The digitisation of Minangkabau's manuscript collections in Suraus (EAP144)

Aims and objectives

The main aim of the project is to digitise 250 manuscripts from five suraus in West Sumatra. These manuscripts contain various texts such as Al-Qur'an, Al-Qur'an Translation (Tafsir), Tasawuf, Fiqh, Agiography (The Stories of the Saints), Arabic Grammar, Minangkabau Laws, Kaba, Hikayat, Nazam, Azimat, Letters and Medicine which hold important information for Minangkabau culture and Islamic history. They will contribute greatly to the study of Islam, Tasawuf, Traditional Laws, Language, Literature, Culture, and Medicine in Indonesia.

The manuscripts are mostly written on European papers, some are written on traditional paper (Daluang) in the Arabic, Malay and/or Minangkabau language using Arabic or Perso-Arabic letters. They were written and copied in the 18 th and 19 th centuries. Some are now seriously neglected and decaying, the inks are washed out, pages are ripped apart and rotten. It is made worse by the fact that they are not kept in proper conditions and are piled up in rooms or above the ceiling in suraus together with other material.

Surau Lubuk Ipuh, Pariaman has 70 manuscripts with approximately 14,000 pages in total; Surau Bintungan Tinggi, Pariaman has 30 manuscripts with approximately 6,000 pages overall; Surau Pariangan, Batusangkar has 70 manuscripts with 14,000 pages in total; Surau Malalo, Solok has 50 manuscripts with 10,000 pages overall and Surau Tanjung, Pesisir Selatan has 30 manuscripts with a total of 6,000 pages.

After digitising the manuscripts the project team will structure and name the files, transfer the files onto CDs and send copies to the manuscripts owners (Suraus), and relevant institutions such as the British Library, Museum Aditiyawarman Padang, Balai Kajian Sejarah, IAIN Imam Bonjol and STAIN Batusangkar.

The project also aims to train local staff. The lack of awareness of the manuscript owners of the importance of their preservation, together with their lack of skills in archival management, are the greatest factors contributing to the destruction of this historical heritage. Therefore, the project includes training on manuscript preservation, archival management, manuscript photography, and creating manuscript catalogues to improve the knowledge and skill of local staff. The training will be conducted for the staff of Museum Aditiyawarman Padang; the Philology Laboratory of the Faculty of Letters Andalas University; the Center for History and Traditional Wisdom; the Center for Documentation and Information of Minangkabau Culture in Padang Panjang; IAIN Imam Bonjol Padang, STAIN Batusangkar, and representatives of suraus with manuscript collections. The training will be held in the first five days of the project, thereby ensuring the awareness and skills of the local staff are enhanced.


This project successfully accomplished its aims:

Firstly, training in manuscript preservation was held in the Faculty of Letters, Andalas University, Padang, over a period of five days. 26 people participated in the training from various local institutions. The training was delivered by experts in manuscript preservation, audiovisual media and archivists.

Secondly, the collections in five suraus have been digitised, comprising 253 manuscripts on 378 DVDs.

a. Surau Bintungan Tinggi

Surau Bintungan Tinggi was the first surau visited by the project. It is located in Padang Bintungan, Nan Sabaris, Padang Pariaman, West Sumatra, Indonesia. 36 manuscripts were digitised from this surau.

b. Surau Lubuk Ipuh

Surau Lubuk Ipuh is located in Kuraitaji, Padang Pariaman, West Sumatra, Indonesia. There were about 82 manuscripts photographed in this surau. The project members came to this surau on several occasions to seek permission and to convince the owner about the importance of this project.

c. Surau Pariangan

There were 33 manuscripts photographed in Surau Parak Laweh Pariangan, Pariangan, Tanah Datar, West Sumatra, Indonesia. In addition, Pariangan is believed to be the original land of the Minangkabau people, a view supported by manuscripts that were found to contain mysticism and magical power.

d. Surau Tanjung

The fourth place of this project was Surau Tanjung, Limau Sundai, Nagari Ampek Koto Hilia, Batang Kapeh, Pesisir Selatan, West Sumatra, Indonesia. There were 23 manuscripts photographed in this surau.

e. Malalo

In Malalo, manuscripts were found to be held by various owners, not just in one surau. 79 manuscripts were digitised here. The owners of manuscripts offered their collections to be photographed as they had heard that help could be given to them to preserve them using proper in a correct way. There were some manuscripts written here, indicating that this place was a scriptorium in the past.

f. Surau Tanjung

The last place visited by the project was Surau Tanjung, Limau Sundai, Nagari Ampek Koto Hilia, Kecamatan Batang Kapeh, Kabupaten Pesisir Selatan, West Sumatra, Indonesia. There were 23 manuscripts photographed in this surau.

Digital copies of the manuscripts have been deposited with the manuscript's owners. Unfortunately most of the suraus have no computer access to make use of the copies, but researchers may be able to use the digital copy to avoid unnecessary damage to the originals and the digitisation has ensured the long-term preservation of the material.

Complete sets of the digital collections have been deposited with relevant institutions: the Museum Aditiyawarman Padang, Balai Pelestarian Sejarah dan Nilai-nilai Tradisional, IAIN Imam Bonjol and STAIN Batusangkar as well as with the British Library.

The records copied by this project have been catalogued as: