SEALG Annual Meeting 2014, Frankfurt/Main

by Jana Igunma

The Annual Meeting of the Southeast Asia Library Group 2014 took place on 27-28 June 2014 in Frankfurt/Main (Germany) and was organised in collaboration with the Library of Southeast Asian Studies at Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University.
Participants from Germany, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Russia, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam attended the meeting this year.

Participants:
Hartmut Bergenthum (Universitätsbibliothek Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany)
Heiner Schnelling (Universitätsbibliothek Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany)
Holger Warnk (Universitätsbibliothek Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany)
Sophia Thubauville (Frobenius Institut Frankfurt, Germany)
Vinay Kumar Rao (Assam University, Silchar, India)
Saiful Akmal (State Islamic University of Ar-Raniry, Banda Aceh, Indonesia)
Sinead Ward (Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, Ireland)
Doris Jedamski (University Library, Leiden, Netherlands)
Alexey Kirichenko (Institute of Asian & African Studies, Moscow State University, Russia)
Liubov Goriaeva (Institute of Oriental Studies, Moscow, Russia)
Jana Igunma (British Library, London, UK)
Sud Chonchirdsin (British Library, London, UK)
Jotika Khur-Yearn (SOAS Library, London, UK)
Gerhard Jaiser (Vietnam National University, Hanoi, Vietnam)

The meeting started on Friday, 27 June, with a welcome address by Dr. Heiner Schnelling, Head of the University Library Frankfurt.

In the first session, which was chaired by Sud Chonchirdsin, Gerhard Jaiser gave a talk on the question of “Thai cinema – an archive of popular music?” He explored the connection between Thai cinema and popular music and discussed various examples of Thai popular films.
The second speaker, Saiful Akmal, dedicated his presentation to “Aceh literature in a post conflict setting: a promising future” in which he focused on publishing houses and organizations working towards the preservation of cultural/historical memories and promotion of the writing culture, and therefore enhance research on Aceh literature and Aceh in general.

The second session was chaired by Holger Warnk. Sophia Thubauville presented a paper about “The library of the Frobenius Institut” in Frankfurt, which was built on the private library of the Africanist and ethnographer Leo Frobenius. It is the largest special library for Social Anthropology in Germany and holds rich collections of Asian material.
Next, Hartmut Bergenthum gave a talk on ”The collection of the German Colonial Society (Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft)”, focusing on a Photographic Archive with nearly 800 pictures on “Deutsch-Neuguinea” that was digitized at the University Library Johann Christian Senckenberg in Frankfurt.

After a short Library Tour with a visit to the closed magazine (stacks), we continued with the third session, chaired by Jotika Khur-Yearn.
The first speaker in this session, Vinay Kumar Rao, gave a presentation on “A fresh appraisal to the stone images of Hindu gods in museums in Myanmar”. He identified and traced the origin of Hindu images found in Myanmar, especially those preserved in museums in Sriksetra, Pagan and Arakan, many still awaiting formal identification, proper cataloguing and preservation.
Sud Chonchirdsin followed with a talk on “Vietnam War Art” in which he explored how artists from both sides of the conflict, Vietnamese and American, created paintings to capture the human side of the war. To illustrate his talk he used images which were reproduced in official publications from North Vietnam held in the Vietnamese collections at the British Library.

The last session on Friday was chaired by Doris Jedamski.
The first presentation by Liubov Goriaeva was dedicated to the question “Edition of Malay manuscripts: diplomatic or critical?” Based on her experiences of transcribing and editing traditional Malay works, she compared different manuscript versions of selected texts and concluded that the diplomatic edition of texts in Latin script, including the facsimile of the manuscript together with textological commentaries is the most suitable and verifiable way to present the original text.
Following this, Holger Warnk spoke about ”19th century Malay prints in the collection of the Methodist missionary Emil Lüring”. The German missionary Lüring obtained an impressive collection of printed Malay books during his stay in Singapore, Ipoh and Penang from 1889 tom 1909, which was first given to the Frankfurt Society of Oriental Languages and then to the city’s Goethe University.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

On Saturday morning, we met for the final session which was chaired by Jana Igunma.
The first speaker, Jotika Khur-Yearn, informed us with his presentation “Cataloguing Shan Manuscripts: Experiences and Challenges” about the general situation of Shan manuscripts that he encountered during various cataloguing projects in the UK and Thailand. He also described his experiences and challenges in cataloguing and preserving Shan manuscripts.
Sinead Ward spoke about “Burmese manuscripts in the Chester Beatty Library”. Her presentation was inspired by a recent condition survey on the Burmese collection at the Chester Beatty Library. She highlighted the conservation works, carried out by Julia Poirier, of one rare ivory Kammavaca manuscript that required specific attention.
The next presenter, Alexey Kirichenko, dedicated his paper to the “Monastic manuscript collections in the eighteenth- to early twentieth-century Burma”. He discussed manuscript collections made primarily with the aim of reproducing and preserving the body of Buddhist texts deemed authoritative in Burma on the one side, and on the other side collections built around practical concerns and interests of individual abbots and monks. He stressed that one problem is that most current researches focus on illustrated manuscripts whereas text analysis and comparison are often neglected.

South East Asia Library Group Meeting

After a short break, we continued with our annual general meeting.
Jana Igunma welcomed all the participants and thanked Holger Warnk and his team for organising this successful meeting. She handed over to Holger Warnk and Doris Jedamski who informed us that two publishers had expressed interest in publishing the papers presented at this year’s meeting. All of the speakers who were still present agreed that a publication would indeed be an excellent idea, but it will depend on the conditions of the publishers as SEALG has very limited financial resources. Doris and Holger consented to contact both publishers to find out more about their T&Cs. In addition to this possible publication, we agreed to also publish the abstracts of the presentations in our annual Newsletter for which the deadline will be 30 November.

Next we discussed when and where our annual meeting 2015 should take place. All members present at the meeting voted against holding it at the next EUROSEAS conference in Vienna but were in favour of accepting the invitation to a collaborative meeting with the South Asia Archive and Library Group (SAALG). They are planning to hold their summer conference next year in Paris. Jana Igunma agreed to inform the SAALG committee about this decision.

Jana Igunma then presented the minutes from our annual meeting 2013 in Lisbon, and the financial report that had been compiled by our treasurer Margaret Nicholson. She also informed about apologies for the current meeting.
This year, the bi-annual election of committee members was due. Jana Igunma and Louise Pichard-Bertaux had stepped down from their posts, but remain members of the committee. As a result of the election, we welcomed Doris Jedamski as Chair and Holger Warnk as Vice-Chair of SEALG. Jotika Khur-Yearn was elected as Secretary of SEALG. All other committee members were confirmed in their previous functions, and Jana Igunma agreed to continue to work on the newsletter and blog together with the new leaders of the group.

Following this, some participants reported about news from their libraries, new projects as well as ongoing initiatives and activities.

Sud Chonchirdsin reported for the SEA section at the British Library about the retro-conversion of SEA catalogue cards which shall be searchable online by end of 2014. The second phase of digitisation of SEA manuscripts, which started about 2 years ago is nearing its end and fourteen digitised mansucripts are expected to be viewable online by the end of this year. The contract for making available online a selection of early printed books, which were digitised in co-operation with Northern Illinois University and had been online for five years already via the Southeast Asia Digital Library http://sea.lib.niu.edu/, has been renewed.

Holger Warnk spoke on behalf of Goethe University Library Frankfurt, where retro-conversion is being planned. One priority here is the integration of the OPAC of the former Asia House whose material had been transferred to the University Library. Various long-term cataloguing projects are being planned, including for the collection of Ulrich Kratz and a large donation of Vietnamese and Indonesian literature from the Netherlands (Biblion). However, due to the lack of trained cataloguing staff no time schedule for these projects has been made yet.

Doris Jedamski informed us about developments at Leiden University Library. With effect from 1 July 2014, the KNAW is transferring management of the extensive collections on Indonesia and the Caribbean previously held by the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV-KNAW) to the Leiden University library. The collection comprises around a million – largely post-colonial – books and special collections. Together with the cultural heritage and map collections of the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT), which was acquired in 2013, and the resources already held by the UBL, Leiden University is now holding the largest collection on Indonesia and the Caribbean in the world. Unfortunately, only eight members of the KITLV staff could also transfer to the UB. Doris Jedamski has been appointed Curator of South and & Southeast Asian & Tibetan Manuscripts and Rare Books.One priority is now to make KITLV material available, among others in the University Library reading rooms.

News from SOAS Library in London, reported by Jotika Khur-Yearn, included information about donations form the Alphawood Foundation and from the Indonesian embassy in London from which the library benefits. The library is currently undergoing a restructuring process. Special attention is currently being given to the cataloguing of rare collections, including rare Thai books that were transferred to SOAS from the Royal Asiatic Society, and the Lao photo collection of Sanda Simms. An exhibition of Shan manuscripts is planned for autumn or winter 2014.

Regarding the SEALG blog, Jana Igunma invited all SEALG members to contribute by sending her or Doris Jedamski news or interesting information relevant to Southeast Asian librarianship. It was agreed that on the blog we will now also include job advertisments in the field of SEA librarianship.
Jana Igunma mentioned the upcoming Congress of Southeast Asian Librarians (CONSAL) which will take place in Bangkok on 11-13 June 2015. Participation of one or more SEALG members would be a good opportunity to connect with librarians from Southeast Asian countries.

Again, a big thank you to Holger Warnk and his team for organising this successful and enjoyable annual meeting!