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Collectors, classifiers and researchers of the Malay World: How individuals and institutions in Britain in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries collected, arranged and organised libraries, archives and museums and how that impacts on today’s researchers

Martland, Nicholas (2004) Collectors, classifiers and researchers of the Malay World: How individuals and institutions in Britain in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries collected, arranged and organised libraries, archives and museums and how that impacts on today’s researchers. In: Libraries and the Construction of Knowledge about the Malay World, 2-3 August 2004, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Bangi, Malaysia. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

This paper briefly examines well-known libraries and archives in Britain with important Malay collections. However, it will highlight those less well-known libraries and other institutions that hold material of interest to researchers of the Malay World, particularly those institutions primarily perceived as dealing with the world of science rather than the humanities. Collections relating to the Malay World held in British libraries and archives are particularly rich in historical, literary and linguistic material. Historians, linguists and those interested in literature will obviously look to institutions such as the British Library, SOAS Library and other well-known centres of Asian history, linguistics and literature. But would they think to look in the libraries and archives of such places as the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; the Natural History Museum; the National maritime Museum; the Science Museum; the Zoological Society; the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine; and the Linnean Society? The great scientific institutions of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries collected a vast range of material, primarily focussing on their areas of interest, but not exclusively so. The boundaries between what we see as science, the social sciences and the humanities were less precise in the past than they are today, and historical collections held in scientific institutions cover a broader range of interests than many present-day researchers realise. In previous centuries a “scientist” was not just a person specialising in pure science but someone of a broad education who was as likely to be interested in not just his chosen field but in the wider world around him. His collecting, research and writing often reflected this wider interest. Such permissive collecting often led to items, that could be of interest to a varied range of researchers, being absorbed into, and unintentionally hidden in, a specialist collection. How something is classified and arranged in a collection can exclude information and restrict access as much as provide information and allow access. This paper will attempt to show the wealth of material on the Malay World held in British institutions, particularly scientific institutions, and suggests that researchers should look beyond a narrow view of their subject and where they think material would be held.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Items (Paper)
Additional Information: © Nicholas Martland
Keywords: Malay studies, Malaysia, Malaya, history of science, natural history, archives, libraries, museums, collections, classification, taxonomy, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Natural History Museum, National Maritime Museum
SOAS Departments & Centres: Services and Administration > Library and Information Services
Subjects: Z Bibliography. Library Science. Information Resources > ZA Information resources
D History General and Old World > DS Asia
Copyright Statement: Nicholas Martland, 2004
Depositing User: Nicholas Martland
Date Deposited: 07 Jul 2008 13:37
URI: http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/5074

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