TEMPO.CO, Leiden, The Netherlands - The largest collection of Indonesian books, documents and images are far from home: at the Asian Library in the Netherlands. Thanks to the internet, researchers and the general public can enjoy this hidden treasure from afar, as explained by librarians and academics in Leiden last weekend.
“Being in this library feels like being in a treasure cove. And we are the treasure hunters,” said Patricia Tjiook-Liem, chairwoman of the Chinese Indonesian Heritage Center, an organization focusing on the history of Chinese Indonesians who migrated to the Netherlands.
The Asian Library, officially opened last September, is part of the University of Leiden. The Library brought together all the Asian collection owned by the University and combined it with material from the libraries of the Royal Tropical Institute, which was closed in 2013, and the Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies KITLV. It houses millions of books, and hundreds of thousands of documents, images and recordings.
“We have the world’s largest collection on Indonesia,” said Marije Plomp, librarian for the South and Southeast Asian collection. Its treasures range from old Javanese manuscripts to magazines, newspapers and pop music records. “Much of our collection is accessible online,” Marije points out.
Academics doing research on Indonesia can immerse themselves in the Library’s richness. One of them is linguist Tom Hoogervorst, who is looking into the development of the Malay language in Indonesia. He has been looking at the language used in dailies and magazines in the early 20th century during the Dutch East Indies era. “Sometimes it would be a combination between Malay, Fujianese, Javanese and Dutch,” Hoogervorst explains, showing an image of an old advertisement using Arabic, Chinese, Malay and Latin script.