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Assistance for Preservation of Written Cultural Heritage in Aceh

Assistance for Preservation of Written Cultural Heritage in Aceh

Tokyo University of Foreign Studies

Indonesia

Written Cultural Heritage in Aceh

2004-Ongoing Human Resource Development,Conservation and Restoration,Fundamental Research
01/03/2009
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BACKGROUND

Written Cultural Heritage in Aceh

Aceh, a province of Indonesia situated at the entrance of the Malacca Straits on the northern tip of the island of Sumatra, has flourished as a strategic emporium of trade between the East and West, from ancient times. It is also the first region in Southeast Asia to assimilate the Islamic religion (13th century). The Kingdom of Aceh played an important role in developing Islamic knowledge and culture in Southeast Asia, and came to be called “Mecca’s Verandah.” Scholars engaging in Islamic religious activities and literary activities converged in Aceh, particularly after the fall of the Kingdom of Malacca, a powerful trade state in the Malay Peninsula, and have left various literary works in the form of transcripts. Literature on history, law, Islamic teachings and interpretations, and legendary stories produced in Aceh has spread widely from Aceh to other Islamic regions in Southeast Asia.

Tsunami Damage to Written Cultural Heritage

The great earthquake that struck the coast off Sumatra on December 26, 2004 and the accompanying Indian Ocean Tsunami brought great damage to the coastal regions of the Indian Ocean, and left more than 100,000 dead or missing in Aceh Province alone. Along with the devastating loss of precious lives, the invaluable written cultural heritage of Aceh has also suffered a great loss. Many written materials that could provide important clues for unraveling Aceh’s past and its role in East-West commerce have been irretrievably lost, without their content or bibliographic information ever being known. Urgent support is therefore needed to survey and preserve what cultural heritage has survived the disaster.

The Provincial Archives of Aceh a fter the tsunami

ACTIVITIES

21st Century COE Program “Centre for Documentation and Area-Transcultural Studies” (2002 – 2006)

Tokyo University of Foreign Studies has initiated a 21st-century COE program called “Centre for Documentation and Area-Transcultural Studies,” and is aiming to create a network for the survey, preservation, and dissemination of local materials written in the various languages of Asia. These tasks have received little attention in the past, but are currently the focus of the program’s activities in Palembang and Minangkabau, Indonesia.

Lending Assistance to Restore Aceh’s Damaged Cultural Heritage

Shortly after the great earthquake and tsunami, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies received requests from various institutions and researchers in Indonesia for cooperation in restoring and preserving the cultural heritage of Aceh, and its historical documents in particular. Despite their historical significance, the survey of Aceh’s written cultural heritage had been making little progress due to security reasons, and had been creating concerns. The university therefore agreed to these requests, and began engaging in international cooperation activities in a capacity befitting the characteristics of the university, by firstly establishing the Aceh Project for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage in March 2005, as a framework of coordination and systematic implementation of activities with relevant institutions in Japan.

Aceh Provincial Museum

 Written Cultural Heritage in Aceh

RESULTS

Four Goals

1. Survey of the state of damage: Assessment of the state of damage to relevant parties, written cultural heritage, and repository institutions
2. Coordination of document conservation activities: Coordination among local institutions, central institutions, and universities, to facilitate cooperation and communication among all relevant parties in Indonesia
3. Survey of the actual state of historical documents in Aceh: Survey and cataloguing of historical documents found in principal institutions in Aceh; establishment of conservation measures; preservation of documents by conversion to digital format and other means
4. Cultivation of local experts: Training programs for the cultivation of local document experts, including local training for skills enhancement of document handlers and invitation programs for the cultivation of document handling supervisors

Their Status of Achievement

In the past two years, the project has practically achieved the first stage of its goals by carrying out an emergency survey and a survey on the state of damage from the earthquake and tsunami; establishing a framework of coordination with local institutions; providing basic and advanced training in the conservation of cultural heritage; and conducting a general survey of local documents. At present, continuous efforts are being made to survey and preserve the written cultural heritage that has survived throughout the Aceh region. The project is also aiming to develop local human resources in a wide range of fields, from the conservation to the research of written cultural heritage.

Training scene

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