The KITLV collection: Rediscoveries

The relocation of the KITLV colletion to Leiden University Library resulted in the (re)discovery of valuable source materials that had not yet been made available to the public. Among them are two hundred fifty  issues of Sin Min (新民), ‘The New People’, a Malay-language newspaper published between 1947 and 1959 in early independent Indonesia, and a collection of students’ and labourers’ bulletins from the 1990s.

The complete series  of Sin Min from 1953 and 1954 is unique as none of these issues are present in the four other libraries in the world which have (incomplete) editions of the newspaper. It provides a hitherto unexplored Indonesian perspective on world politics in the 1950s.  In terms of Chinese-Indonesian history, several prominent historical figures have written for this newspaper, including Goh Tjing Hok (1919-1990), Oei Liong Thay (1914-?), Tan Boen Soan (1905-1952), Thio Soei Sen (1888-1967) and Tjoa Tjie Liang (1913-2006). Sin Min will be digitized, OCR’d and made available to the public by Leiden University Library in 2017 (OCR = Optical Character Recognition, a technology that allows computers to read text in images, making scanned texts searchable).

The presence of the bulletins that were produced by students’ and labourers’ organizations in the years directly preceding the Reformasi of 1998 in the KITLV collection is special for two reasons. First, because they are examples of so-called grey literature: materials produced by organizations outside of the traditional publishing and distribution channels and therefore difficult for libraries to acquire. And second, the bulletins voice the opinions of the two social groups that have been pivotal in propelling the movement that eventually led to the fall of president Suharto and subsequent political reforms.

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