| By Sydney Fairman |
The Gale Archives Unbound collection titled “Western Books on Southeast Asia” brings together nearly three hundred years of writings by travelers from Europe to Southeast Asia. These publications range from official reports of government sponsored expeditions to personal journals of people travelling through the region on business or pleasure.
Dating from 1606 to 1899, these publications give researchers firsthand, contemporary knowledge of how the region, or specific areas within Southeast Asia, were viewed by the Westerners who first came to trade and convert, and then to rule. The breakdown of the languages in the collection and the range of years covered by each language shown in the chart below will be useful for understanding its coverage.
In 1977, the Southeast Asia Collection was named in honor of John M. Echols (1913–1982), professor of linguistics and literature in the Southeast Asia program at Cornell University, who devoted three decades to its development. Cornell University Library and Gale later teamed up to help make this wonderful subset of the collection available to researchers based at other institutions.
With the ability to scan from microfilm, the challenging aspects of using the collection can now be eliminated as these publications are now incorporated into Archives Unbound. This allows people much quicker access than they would otherwise have, while avoiding the costs and inconveniences of traveling to find them in distant, restricted rare books reading rooms.
With the additional metadata added and the full-text optical character recognition procedure done during scanning, these texts are now accessible in ways that researchers could only dream of during the days of loading microfilm onto a reader.