SEALG Annual Meeting 2012, Cambridge & London

by Jana Igunma

The SEALG Annual Meeting 2012 took place in Cambridge and London from July 6 to 7, 2012, in collaboration with the 87th South Asia Archive and Library Group (SAALG) Conference.
It was the first time that the SEALG held an Annual Meeting in collaboration with the SAALG. It was a great opportunity to meet and exchange ideas and experiences with members of the SAALG, which is a UK based association of enthusiastic South Asian librarians and archivists. Some of them are also involved in Southeast Asian librarianship due to the nature of the collections they look after.
This year, participants from Denmark, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom attended the annual meeting.

Friday, 6 July 2012
The 87th SAALG Conference programme on Friday started with a talk by Dr Sue Sutton (Archivist, Henry Martyn Centre, Cambridge) with the title “Operation ‘Nip-Off’. Some aspects of the repatriation of Japanese troops from South East Asia at the end of the Second World War in the Far East”.
Following this, Dr Sujit Sivasundaram (University Lecturer in World and Imperial History since 1500, University of Cambridge) spoke about “The British invasion of Ceylon in the conflicting cultures of palm-leaf texts” and explained how texts in palm-leaf manuscripts were amended as a result of British influence in indigenous history writing.
Ursula Sims-Williams (Librarian, Ancient India and Iran Trust and Curator of Iranian Collections, British Library) gave “An introduction to Southeast Asian collections in the AIIT”, followed by Edward Proctor (Librarian for South and Southeast Asia at Duke University & South Asian Studies Librarian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA) who shed light on the “Cooperative Collection Development in the USA.”
In the afternoon, Dr Annabel Gallop (Curator for Indonesian and Malay collections, British Library) gave a presentation on her latest research project dealing with “Islam, trade and politics across the Indian Ocean: investigating Ottoman links with Southeast Asia”. The project focussed on links dating back to the sixteenth century, when the sultanate of Aceh in North Sumatra contacted the Ottoman emperor to ask for help against the Portuguese who were disrupting the Indian Ocean pepper trade.
This was followed by a talk by Dr Sud Chonchirdsin (Curator of Vietnamese collections, British Library) on “Cartoons and propaganda from North Vietnam during the early stage of the Vietnam War”.
Finally, Dr Mark Elliott (Curatorial Research Fellow, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge) enlightened the participants about an ambitious project dedicated to “The Eyes of the Ancestor: Returning photographs to an Indian village”.

The conference took place at the Ancient India and Iran Trust in Cambridge, which is an independent charity concerned with the study of early India, Iran & Central Asia, promoting both scholarly research & popular interest in the area. The Trust has a library of over 25,000 volumes and organises a range of activities including conferences, public lectures and visiting fellowships.

Saturday, 7 July 2012
Our AGM took place at the British Library, London, on 7 July 2012.
After Jana Igunma had welcomed the participants, she presented the report for the 2012 AGM and the finance report, which had been prepared by our Treasurer Margaret Nicholson.
Following this, a resolution for an amendment to the constitution of the group was presented and discussed. The proposed amendments, which had been worked out at last year’s meeting were partially re-amended and finally adopted under the condition that a list of SEALG members shall be maintained. The constitution will be published on the SEALG homepage.
This year, the bi-annual election of committee members was due. Jotika Khur-Yearn was elected into the committee. All other committee members were confirmed in their previous functions.
The next point on the agenda was the preparation of the group’s annual meeting 2013, which all participants agreed to hold in collaboration with the 7th EUROSEAS Conference. The conference will take place in Lisbon from 2-5 July, 2013, at the School of Social and Political Sciences of the Technical University of Lisboa (ISCSP/UTL). It was suggested to send a proposal for a panel to the conference organizers, which will give our group the opportunity to build a stronger relationship with the research community.

At the end of the morning session, participants reported about news from their libraries.
Per Hansen informed us that the NIAS is going to move to the city centre of Copenhagen as from September 2012. The institute also received a new grant so that funding of their day-to-day business is secure until 2012. A large book donation was given to NIAS from the National Library of South Korea.
Jotika Khur-Yearn reported from the SOAS library that the establishment of a new ground floor and an increase of off-site storage space have resulted in more reading room spaces to be used by increasing numbers of students. An e-list of new acquisitions is being made available on the library’s website. A cataloguing project of Shan manuscripts, to be carried out by the SOAS library and the Bodleian Library, Oxford (and eventually other UK libraries) aims at creating a UK-wide online catalogue of Shan manuscripts, which will be hosted at Oxford University. This is possible after a romanization system for Shan script had been approved by the Library of Congress recently.
Jana Igunma reported from the Thai, Lao and Cambodian section of the British Library that the Thai Manuscripts Digitisation Project is coming to an end in the next few weeks and currently there are images from over 50 Thai manuscripts available online on the library’s Digitised Manuscripts viewer.
San San May spoke for the Burmese section of the British Library informing us that she is working on a project to catalogue the backlog of Burmese manuscripts and rare books. Whereas the rare books are being catalogued in the library’s online catalogue, preparations are being made to also make the Burmese manuscripts catalogue available online in the future.
Sud Chonchirdsin speaking for the Vietnamese section of the British Library reported about his involvement in an exhibition project on propaganda, and a project that aims to digitise a small number of Southeast Asian manuscripts which will be funded by the Henry Ginsburg Trust.

The afternoon session started with a practice-oriented demonstration and introduction into the SEALG Wiki by Doris Jedamski, which shall serve as a more effective communication tool for committee members. Doris also showed us examples of how we could use a blog to better inform our members, but also the research community and the public about our own and activities related to Southeast Asian librarianship and research.
This was followed by a Show & Tell session organised by staff of the Southeast Asia section of the British Library. They presented rare and important items from SEA collections at the British Library, including illustrated Burmese parabaik manuscripts and Thai folding books, rare Shan and Ahom manuscripts, an illustrated palm leaf manuscript from Bali, a rare collection of woodblock prints from Vietnam and other impressive items.
Finally, the group went on a Behind-the-Scenes tour through the British Library, starting with the library’s Boardroom and Friend’s Room, offices of the Asian & African Studies department, the “King’s Library” (formed by King George III) on to the Treasures Gallery, the Conservation Centre, and recreation facilities for staff.

A big Thank You goes to Rachel Rowe, Helen Porter and Ursula Simms-Williams from SAALG for all their efforts to make this first collaborative conference/meeting reality!