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About SouthEast Asian Images & Texts

About SouthEast Asian images & Texts SouthEast Asian Images & Texts brings together, in digital form, two categories of primary and secondary resources: research and teaching materials collected by University of Wisconsin faculty and staff; and unique or valuable items related to these fields held by the University of Wisconsin Libraries.

This collection contains digitized images, including photographs and slides, that librarians, scholars, and other subject specialists have deemed important to these fields of study will be added to the collection on an ongoing basis.

It is hoped that the search features of the collection will be a convenient aid to scholarship, study, and teaching of these disciplines.

More Information about Selected Subcollections

American Expatriate Album: Iloilo Philippines

E. Murray Bruner Philippine Image Collection

E. Murray Bruner Philippine Image Collection E. Murray Bruner was a member of the Philippines Constabulary, First Company Isabella, 1906—1910. The album was temporarily lent to the State Historical Society of Wisconsin for microfilming by E. Murray Bruner's son in the 1980s, and to Alfred W. McCoy to be digitally scanned and become part of the SEAiT Collection from 2004—2005. It has since been returned to the family.

Images of Angkor Wat

Images of Angkor Wat This collection of 120 photos was taken by Miss Margaret Parx Hays during her Christmas vacation to Siem Reap in 1954 while she was stationed in Manila as a Consul of the American State Department. Taken ninety years after Henri Mouhot’s first visit to Angkor sparked French orientalist fever, more than a decade before the American bombing campaign during the Vietnam war, twenty years before the horrors of the Khmer Rouge were in full swing, and over half a century before The New York Times travel section would report on posh Cambodian vacations in its 2008 article “36 hours in Siem Reap”, these photos offer an opportunity to view Angkor at an unassuming moment in its existence. <more>

Images of Wat Tham Krabok Refugee Camp

Wat Tham Krabok Refugee CampThe Wat Tham Krabok refugee camp, located on the grounds of a similarly named Buddhist monastery, “Cave of the Teaching Monastery”, about 81 miles north of Bangkok, the Thai capital, was the last Hmong refugee camp in Thailand. This collection consists of 200 images primarily taken by Pao Lor as a member of a Fulbright-Hays Group Study Abroad delegation of Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) educators who visited the camp in July 2004 when he was an assistant principal and language arts teacher at Neenah High School in Neenah. <more>

Joel M. Halpern Laotian Slide Collection

Joel M. Halpern Laotian Slide Collection Consisting of slightly over 3000 images, the Joel M. Halpern Laotian Slide Collection is a unique portrait of life in Laos. Nearly all of the images were personally taken by Professor Halpern, an anthropologist, in Laos in 1957, 1959, and 1969. He initially went to Laos as a Junior Foreign Service Officer attached to USOM, the U.S. Operations Mission, in January 1957 and stayed until January 1958. Subsequently supported by the Rand Corporation and a University of California Junior Faculty Fellowship, Prof. Halpern returned to Laos in 1959 to conduct a study of, in particular, the Lao elite. His stays and research resulted in some of the first American academic work on Laos, a French colony from 1893 to 1953, most notably the 22—volume Laos Project Paper series published by UCLA. In 1969, Prof. Halpern went back to Laos again as chairman of the Mekong River Commission. Following appointments at UCLA, Brandeis University, and Harvard University, Prof. Emeritus Halpern retired in 1992 after teaching 25 years at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Digitization of his extensive slide and photo collection commenced at the University of Wisconsin—Madison in late 2003, with the metadata phase being completed in early 2005. As a part of SEAiT, the Halpern Collection represents the project's initial component for Laos. <more>

Liberato Picar Philippines Military Academy Album

Liberato Picar Philippines Military Academy Album The SEAiT collection contains sixty—one photographs from two albums compiled by Captain Liberato Picar, an alumnus of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) and a retired Philippine Navy officer. These photographs illustrate cadet life during his four years at the PMA in Baguio City from 1936 to 1940. <more>

Library of Congress Philippines Image Collection

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Image Collection

United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia: UNTAC Archives

UNTAC Radio Archive The UNTAC Radio Archive is a unique collection. It can be considered as a Cambodian historical item. The collection features the democratic transition in Cambodia in early 1990s, after the end of Cold War. The radio program was established in October 1992, began broadcasting on 9 November 1992 and ended on 22 September 1993. The radio was a very effective tool for UNTAC to get its information on the electoral process, human rights and other UNTAC’s activities to Cambodian people across the country. The collection consists of around 232 programs in which comprises of 2,462 paper documents and 2,113 distinct tapes. The transcript and other types of text-based documents are in English, Khmer or/and French, while audio tapes are only in Khmer except some interviews with non-Khmer speakers. <more>

Background of the SEAiT Project

  1. Introduction—Original Aims of the Project:


    Throughout the 1995–96 academic year, a team drawn from diverse divisions and departments from across the University of Wisconsin–Madison cooperated in the development of a digital archive of historical photography for Southeast Asia. Under the original grant from the University of Wisconsin's Division of Information Technology (DoIT), the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, working with staff at Memorial Library, agreed to create an on–line archive of historical photography that would meet the following project agenda:

    1. To draw scattered historical photographs of Southeast Asia into a single accessible source.
    2. To transfer these visual resources into a standard digital format.
    3. To make these resources available for classroom use, for faculty and student research, and for a variety of other applications.
    4. To provide a model for other digital image projects.
    5. To create a bibliographic standard for archiving images.


    The SEAiT project has indeed fulfilled its aims and created a unique resource for the study of Southeast Asia. In fulfilling this contract, the project has tried to engage some broader conceptual issues about the uses of historical photographs in teaching and research.

  2. Conceptual Frame of the Project:

    Increased Accessibility:

    One key aim of the project has been to transform historical photographs from artifacts into documents—searchable, citable, and, above all, accessible. After a 150 years of photography, our vast collections of historical photographs remain, for the most part, little more accessible than illuminated Latin manuscripts in the Middle Ages. If a scholar needs a photo of, say, a Filipino senator or a Malay sultan, s/he has to travel to the relevant archive, spend days searching boxes and albums without any detailed finding—aid, and then wait weeks or months until a copyist can process and mail a positive print. Like a medieval monk, every scholar who wishes to use that same image has to repeat this tedious pilgrimage. In effect, our vast holdings of historic photographs, save a select number of oft—reprinted images of the famous or momentous, are largely inaccessible for teachers and scholars.

    Through digitizing and collection in a single online site, scholars will gain access to rare archival photos in a readily accessible format—thereby allowing quick search, selection, and projection for classes, instructional films, texts, and scholarly study.

    Non–Commercial Project:

    Given the small numbers of students and scholars interested in Third World area studies, it is unlikely that private firms could ever generate a profit by producing slide kits, CD–ROMs, and videos as they now do for historic images of Europe and America.

    Because the Internet and digital photography will facilitate the proliferation of historical and contemporary photographs, Third World areas will, as matters now stand, be excluded. This void is one that the commercial market is not likely to fill.

    Closing the Cultural Gap:

    As our culture becomes increasingly visual in its communication, photographs of foreign cultures have the capacity to bridge gaps—across the space that divides continents and across the time that separates us from the past. The creation of such an archive, in concert with similar projects for other areas of the Third World, could play an important pedagogic role in closing distances and making foreign cultures more accessible to American students.

    International Cooperation:

    Reflecting the realities of colonial power, the photographic record for most Southeast Asian nations is neatly divided—those before 1950 in the archives of the former colonial powers and those after independence in the country itself. Through digitizing, we can, for the first time, bridge this divide and create a comprehensive visual record which can be shared quite readily by both contributors.

    Scholarly Resource:

    After 150 years of photography and the creation of millions of images, this vast resource is still little used by serious scholars of any society. The process of transforming an archived photograph from artifact into document is so costly and tedious that scholars have, to date, made little use of the vast amount of information, both subjective and objective, visually encoded in our vast photo collections. In the late twentieth century, for example, the historical monograph has developed a curious convention: at the center of each book lies a signature or two of photographs, each succinctly captioned; but, within the surrounding text, the scholar takes care never to comment, beyond the briefest of passing references. Through digitizing, photographs can be transformed from artifact into document in ways that will optimize their utility to the scholarly community.

  3. Future Directions:

    Future Plans:

    Looking forward to the future of this project, we hope it will develop in several diverse yet complementary directions—building depth on the Philippines, adding breadth for the whole of Southeast Asia, and exploring classroom applications.

    Expand the Philippine Collection:

    Reflecting the strength of archival and library resources in the United States, the project can, without great difficulty, build a remarkably rich and diverse collection of photo images on the Philippines spanning the US colonial era from the 1890s to the 1940s.

    Working with cooperating institutions in Manila, we could easily add the next half century to create a comprehensive photo archive spanning more than a century. In effect, the Philippines would serve as a demonstration model, showing scholars the vast potential of this rich repository of visual data on everything from changing ecology to vernacular housing.

    Expand to Southeast Asia:

    Working with both ex–colonial institutions in Europe and national repositories in the region, we would like to build smaller, parallel collections for the other major Southeast Asian nations. Cooperating with the CIC—a consortium of the Big Ten universities plus the University of Chicago—this project can become the basis of future library cooperation. At present, the database has been expanded to include photographs from Laos in the mid–twentieth century. We hope that other projects will further expand the SEAiT collection.

    Classroom Applications:

    We plan to refine applications of this resource for classroom applications, both incorporation in existing courses and creation of new courses on photography and history.

Materials in the Collection

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