The highlands of Sumatra remain one of the most neglected regions of insular Southeast Asia in terms of philology, history and archaeology. Our knowledge of highland life and political-economic ties with the lowlands and other parts of Southeast Asia remains limited, relying mainly on the first European accounts from the beginning of the 19th century. Manuscripts and artefacts from the material culture are hence the most valuable sources of information about the region. The project is expected to reveal substantial data on the trading connections between the highlands and the lowlands, providing additional clues to the interpretation of the archaeological data.
Of the more than 80 private collections held in Kerinci with over 200 manuscripts and hundreds of artefacts, this project intends to cover about 40-60 collections, resulting in a digital archive of rare ancient manuscripts and artefacts from the 14th to the 20th century.
Some of the manuscripts and artefacts have already almost completely disintegrated while others are in better condition, but the majority are in a suitable state for copying. The materials are kept as sacred heirlooms and getting access to the materials is subject to negotiations with the caretakers and is time-consuming. During several small-scale pilot projects a small number of manuscripts were documented, enabling a good network to be established and support gained from senior figures of the Kerinci society, including the regent (bupati) of the Kerinci regency. Through this network of support it will be relatively easy for permission to be granted to document the collections.
There will be close cooperation with archaeologists to classify the artefacts and gather as much background information about provenance, distribution, and age of the artefacts as possible. The manuscripts will also be closely examined and all manuscripts in the Kerinci script will be character mapped for a possible reconstruction of the development of the Kerinci script and its relation to neighbouring Sumatran scripts. Malay language manuscripts will be examined in cooperation with Indonesian and international scholars.
It is planned to centrally store all information (digital images, descriptions, and transliteration) in a searchable database, which will be made available to the national libraries of the three Malay speaking countries Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, the Indonesian National Archive, the British Library, and a selected number of national and international libraries with a strong SEA focus. The database will also be accessible online.
Visit the project website and view some of the digital collections.
Blog: Heirloom manuscripts from Jambi - October 2014
The records copied by this project have been catalogued as:
The catalogue is available here.