SEALG Annual Meeting 2015, Paris

The Annual Meeting of the Southeast Asia Library Group 2015 took place on 3-4 July 2015 in Paris (France) and was organized as a joint conference together with the South Asia Archive and Library Group (SAALG) in collaboration with the Library of the École Française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO). Its topic was “The French Connection – with South and Southeast Asia”.
Participants from Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Russia, Sweden, Thailand and the United Kingdom attended this year’s meeting.

Inga-Lill Blomkvist (NIAS Library & Information Centre, Copenhagen, Denmark)
Uyên Le Bihan (BULAC, Paris, France)
Penny Brook (British Library, London, UK)
Cécile Capot (French School of Asian Studies, Paris, France)
Chris Carnaghan (formerly University of Cambridge, UK)
Thomas Corpet (CNRS, EHESS, Paris, France)
Isabelle Dion (ANOM, Marseille, France)
Jacqueline Filliozat (EFEO, Paris, France)*
Annabel Gallop (British Library, London, UK)
Sundari Gobalakichenane (BULAC, Paris, France)
Mr. Gobalakichenane (Paris, France)
Liubov Goriaeva (Institute of Oriental Studies, Moscow, Russia)
Claudia Götze-Sam (Staatsbibliothek Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin, Germany)
Rachel Guidoni (EFEO, Paris, France)
Per Hansen (Royal Library, Copenhagen, Denmark)
Maïté Hurel (EFEO, Paris, France)
Doris Jedamski (Leiden University Library, Netherlands)
Jotika Khur-Yearn (SOAS Library, London, UK)
François Lagirarde (EFEO, Chiang Mai, Thailand)
Nicholas Martland (Independent Researcher UK/France)
Antonia Moon (British Library, London, UK)
Magali Morel (EFEO, Paris, France)
Marielle Morin (CNRS, EHESS, Paris, France)
Mia Nilsson (Asia Library, Lund University, Sweden)
Sarah Norman (Centre for Applied Buddhism, Maidenhead, Berkshire, UK)
Olivia Pelletier (ANOM, Marseille, France)
Jérôme Petit (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris)
Hélène Poitevin (Centre Asie du Sud-Est, EHESS, Paris, France)
Helen Porter (SOAS, London, UK)
Caroline Riberaigua (Institut d’Etudes Indiennes du Collège de France, Paris)
Rachel Rowe (University of Cambridge, UK)
Alice Vierstraete (EFEO, Paris, France)
Arundhati Virmani (EHESS, Paris, France)
Burzine Waghmar (SOAS Library, London, UK)
Holger Warnk (Library of Southeast Asian Studies, Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany)
Farzana Whitfield (SOAS Library, London, UK)
*could not be present but her paper was read

The meeting started on Friday, 3 July, with a welcome address by Prof. Yves Goudineau, Director of the École Française d’Extrême-Orient. He emphasized the importance of an active network and welcomed the SAALG/SEALG Annual Meeting as a sign of the growing sense of academic cooperation within Europe also in the field of South- and Southeast Asian collections.
In the first session Rachel Guidoni gave an overview of the “Major South Asia Collections in French Libraries” She described the history and the characteristics of collections kept in various research libraries throughout France. Some of these collections are still little known outside of France, despite the fact that they contain some unique and precious items and a vast range of materials that could form relevant resources for research.
The second speaker, Holger Warnk, introduced “The Nachlass of Maurice Durand in the Library of Southeast Asian Studies in Frankfurt”. Maurice Durand (1914-1966), a former director of EFEO in Hanoi, bequeathed his legacy to Yale University, where it is kept in 121 boxes. However, for reasons unknown more than 20 folders of bibliographical references and notes ended up in the library of the Goethe University Frankfurt in 1969.
Arundhati Virmani talked about “The Archives of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Marseille Province: A Source for Modern Indian History”. Surprisingly, these archives which have fascinating and rare materials on the maritime trade on the Indian Ocean, South Asia and Southeast Asia have to date not received due attention.
Cécile Capot presented “A Brief History of the Archives of the French School of Asian Studies”, depicting the history of these collections covering their creation in Asia, their arrival in France at the end of the 1950s after the French School of Asian Studies had closed its doors in Vietnam, up until the present day situation.

After the lunch break the participants were invited to visit the EFEO Library, located next to the conference room. There, a selection of manuscripts, rubbings, photographs, and maps was showcased especially for the conference participants.
The second panel of the day opened with a presentation on “The Lanna Manuscripts Project at the EFEO”François Lagirarde and his team recorded and digitized more than 18.000 pages of manuscripts from 41 monastic libraries in Northern Thailand and from the public library of the Siam Society. Almost all of them are in the Northern Thai language and use tham (Dhamma) script.
Olivia Pelletier and Isabelle Dion gave a talk on “Archives about Indochina in the National Overseas Archives (ANOM)” in Marseille, which house rich materials on Indochina and India. Illustrated by selected examples, the importance and variety of iconographic resources on Indochina were highlighted.
Jérôme Petit spoke on ”Missionaries, Travellers and Scholars: The Building of an Indian Manuscripts Collection at the National Library of France”, focusing on the more than 1.800 Sanskrit and more than 1.000 manuscripts in other Indian languages kept in the National Library. The beginnings of this collection date back to the early 18th century.
Jacqueline Filliozat, the author of the last paper entitled “The Odyssey of the Pali Manuscript EFEO Collection”, unfortunately could not attend the meeting. François Lagirarde kindly agreed to read out her paper and subsequently to present an exquisite selection of manuscripts on her behalf. There are more than 900 Pali manuscripts kept in Paris, the majority of which originate from Sri Lanka and the Buddhist states of Mainland Southeast Asia.

SEALG Business Meeting
In the late afternoon and with some delay due to the enormous heat, people met up for the SEALG and the SAALG Annual Business Meetings.
Present were Inga-Lill Blomkvist, Annabel Gallop, Claudia Götze-Sam, Per Hansen, Jotika Khur-Yearn, Holger Warnk, Nicolas Martland and Liubov Goriaeva and Hèléne Poitevin, who both attended as guests.
Apologies had been received from Sud Chonchirdsin, Jana Igunma, San San May, Lesley Pullen, Stella Schmidt.
Doris Jedamski welcomed all participants. After delivering special greetings from SEALG’s former chairperson Jana Igunma and informing about further apologies for the current meeting, she presented the minutes from the annual meeting 2014 in Frankfurt and the financial report that had been compiled by our treasurer Margaret Nicholson. On behalf of Jana Igunma, Doris briefly reported on the SEALG weblog and forwarded Jana’s appeal to all members to send in contributions.
Then Doris Jedamski reported on the book project which had been discussed at the previous meeting. First negotiations with one of the approached publishers had resulted in a tentative business plan for a possible SEALG book publication. The monograph will most likely be published both as print and as e-book. Two major problems, however, need to be tackled first: due to the immense workload that everyone has to cope with, it has become clear that such a publication project will have to be planned and carried out by a group of SEALG members willing and able to commit themselves to this project. It cannot be the responsibility of just one or two members. Furthermore, it has also been agreed upon a new approach. A conference volume is no longer desirable; the SEALG Newsletter will, however, still offer a platform for the publication of our conference papers. For the book publication a self-contained concept or theme is needed. Due to certain circumstances this project does not have priority at the moment but will be pursued in the future.
In connection with the publication project the question of fundraising has been touched upon. The idea was welcomed to contemplate fundraising activities, and even a small membership fee was shyly considered in order to finance measures to increase the visibility of the SEALG.
Next we discussed possible dates and venues of the SEALG Annual meeting in 2016. Both colleagues from Copenhagen, Per Hansen and Inga-Lill Blomkvist, were addressed and promised promised to investigate possibilities of holding the 2016 meeting in Scandinavia, possibly Copenhagen. Hamburg was noted as a second option, but could not be discussed further since the colleague was absent.

In their reports, the members often referred to somber news related to budget cutbacks and extensive workload, but also successfully completed projects and initiatives were mentioned.
The colleagues from Copenhagen reported that the removal of their libraries has been completed and that their work tasks have been adjusted to the new situation.
Annabel Gallop announced the successful completion of a digitization project that had started in 2012. In collaboration with the National Library of Singapore and funded by William and Judy Bollinger, 56 Malay manuscripts have been digitized and are now online accessible on the British Library’s site.
Claudia Götze-Sam elaborated on the drastic development at the library of Berlin State University. After many years of financial security, the library can no longer rely on the generous funding from The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DfG). With a major shift in focus the DfG has reduced its involvement in special collections drastically.
Holger Warnk reported for the Library of Southeast Asian Studies at Frankfurt that the retro-conversion of the catalogue had been completed in June 2015. The integration of the OPAC of the former Asia House Library is delayed due to technical problems. Furthermore, he reported on the efforts related to this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair with Indonesia as special guest of honour.
Liubov Goriaeva provided an overview on libraries in Moscow that hold materials on Southeast Asia and lamented the poor state they were in.
Jotika Khur-Yearn reported that SOAS Library has implemented its library management system (LMS) from the Millennium to Kuali Open Library Environment, known as “Kuali OLE”. Also there was a significant change of staff members at senior level, as the heads of three sections of Acquisition, Archives & Special Collections and Teaching & Research Support retired or left, a new post was created as ‘Assistant Director – Research Library Services’ for the Directorate of the Library & Information Services to be in charge of the three sections.
Doris Jedamski informed the group about the latest developments at the Leiden University Library. Since 2010 three of the major Dutch heritage collections in the field of South- and Southeast Asia have been transferred to the Leiden University Library (UBL): the Library of the Institute Kern, the heritage and map collection of the Royal Tropical Institute Library, and, in 2014, the KITLV collection. The work pressure has increased drastically, but the possibilities to put these Asian collections more visibly on the map have increased as well. The preparations for the new Asian Library, to be opened in 2017, have begun and are very intense – all in all a fabulous challenge.
The Business Meeting was closed rather hastily due to the fact that the building was about to be locked. In the evening people met up for the conference dinner at Oscar’s – a French-Basque restaurant with a fabulous Basque waitress not easy to forget.

Saturday, 4 July 2015
On Saturday morning, we met at Musée Guimet for a guided tour through the impressive exhibitions on Asian art and the library of the museum. We were welcomed by the Chief Librarian, Mrs Cristina Cramerotti, who gave an overview over the history of the library and its current function. She emphasized the uniqueness of this library which had been designed to be the actual core of the collection; the museum was added later and was supposed to support the library. In the reading room we could also enjoy an exhibit of exquisite items from the collection. The second part of the visit was dedicated to the museum’s exhibition. Our very knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide, Mrs Gabrielle Gabbe, took us to see tangka’s, numerous splendid Buddha statues and reliefs, and the most delicate ancient objects of glass.

SEALG afternoon panel
This last session of the conference took place in the Panthéon Bouddhique, kindly opened up for us on a Saturday by Mr. Daniel Soulié.
The first speaker of the SEALG afternoon session, Annabel Gallop, spoke about the “Digitization of Malay and Indonesian manuscripts: an overview”. She demonstrated the ongoing efforts by showing examples of Malay manuscripts that were successfully digitized, at the same time pointing out difficulties that were encountered. Furthermore she elaborated on funding models.
Next, Claudia Götze-Sam informed us with her presentation “From Special Collections to Scientific Information Services: What Does It Mean for the Southeast Asian Collection of the Berlin State Library?” on the recent developments of the transformation of the concept of the “Special Collections” by the German Research Foundation into new structures of “Scientific Information Services” for a scientific community.
Liubov Goriaeva presented a paper on “French Studies of Malay-Indonesian Written Tradition: A Glance from Russia” which showed the importance of French scholars studying the literatures of Indonesia and Malaysia for the last two centuries, being among the first editors and translators of traditional Malay texts.
Jotika Khur-Yearn followed with a talk on “Where the French and the Shan Meet: Social Conditions at the Dawn of Colonial Rules in the Upper Mekong Regions during the late 19th and Early 20th Centuries”. He depicted the first stages of his research on the Shan settlement in the Upper Mekong regions of Burma and Laos.
The last speaker, Doris Jedamski, dedicated her paper to the “Ephemera – the Forgotten Ones?”. Ephemera are meant for short-time usage and considered to have no lasting value. Items such as posters, commercial flyers, menu cards, grocery lists, cinema and concert programs and even tickets, they all are usually not collected by libraries, despite the fact that they can provide relevant historical insights, in particular in daily social life. Jedamski made an urgent plea to start collecting ephemera systematically and to make them widely accessible through digitization.

Finally, we would like to thank Helen Porter and her colleagues from SAALG for the marvellous cooperation. Our special thanks go to Maïté Hurel and her EFEO team who turned this SAALG-SEALG Meeting into a great success and a wonderful experience in the tropical heat of Paris.

Doris Jedamski, Holger Warnk