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Digitising Manuscripts and Developing Online Digital Manuscript Library

Yesterday, I visited the Department of Oriental Studies at Leipzig University to fulfill a gratifying invitation from Dr. Thoralf Hanstein and Prof Dr. Eckehard Schulz and discuss about a project for the cataloguing and digitising of Aceh manuscripts that will begin soon. This project is carried out thanks to a grant from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Germany.

Dr. Thoralf Hanstein, as a Team coordinator, has explained to me that the main purpose of the project is to facilitate the people of Aceh, in particular, to save and back up their very wealthy manuscripts in case a natural disaster like the last tsunami destroy it. Of course this doesn't mean that we are hoping such natural disaster happens again, but a totally lost of all historical and highly important archives and documents preserved in the Center of Aceh Documents and Information (PDIA) without any copies in the last December 2004 should be a warning to anticipate any possibilities.

At the Department, Dr. Hanstein showed me a fastest, most recently and modern scanner that the Team will work with to digitalize Aceh manuscripts. “It just needs two seconds to produce a ready published image from one folios of manuscripts with various formats and qualities and without destructing the manuscript itself, while the old one usually takes about two minutes to produce the same image with a little bit consequences of reducing the quality of manuscripts” he said.

According to Dr. Hanstein, at present such scanner has already arrived in the Aceh Museum and ready to use as part of post-tsunami aids. Then, the Museum, currently headed by Nurdin, M.A., is the first institution in Indonesia, even the second in the world following the Leipzig University itself, who will has a very valuable experience to get benefit from this rather expensive equipment.

Apparently the aim of this project will not limit only to restore poor condition manuscripts and digitalize it, but also to make them online, so that in the future the readers may no longer need to come or flight to Aceh if they just want to read the content of manuscripts. However, the quality of the online images itself may not be good enough to make a facsimile publication or even printed edition. This is to guarantee there are no third parties who misuse in publishing a certain manuscript without any permission from the owner institution.

Accordingly, Dr. Hanstein, on behalf of this project, will also provide all necessary software and hardware in order to develop an online digital manuscript library, and even allocated budgets to purchase sets of computer and will train certain local staffs to run this online digital library in a long term.

I highly appreciate what the "Orientalisches Institut" and the Data Processing Service Centre of the Leipzig University have already done. I am in opinion that any efforts to make old rare manuscripts online will help preserving the text contained in the manuscripts itself for a longer time. Besides, these efforts may urge the scholarly world to give much more attentions, and encourage doing research based on this kind of local sources.

My dream is that the Government of Indonesia, through any related ministries, gives a fully and serious support for such this agenda, then we could preserve our cultural heritage with various modern ways. There are foreign institutions could be counterpart to carry out such agenda. Leipzig University is only one of them. Since the last three years, I, on behalf of Manassa and PPIM UIN Jakarta, have involved also in a mutual collaboration with C-DATS Tokyo University of Foreign Studies for catalouging Indonesian manuscripts.

I am so impressed when looking at, and surfing, the prototype of this online digital manuscript library developed by the Leipzig University which has displayed 55 Arabic and Persian manuscripts and provided three different languages, viz. German, English, and Arabic (see . It is user
friendly and fully informative. Dr. Hanstein said that in the future they will make the other more than 3200 manuscripts, currently preserved in the Library, online.

Dr. Hanstein, and also Prof. Schulz as a team leader of this project, told me that the digitising of manuscripts in Aceh will end in next two years. After that, they will look for other institutions or places in Indonesia who are interested to collaborate and do such cataloguing and digitising manuscripts using this kind of technology, plus developing a digital online manuscript library for their own institutions.

Of course, the first step is to sit together and build a mutual trust to get a same perception regarding the purpose and benefit of the program. This is so important to avoid any unproductive misunderstanding.

So, who's the next?

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2 Kommentare:

Kaki Bangku said...

A similar project undertaken on West Africa

Anonymous said...

Many thanks for the information, it's very useful.