Arts and Culture
Many books and articles have been written about the railways, impressive ocean liners, and the airplanes that connected places in the Dutch East Indies - and the Dutch East Indies with the World. They cover the “bigger picture” of travel and transport to, from, and within the Dutch colony. A more intimate picture is painted by materials that were never meant to survive time: train tickets, itineraries, flyers, travel brochures, suitcase stickers, hotel reservations, menus and restaurant bills, entrance tickets, and concert programmes, to name only a few. Many of them tell whole stories, some are a mere fragment of a memory lost. None of them were meant to last longer than the time that it took to fulfil their task: one train ride, the passage by ship, the memorable concert or the lovely dinner in town, the golf weekend in the mountains. One might say that such ephemera are accidental moments that survived time because they found shelter in oblivion for a while. Together they communicate a “structure of feeling”, a sense of everyday-life, unknown to many other historical sources.
This paper aims at exploring this facet of travel that to date has escaped broad scholarly curiosity, probably because the source materials, ephemera, are not yet widely accessible. They are collector’s items and often kept hidden away in private collections. The Leiden University Libraries/KITLV have been building up a collection of ephemera related to the Dutch East Indies/Indonesia which forms the basis for this research in progress.