Heritage and the Politics of Culture
Co-Authors: Lee Siew Kheng Gracie - Senior Librarian, National Library of Singapore
Concomitant with the creation of new colonial empires in Southeast Asia was the creation of knowledge societies and building of library collections both in the colonial capitals and in the metropoles. Involved in these processes were colonial officials, missionaries, merchants, scholars, collectors, librarians and curators, as well as local experts, in some cases anonymous, who became important producers of knowledge themselves. Underlying these networks of collecting were, on the one hand, networks of knowledge formation shaped by both intellectual traditions and movements in Europe, and on the other hand, movements and knowledge networks in broader Maritime Asia. This paper shall building of Asian collections in the British and Dutch imperial spheres in maritime Southeast Asia through the work of the respective royal societies in the colonial metropole and in colonial Asia. It shall focus on the roles of the Royal Asiatic Society and the Learned Society of the Royal Institute of Linguistics and Anthropology in building of such collections, and the broader networks connecting them to the Straits/Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society in Singapore and Malaya and the Royal Batavian Society in Java. It shall compare the structures and dynamics connecting locality, colonial centre, and metropole, and the intellectual debates and deliberations underlying these strategies and processes. Through a comparative approach, the study intends to examine the parallels and divergences between the histories of collection-building and knowledge formation in these two colonial spheres in Asia.