Tue, 29 Jul 2003

RI manuscripts face destruction: Expert

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Most of Indonesia's ancient manuscripts kept by ordinary people may perish due to lack of awareness about manuscript conservation and the limited number of experts who could copy the written heritage, an expert says.

I Gusti Ngurah Anom, the cultural conservation and development head of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, said on Monday that most of Indonesia's rare manuscripts were still in the hands of non experts.

Only a few of the manuscripts are being preserved in museums across the country, he said.

Anom was speaking during the opening ceremony of the 7th International Symposium on Archipelago Manuscripts organized to commemorate the 41th anniversary of state-owned Udayana University and 45th anniversary of its school of literature in Denpasar, Bali.

The three-day symposium will also feature dozens of experts from various universities in Indonesia, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, the Netherlands and Germany.

Anom said the preservation of ancient manuscripts and books, both those kept by common people and those in museums, was essential to protect the country's history.

However, he acknowledged that the country lacked experts who have sufficient knowledge to make copies of the manuscripts.

"It is our duty to protect the rare manuscripts so that they do not perish," he said, adding that the country needed to improve its efforts to restore and copy the ancient manuscripts.

There is no exact figure on the number of ancient manuscripts in the country. The National Library today holds the largest collection of Indonesia's manuscripts in the world. However, some 30,000 are believed to be kept in some 30 countries.

Indonesian manuscripts, which are written in a wide range of languages and scripts, are also a rich storehouse of information for researchers from a wide range of disciplines. Indonesian manuscripts are a record of knowledge and events produced by past generations of scholars.

Unfortunately, most of the manuscripts, be it those in the libraries or those kept by individuals, are not in a good condition because most are made from organic material such as paper, palm leaf, bark, bamboo, rattan and the like, which are not durable and easily decay.