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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.

Call for Papers now open for National Libraries Now 2021: International Perspectives on Library Curation

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National Libraries Now 2021 Digital Conference

Closing date 19 June 2021

National Libraries Now 2021: International Perspectives on Library Curation

Digital conference 16 – 17 September 2021

National libraries are responsible for collecting and preserving the published output of their countries and international publications of research interest, with library professionals tasked to build and promote these cultural heritage repositories of knowledge and creativity. However, curatorial roles within these institutions face unprecedented change in what is considered national heritage, the digital availability of collections, and an increased focus on social responsibility.

Bringing together professionals from national libraries worldwide, this conference will explore the state of national library curation now, interrogating the complex challenges we face in building and interpreting collections, and the practical approaches that are being taken to address them. What does it mean to work in a national library now? What new possibilities are there for international collaboration? We will be especially interested in addressing…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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View of Leiden city centre

 

New issue of SEALG Newsletter online

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The latest issue of the SEALG Newsletter (No. 46, 2014) has been published recently and is available online at http://www.sealg.org/Newsletter2014.pdf or via the SEALG homepage (under ‘Newsletter’).

Included in the newsletter is the report of our group’s annual meeting that took place in June 2014 in Frankfurt, Germany, as well as articles and project reports, some written by SEALG members and others authored by members of the research community. We are very glad to be able to establish and to further enhance the links between librarians and researchers with this new issue of our newsletter.

The contents of the newsletter in detail:

Report of the SEALG Annual Meeting 2014 in Frankfurt

A study of nineteenth century Malay school books in the Malay Peninsula (by Lim Peng Han, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur)

The Museum and Ethnic Struggles (by Gumring Hkangda, Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

Burmese royal barges and boats (by San San May, British Library, London)

The beautiful art of Tai palm leaf manuscripts (by Jana Igunma, British Library, London)

Indonesian manuscripts in the Vatican Library (by Anthony Reid, Australian National University, Canberra)

A preservation project for Cham manuscripts in Vietnam (by Hao Phan, Northern Illinois University Libraries, DeKalb)

Announcement: 2015 Annual Meeting of SEALG and SAALG in Paris

To receive regular information about the publication of new issues of the the SEALG Newsletter, and of news from our group in general, you may either become a member of SEALG via the SEALG homepage or you may subscribe to this blog. Please feel free to forward this information to anyone who may be interested in our work.

Jana Igunma (SEALG committee member)

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Pilgrims, healers, and wizards: Buddhism and religious practices in Burma and Thailand

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British Museum blog

Alexandra Green, curator, British Museum

One of my first jobs at the British Museum was to examine the Southeast Asian collections. I found that the holdings from Burma (formally known as Myanmar) and Thailand contain numerous popular posters, mostly on religious themes, that have never been on display, as well as good examples of lacquer, textiles, votive tablets and Buddha images. Other religious objects in the collection include protective diagrams on cloth, tattooing equipment and manuals, and boxes that display images of the zodiac and the eight days of the week (Wednesday is divided into two), both of which are important in divination and producing horoscopes. The material seemed to cry out for an examination of religion in the two countries.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Western scholars considered Buddhism to be an austere, monolithic religion focused upon meditation and nirvana (the escape from the cycles of rebirth)…

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Junior Professorship in Southeast Asian Studies at Goethe University Frankfurt

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The Faculty of Linguistics, Cultures and Arts, Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany, invites applications for the following position:

Junior Professorship (Assistant Professor, W1) in Southeast Asian Studies

The university is looking for a candidate with expertise in one or more of the following fields: the languages, literatures, media, or modern and contemporary history of insular Southeast Asia (mainly Indonesia and /or Malaysia).
Expected is an outstanding doctoral thesis, methodologically sound expertise on modern insular Southeast Asia evidenced by relevant publications and teaching experience, very high proficiency in Indonesian / Malay, English, and ideally German as well as the willingness to engage in cooperative research and teaching activities within the Interdisciplinary Center of East Asian Studies (IZO) at Goethe University.

The initial appointment is for three years and can be renewed for another three years upon positive evaluation. The designated salary for the position is based on “W1” of the German university scale. Goethe University is an equal opportunity employer which implies that applications from women are specifically encouraged. For further information regarding the general conditions for professorship appointments, please see: http://www.vakante-professuren.uni-frankfurt.de .

Qualified academics are invited to submit their applications including a CV, a list of publications, and a copy of the doctoral diploma up to 10th Oct. 2014 to the Dean of the Faculty of Faculty of Linguistics, Cultures and Arts, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, D-60054 Frankfurt, E-Mail: Dekanat-FB09@em.uni-frankfurt.de .

 

37th Douarnenez Film Festival

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“Peoples of the Indonesian Archipelago, Timor Leste and Papua”

22-30 August 2014, Douarnenez (France)

This year’s Douarnenez Film Festival – which is a major cinematographic event combining creativity and collective reflection, art and criticism to explore the complexity of the world – will be dedicated to the peoples of the Indonesian Archipelago, Timor Leste and Papua.

The notion of human heritage, including language, culture, and the manifold forms of expression of peoples and communities, underlay the festival from its very beginnings. The aim is to give people a voice and the opportunity to tell their own story through film, literature, photography and music, whether these people are – in their “normal environment” -marginalised or excluded, torn apart or deported, besieged or reduced to silence, dumped or displaced, colonised, dominated against their will or in rebellion.

Through 60 – 70 films, features, documentaries, animation, short and long, the Douarnenez Film Festival will be a platform for these peoples and their cultures. Among the guests will be filmmakers, writers, journalists, human rights activists, historians and many more from Indonesia, Timor Leste, Western Papaua and Europe.

For more detailed information, please visit the Douarnenez Film Festival homepage.

 

Rare Malay newspaper in the Wellcome Library

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The Wellcome Library in London is one of the world’s major resources for the study of medical history. They offer a growing collection of material relating to contemporary medicine and biomedical science in society.

The Wellcome Library is currently developing a world-class online resource for the history of medicine by digitising a substantial proportion of its holdings and making the content freely available on the web.

The Library’s digitisation programme includes:

  • cover-to-cover books
  • video and audio
  • entire archive collections and manuscripts
  • paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, ephemera and more.

The Library was founded on the collections of Sir Henry Wellcome (1853-1936) and is best known for its medical materials. However, the Library also holds important Asian collections especially pertaining to medicine, religious practices, divination and magic, including Malay, Batak and Javanese manuscripts (described in Ricklefs & Voorhoeve 1982).

Wellcome Images, another digitisation initiative of the Wellcome Library, makes available a wealth of images, including images from Malay manuscripts on magic, photographs of Sarawak and Penang, watercolour drawings of Singapore and Johor, and a very rare a copy of an early Malay newspaper published in Singapore in 1877, of which no other copies are known to survive anywhere else in the world: Peridaran al-Shams wa-al-Qamar, ‘The revolution of the sun and the moon’.  

Annabel Teh Gallop had a closer look at this rare item and published an article on the Rare Malay newspaper at the Wellcome Library on the Asian & African Studies Blog of the British Library, explaining the historical context of this newspaper and providing the details of publications for further reading on that topic.