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Ohio University Libraries awarded grant to develop Southeast Asia Digital Library

Ohio University Libraries has been awarded a $1.2 million grant to develop the Southeast Asia Digital Library in collaboration with 14 other institutions.

The five-year grant was awarded by the Henry Luce Foundation. The project will update the Southeast Asia Digital Library with a new generation of digital initiatives and expand its collection of materials to further enhance studies of Southeast Asia, including language program support.

“When the grant opportunity came up, it was almost like the call for proposals was written for us. It was perfect,” said Jeff Shane, OHIO’s Southeast Asia reference librarian and principal investigator and author of the grant. “Its emphasis was on sustainability and finding new innovative ways to collaborate, to develop human resources and to develop an infrastructure to make sure that whatever we do is sustainable — and that it lives well beyond the life of the grant.”

The collection will include a collaborative effort with the Thai Film Archive, including the digitization, translation and English-language sub-titling of approximately 60 Thai feature and documentary films produced primarily between 1957 and 1977.

“The Southeast Asia Digital Library will capture the history and culture of Southeast Asia in a state-of-the-art digital archive,” Interim Ohio University Libraries Dean Janet Hulm said. “This will allow students and faculty much greater access to information that can otherwise be challenging to locate.”

OHIO is partnering with 14 institutions that are all members of the Committee on Research Materials on Southeast Asia (CORMOSEA). The grant will fund two positions, a web developer at Northern Illinois University and a digital librarian at Cornell University, to spur infrastructure development and capacity building.

“We’re excited to be a part of a collaboration that will allow for an enhanced learning experience about an important part of the world,” Executive Vice President and Provost Chaden Djalali said. “This project will allow students and academics around the globe greater insight into the rich tapestry of life represented in Southeast Asia.”

Since 1969, CORMOSEA libraries have built world-class collections that support the curriculum and research of faculty and students studying Southeast Asia. In the past, that has largely focused on collecting print materials from the region, while counterparts in Southeast Asia have been concentrating on building digital collections.

The new upgrades funded by the Luce grant will create a new, state-of-the-art web platform and discovery tools, and will launch the next generation of cutting-edge, digital initiatives, allowing libraries and librarians to play a more active, direct role in strengthening and innovating the scholarly infrastructure. This project will open new avenues for collaborations for faculty in the U.S. and counterparts in Southeast Asia, including with the University of Humanities and Social Sciences Ho Chi Minh and the National Library of Cambodia.

The project will also allow for the identification of rare, unique, and largely inaccessible materials in Southeast Asia that are in critical need of preservation.

“This grant represents a fantastic opportunity to expand academic knowledge of Southeast Asia and I’m proud that Ohio University is leading this effort,” Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis said. “We appreciate the strong support of our partner institutions and the Henry Luce Foundation, without whom this important project would not be possible.”

The program has the support of all the partner organizations and will be sustained by the partners after the five-year grant term has ended.