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Editors Wacana

Endangered

When newspaper archives crumble, history dies

Gerry van Klinken

Historians accept the death of oral sources, but expect newspaper archives in state institutions to be available for ever. Yet the majority of Indonesian newspaper titles in the National Library are today endangered. These crumbling papers are often the only copy in the world. This article first reviews the role these archives have played in pathbreaking historical work, both Indonesian and foreign. Provincial newspapers record the chatter of a new, literate middle class that emerged in the middle of the tumultuous twentieth century. Indonesian historiography is transformed by the many surprises scholars experience when reading their lives there. When those sources turn to dust, historical research dies. This will affect not just specialized historians, but social scientists in many fields. The article then maps quantitatively the extent to which these papers are endangered. It finally urges the social science community as a whole to campaign to save them through comprehensive digitization.

Gods, birds, and trees

Variation in illustrated Javanese pawukon manuscripts

Dick van der Meij

Many libraries in the world own illustrated manuscripts containing calendrical divination based on the Javanese 30 seven-day wuku cycle. Although the contents of these pawukon manuscript have been studied, the illustrations they often contain have almost been ignored. Apart from stating that these illustrations usually depict the gods, trees, buildings, and birds associated with each individual wuku, the variety among these illustrations has escaped scholars so far. Variation is found at many levels such as the general lay-out of the illustrations, the depiction of the various gods, trees, et cetera but also with reference to the position of the illustrations and the accompanying texts that explain the characteristics and divination possibilities of each wuku. This article intends to offer a start into the study of these illustrations by offering examples of these illustrations and the connections that may have existed between the makers of these illustrated manuscripts.

Hidden narratives

Personal albums from the KITLV collection and their captions

Liesbeth Ouwehand

This article examines captions found in the various personal albums in the KITLV photo collection (Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde / Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Carribean Studies). The article shows that two types of captions can be distinguished: descriptive or identifying and commentary or reflective captions. These captions are an important part of the albums’ materiality and composition. Hence, captions turn the albums into autobiographical objects for both compiler and intended audiences. It is argued that photo albums and their image content should not be read separately from the captions either physically or digitally in image databases.

Edwin P. Wieringa

Since 2018 the private collection of Ben Mboi (1935-2015), who is best known as Governor of East Nusa Tenggara – NTT – from 1978 to 1988, has been part of the Library of Atma Jaya Catholic University in Jakarta, where it is publicly accessible under the name of Ben Mboi Research Library. The collection totals 22,890 items; the majority of the books are written in English, Indonesian, and Dutch. After briefly introducing the life and work of Ben Mboi, this article first discusses the phenomenon of private libraries in Indonesia, making it clear that Mboi’s collection is highly unusual. The main part of the paper explores the question as to what is specifically “Mboian” about the library and what it tells us about his mindset. Mboi’s library functioned as a collection for a working mind and the essay focuses on his books dealing with good governance, which increasingly occupied Mboi’s mind after he entered the world of politics. Special attention is paid to reader’s marks and annotations: Mboi read his books from a decidedly Indonesian perspective. This is particularly evident in the case of Dutch books written by Dutch academics on contemporary Dutch society, which Mboi studied intensively in order to reflect upon the situation in post-Suharto Indonesia. Mboi’s own political thinking, which advocated elitism and organicist statecraft, conformed to mainstream ideological discourse in the New Order, but is still de rigueur in post-Suharto Indonesia, showing a remarkable overlap with colonial ideas about leadership in the period of Dutch high imperialism.

Editors Wacana

Putting on a show

Collecting, exhibiting, and performing wayang at the Tropenmuseum from colonial times until the present

Sadiah Boonstra

The Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam has a rich history in collecting, exhibiting, and presenting wayang performances. This paper traces this history of collection, exhibition, and performance practice of wayang at the Colonial Institute, from 1950 known as Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, from colonial times until the present. It demonstrates the entanglement of colonial and postcolonial power structures, collection, and exhibition legacies of the colonial past. The paper will show that from the moment wayang puppets entered the museum’s collection there has been continuous interaction between collecting and exhibition practices and performance practices. The emphasis on tangible elements of performance practice in collection and exhibition practices contributed to a dominant and static understanding of wayang.

Annabel Teh Gallop

Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753) was the founding father of the British Museum and its Library, which later became the British Library. Sloane’s vast collections of natural history specimens, coins, medals, ethnographic items, and books included four thousand manuscripts, twelve of which were from Southeast Asia. These twelve Southeast Asian manuscripts, including eight from the Indonesian archipelago, are described in detail here. Although Sloane is not known to have had personal connections with Southeast Asia or any particular interest in the region, this small collection nonetheless encompasses an exceptionally wide range of the languages, scripts, writing supports and books formats found in the region, manifest in some of the earliest manuscripts known in certain genres.

Roger Tol

Leiden University Libraries houses the greatest collection of Panji manuscripts in the world. This became evident while preparing the successful nomination of Panji tales manuscripts for UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme. This article begins with observations on Panji tales in general. They originated in East Java and have subsequently spread to other areas in Southeast Asia. This is followed by a description of the collection’s composition and its history. The collection exists of over 260 manuscripts in eight languages, the majority of manuscripts written on palm leaf or paper. I have described four manuscripts in detail paying special attention to their provenance and history. Originating from four locations, written in four languages in three different scripts, they can be considered representative of the collection. A complete listing of all manuscripts is given in the appendix.