkara story in Frankfurt. This manuscript has been described in detail by Wieringa (2008) and was copied in 1914–15 at the court of Yogyakarta for the Dutch orientalist and theosophist Dirk van Hinloopen Labberton (1874–1961). Taking into account the date of his death and the existence of a few other titles authored/edited by van Hinloopen Labberton with similar inventory numbers in the Frankfurt collection, it might be well possible that Karow was able to acquire not only this manuscript, but also several other books in the Javanese language from the Nachlass of van Hinloopen Labberton, including many of those in Hanacaraka script. Another hint towards van Hinloopen Labberton is the stamp of the Batavian Society of Arts and Sciences (Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen) in several books, to which he had close relations during his stay in the Dutch East Indies from 1914–1922.

Illustration 6: Adolf Friedrich von de Wall: Serat Lalampahanipun Robinson Kruso. [Kajawekaken Dhateng Mas Ngabei Reksatenaya] 192 pp., Batawi [Batavia]: Ogilvie & Co., 1891. Shelf mark: 84/LI Jv/J 21.8

Considering the colonial governmental background of more than half of the titles in Javanese script it is not surprising that the contents of many books and booklets reflect Dutch colonial interests. They include books on educational or moral matters, religion (ill. 4), Javanese historical chronicles as well as texts glorifying Dutch colonial wars (ill. 3), first efforts in modern Javanese literature (e.g. by authors like Yasawidagda, Puja Arja or Padmosusastro), translations of texts into Javanese considered to be suitable as schoolbooks such as A.F. von de Wall’s Hikayat Robinson Crusoe (ill. 6) or Abdullah Munsyi’s Kisah Pelayaran Abdullah (ill. 7) or booklets on hygiene and tropical and general medicine (ill. 1). In its contents the governmental Javanese books “showed a distinctly conservative or traditionalist profile with editions mostly in Javanese script” (Mahdi 2006: 89), in remarkable contrast to their publications in Malay or Sundanese.4 Only very few Bible translations or tracts of the various mission societies have made their way into the collection (ill. 2)

Illustration 7: Abdullah bin Abdulkadir Munsyi: Cariyosipun Ngabdullah bin Abdul Kadir Munsi saking Singapura Layar Dhateng Kelantan. 258 pp., Batavia: Ogilvie & Co., 1883. Shelf mark: 84/LI Jv/J 9.

Endnotes:

[1]              Information on Karow and his acquisition trips to Paris, London and the Netherlands was kindly provided by Prof. Ulrich Kratz, who was a student assistant in the Southeast Asian Studies Library in the 1960s (Ulrich Kratz, personal communication, 29 December 2020).

[2]              For example, some books of the collection in Frankfurt show the ex libris of Raden Soedono Nimpoeno (1889–1977), a Javanese Christian from Surakarta who worked as language teacher at the Amsterdamse Middelbare Technische School until 1935 and was an author of Malay and Javanese textbooks between the late 1920s to c. 1950 (Poeze 2014: 231). Two others belonged to Godard Arend Johannes Hazeu (1876–1929), a high-ranking Dutch colonial official in the East Indies.

[3]              Besides the Javanese titles in Hanacaraka script Karow was able to buy books in Javanese in Latin letters, Malay/Indonesian, Madurese and Sundanese. The publications of Balai Pustaka before 1930 reflect its general publication policy as the majority is written in Javanese language (Mahdi 2006: 89): Of 33 Balai Pustaka books and booklets located in Frankfurt 21 are in Javanese (Hanacaraka and Latin script), 8 are in Sundanese and only 4 either in Indonesian/Malay or Madurese.

[4]           This “conservative” attitude may perhaps also explain the existence of two brochures of the Javanese organization Boedi Oetomo in the collection. Its members were predominantly form the Javanese aristocratic (priyayi) group, whose efforts in the organization were directed towards a “reinvention of (Old) Java” (Bertrand 2005: 511–543).

[5]              Proudfoot (1993: 146) gives as editor of this edition Paulus Penninga (1863–1944), who lived in Pasuruan in East Java for some time in the 1890s and was able to speak Javanese and Madurese fluently. After c. 1900 he spent some time in Singapore and was active as an agent for the British and Foreign Bible Society (Genealogieonline 2020).

[6]              Lambertus Franciscus van Gent (1876–1961?) was a major of infantry in the Dutch Colonial Army, but later also seems to have active in the Dutch Topographic Service in the Netherlands East Indies. He had contacts to scholars like C. Snouck Hurgronje and edited several books and treatises between c. 1907–1925 in Dutch, Malay and Javanese, listed in WorldCat. His Malay and Javanese books were mostly published at the governmental publishing house Balai Pustaka. This book on the brutal Aceh War contains several illustrations of Dutch generals, high-ranking officers, but also of Indonesian soldiers fighting for the Dutch colonial army, most of those shown in the illustrations being Javanese.

[7]              This small brochure of the Javanese organization Boedi Oetomo refers to Javanese Anbiya texts (books on the Prophets (Pigeaud 1967: 129–131).

[8]           Javanese translation of the well-known Malay adaptation Hikajat Robinson Crusoe by von de Wall, from a Dutch version of the story, perhaps originating from Joachim Heinrich Campe’s German book Robinson der Jüngere (Proudfoot 1997). According to the title page the Javanese translator Reksatenaya was a school teacher in Brebes, located at the western north coast of the present province of Central Java and finished his translation in 1876.

References:
Bertrand, Romain (2005): État colonial, noblesse et nationalisme à Java: la tradition parfait. Paris: Éditions Karthala.
Genealogieonline [accessed 28 December 2020].
Mahdi, Waruno (2006): The Beginnings and Reorganization of the Commissie voor de Volkslectuur (1908–1920). In: Insular Southeast Asia: Linguistic and Cultural Studies in Honour of Bernd Nothofer (eds. Fritz Schulze & Holger Warnk), 85-110. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
Pigeaud, Theodore G. Th. (1967): Literature of Java: Catalogue Raisonné of Javanese Manuscripts in the Library of the University of Leiden and Other Public Collections in the Netherlands. Volume 1: Synopsis of Javanese Literature 900–1900 A.D. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.
Poeze, Harry A. (2014): Di Negeri Penjajah: Orang Indonesia di Negeri Belanda 1600–1950. Jakarta: Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia.
Proudfoot, Ian (1993): Early Malay Printed Books. Kuala Lumpur: Academy of Malay Studies. Proudfoot, Ian (1997): Robinson Crusoe in Indonesia. In: The Asia-Pacific Magazine No. 6–7, 44–48.
Wieringa, Edwin (2008): Eine Handschrift der javanischen Panji Jayalengkara-Angrèni-Erzählung in Frankfurt/Main. Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 158, 371–378.

(by Holger Warnk, J.W.Goethe-Universität Frankfurt, Library of Southeast Asian Studies)

New Thematic Portal online: The Southeast Asia Collection of Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin

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With over 100,000 volumes, the Southeast Asia Collection of Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin is the most extensive collection of its kind in Germany and one of the most important Southeast Asia collections worldwide. The collection includes publications from all eleven Southeast Asian countries. In addition to a wide range of western language literature on these countries, extensive holdings of original-language literature and more than 2,000 Southeast Asian manuscripts are particularly noteworthy. 

The new thematic portal on the Southeast Asia collection provides an overview of the collection and allows an initial search of the collection, particularly of its modern part. Users are invited to search the online catalogue of the Staatsbibliothek and to explore further services of the “Specialised Information Service Asia” (FID Asia) and its portal CrossAsia

(Reported by Claudia Götze-Sam, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin)

EFEO Workshop on Academic Materials Pertaining to Southeast Asia, Chiang Mai July 2017

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More and more publications are being published worldwide. The last surveys show that within the 50 countries that publish the most, 5 are from Southeast Asia: #17 – Vietnam (24000+), #18 – Indonesia (24000+), #23 – Malaysia (18000+), #30 – Thailand (13000+), #35 – Singapore (12000+). Materials are being published, but are not necessarily easily accessible, for various reasons: small publishing company, small research center publishing its bulletin in a very small number of issues, geographical complexity, absence of bookstores that can cover an entire country/region, etc.

Furthermore, the process of building trust and cooperation with local partners can take a very long time. We all have our own connections and networks, but they might not cover all of Southeast Asia.

The aim of this workshop is to bring together all the actors concerned with Academic materials pertaining to Southeast Asia – publishers, librarians, scholars – to discuss how we could enhance access to these materials.

This workshop is planned to take place on 19 July 2017, just after the International Conference on Thai Studies (16-18 July) and before ICAS 10 (20-23 July) at the EFEO centre in Chiang Mai (École française d’Extrême-Orient, 131 Charoen Prathet Road, A. Muang, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand). A library tour could be organized for those interested.

Tentative Agenda:

9:30: introduction

10:00 – 12:00: roundtable

12:15 – 13:30: lunch break

14:00 – 17:00: small group discussions on area subjects and e-resources

17:30: wrap up

For details and registration please contact Antony Boussemart at antony.boussemartATefeo.net.

 

Digital Humanities for Asian and African Texts – report from a workshop

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On 6 June, 2016, a one-day workshop dedicated to the theme “Digital Humanities for Asian and African Texts” took place at SOAS, London, which was attended by approximately 40 participants from a variety of UK and European institutions.

The first session focused on digitisation projects and the scholarly use of such projects for research and teaching. The first presenter, Erich Kesse (SOAS Library, with Christine Wise) spoke on “Current digital projects at SOAS and future plans for Asian and African texts” and gave an overview of a variety of digitisation projects carried out by SOAS Library, which by now have made approximately 18,000 items available online. He highlighted certain aspects of technical requirements, cataloguing and standards, metadata and coding, funding, commercial partnerships and co-operation with SOAS exhibitions.

Lars Lamaan (SOAS) and Fresco Sam-Sin (Leiden University) presented a paper on “Manchu online study and research environment: from scrum to crowd sourcing” and explained the importance of Manchu sources for historical research and the significance of transliteration, translation and annotation tools in digital manuscript/text collections. Fresco Sam-Sin also demonstrated his digital research and learning platform Manc.hu that is used as a collaborative online classroom for university students.

Almut Hintze (SOAS) followed with a talk on “The multimedia Yasna”, a project that deals with a Zoroastrian ritual of the Parsi community in India in which the oral tradition of memorising texts plays a more important role than the written tradition. The aim of the project is to learn more about the oral texts used in this ritual by recording the performance, editing the recording, transcription and transliteration of texts, creation of metadata and finally provision of online and print editions.

Dmitry Bondarev (SOAS/University of Hamburg) gave an introduction to “Old Kanembu Islamic manuscripts: digital collection, archive, database?”, a project that aims to enable more and better linguistic research into Kanembu Islamic manuscripts found in West Africa, particularly the comparison of different versions of texts.

Jody Butterworth (British Library) presented an overview of the British Library’s “The Endangered Archives Programme: digitising vulnerable material around the world”. The priority of this project is to preserve material that is under threat due to natural disasters or political conflicts – not only manuscripts, but also newspapers, photographs, audio-visual material, family archives etc. – and to make it available online for research. The project has worked with over 290 partners in 80 countries.

The second session emphasized concepts and methods of Digital Humanities for Asian and African Studies. The first speaker in this session, David Beavan (UCL) presented “A Beginners guide to Digital Humanities”, giving an overview of the general steps digitisation, transcription and analysis involved in digitisation projects for scholarly research. He gave advice on project planning, transcription softwares, as well as quantitative methods for analysis.

Nora McGregor (British Library) spoke about “Doing digital research at the British Library with Asian and African Collections” and her involvement in various initiatives of the library’s Digital Research Team which include Big Data creation, Crowdsourcing, PhD placements, Digital Scholarship, training programmes for library staff etc.

Finally, Chris Dillon (UCL) presented a paper on “Community sourcing and non-Latin scripts” in connection with his project Bridge to China, a free online grammar of Mandarin, that was created by community sourcing.

The workshop was a great opportunity to meet people working in various areas of Asian and African Studies who, at the same time, are also engaging with Digital Humanities. The presenters demonstrated how long-standing research traditions can be linked with newly emerging methods and technologies, new perspectives and research practices.

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

Job vacancy at SOAS Library

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An opportunity has arisen for a senior professional with a strong Library or Archives background to help lead as Assistant Director the Research Library Services division at the Library of the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. The division is supported by about 35 professional librarians, archivists and cataloguers, and the Assistant Director will have strategic and operational responsibility for Collection Management, Collection Development, Archives, Special Collections, Teaching and Research Support, and Library Digital Services.

The SOAS Library is designated by HEFCE as the UK National Research Library for Asia, Africa and the Middle East, alongside four other designated NRLs (Cambridge, LSE, Manchester, Oxford). The SOAS Library is a member of Research Libraries UK (RLUK) and carries a number of obligations to collect and hold material on behalf of the nation, making this material available to a wide constituency of UK and internationally-based researchers. The SOAS Library is part of the SOAS Library & Information Services Directorate, which is organised as three divisions: Customer Services & Operations; Information Systems; Research Library Services.

The closing date for job applications is the 19th of September, 2014.

Full details and guidance for applicants can be found on the SOAS homepage.

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