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SouthEast Asian images & Texts

The SEAiT Mission:
Putting rare materials into the hands of students

By digitally encoding photographs from Southeast Asia and adding them to an interactive multimedia database on the Internet, the SouthEast Asia images & Texts project (SEAiT) will provide significant resources for the study of Southeast Asia, which have previously been unavailable to students. SEAiT incorporates elements from a broad spectrum of social sciences, including history, geography, anthropology, and political science to create a fusion of multimedia presentations to traditional verbal and written instructions, allowing students to grapple far more successfully with the comparable complexities of Southeast Asian cultures.

  1. Background

    With the understanding that visual communication is central to the effective teaching of today's younger generations, whose imaginations and cognitive processes have been shaped from childhood by television, video games, and personal computers, it is important for all academic fields to consider the introduction of new multimedia technologies into the classroom and class assignments. Instead of simply showing a few slides or a film in lieu of lecture, we need to integrate images into lectures via multimedia presentations, not only as illustrations but as actual objects of discussion. Such visual materials would be of great value in courses dealing with distant, unfamiliar societies, where the limitations of traditional verbal and written instruction often leave students struggling to draw together theory, geography, and chronology into meaningful constructs. Furthermore, by creating assignments and supplemental course materials online, students will be drawn into the learning process by becoming active participants in manipulating the images and text on their computers.

    Unfortunately, in the study of Southeast Asia, the materials available for use in multimedia presentations simply do not exist. Unlike the tremendous amount of digital and traditional materials commercially available for the study of Western cultures, Southeast Asian resources are vastly under-represented, despite the region's growing economic importance. There are, however, significant holdings of Southeast Asian photographs and videos available, but are rarely accessible to the general public, and are located prohibitively far apart for usage by undergraduate students. Thus, SEAiT will be of significant educational importance, in that it will:

    1. Draw together these widespread resources into a single holding.
    2. Put these resources into standard digital formats for usage in a wide variety of applications.
    3. Make these resources easily available for faculty presentations and student research.
    4. Provide a model for other digital image projects.
    5. Create a bibliographic standard for archiving images.

    The first phase of SEAiT (see Project Description) focused on a large, local collection of photographs from the Philippines drawn from Memorial Library, the State Historical Society, and holdings of Center faculty. These images, and their bibliographic references and descriptive texts, have been used in a number of classes. Faculty from four departments associated with the Center for Southeast Asian Studies — Alfred W. McCoy and Michael Cullinane in history, Kathryn Bowie in anthropology, Dan Doeppers in geography, and Paul Hutchcroft in political science - will use these images in undergraduate classroom multimedia presentations, as materials for the creation of printed matter used in the classroom, or as supplemental materials for student use outside of class.

  2. Project Description

    The SEAiT project will be composed of four progressively larger phases, each building upon the experiences, data, and systems developed by prior phases.

    • Phase 1: Exploratory pilot program on digitizing a local collection of Philippine images, creating an interactive, multimedia website, and integrating the materials directly into the classroom learning experience.
    • Phase 2: Expansion of Philippines image collection to include all 6,000+ photos of the local collection of photographs.
    • Phase 3: Expansion of image collection to include national and international resources on Southeast Asia.
    • Phase 4: Integration of digital sound and video archives to SEAiT.

    Phase 1, funded by the DoIT Instructional Technologies Grant, focused on two main elements - preparation of materials for multimedia usage and access of those materials by students and faculty.

    SEAiT will digitally encoded 500 photos of a large (6,000+ image) collection of photographs from the Philippines, located at UW in Memorial Library, the Historical Society, and faculty collections. These photographs, collected by Prof. McCoy over the past fifteen years, are largely original photographs or duplicates made from original negatives, covering more than one hundred years of Philippine history. Aside from coming from library and newspaper archives in the Philippines, the photographs have also been collected from holdings at the University of Michigan Anthropology Museum, Ann Arbor, MI; The Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, IL; The Smithsonian Anthropological Archives, Washington, DC; The Library of Congress, Washington, DC; The U.S. National Archives, Washington, DC; The Defense Audio Visual Agency, Washington, DC; The U.S. Military History Institute, Carlisle, PA; Cornell University, Ithaca, NY; The Minnesota State Historical Society, St. Paul, MN; The Missouri State Historical Society, St. Louis, MO; The Wisconsin State Historical Society, Madison, WI; The Douglas MacArthur Memorial Archives, Norfolk, VA; And the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, Abilene, KA.

    Each of the selected photographs have been scanned and saved at a sufficient resolution, allowing for wide ranges of use such as high quality printing and photographic reproduction from the digital source. Equally as important as the images themselves, bibliographic records and descriptive texts on each image have been created. This information is considered essential to the project, because without it, the images are of limited academic use.

    The main access to SEAiT materials outside of the classroom is through the interactive database. When viewed, the database shows thumbnails of images with the related bibliographic and descriptive texts. When a thumbnail is clicked on, the full-sized image is displayed for the student, who has the option to download the image onto their own computer. Clickable links within the text of each document connects other images and documents together in a number of logical relationships for the student to browse through at their own speed and interest. More importantly, current software allows SEAiT to implement the following database searching tools, which will set SEAiT apart from the standard digital image project which aims to simpifly digitize photos for classroom display:

    1. An interactive atlas allows the user to click or focus in on specific islands, regions, cities, or sites to see associated images from the chosen area, which will serve to reinforce geographic skills.
    2. A group of pre-defined "canned" searches for the photographs including agriculture, buildings, crafts, etc.
    3. A text-based search engine for searching the descriptive data associated with each image, allowing the user to narrow searches by subject matter or key words.