Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Southeast Asia Digital Library

Southeast Asia Digital Library

The South and Southeastern part of Asia is an area rich with a very old and productive culture; however their climate and very often the economies are not conducive to preserving artifacts of their cultural record. The Southeast Asia Digital Library attempts to gather a series of digital collection of books, photos, films, and other material from the different countries in Southeast Asia. My favorite is the Palm Leaf Manuscripts from Thailand. The ancient texts are in the form of palm leaf scrolls or manuscripts.

This organic material is very fragile and there are thousands of these invaluable texts written over the history of Asia, and the archivists and conservators have quite an insurmountable task ahead of in preserving them. The digitization of these manuscripts is currently thought of as one of the better ways to allow people to gain access, maintain records, and generally handle these fragile artifacts.

The Southeast Asia Digital Library based its selection criteria from the Digital Library of South Asia; both digital libraries are working to help a third world area preserve their cultural treasures and promote the study and access of non-English languages and cultures. I think the selection criteria is a bit fuzzy in terms of how they select what to digitize, but if the material conveys information about Thailand or South India or whatever country the manuscript may have come from, then it is considered a viable subject for digitization.

In organizing the material of the different items within the digital library, they have a menu that lets the user choose from images, books, videos, manuscripts, indexes, and reference materials. The metadata used to classify the different elements within the Southeast Asia Digital Library is mainly links to different collections with the name of the image/manscript/video and so on.

The collection of digital images present within the library is varied, but not vast. You really can't get an idea of how much there is that isn't digitized. This area is a bit weak as it's hard to get a scope of what else is out there.

The target audiences for the Southeast Asia Digital Library are students and professors specializing in Asian Studies, and maybe the occasional Asia enthusiast, like me!

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