Wikimedia Indonesia and Wikimedia Nederland worked together to provide access to a piece of their shared history. Letters written in Dutch by Ki Hadjar Dewantara, an Indonesian pioneer for education and independence, were digitised by Wikimedia Indonesia and transcribed by Wikimedia Nederland. By now, they have also been translated into Bahasa Indonesia.
Ki Hadjar Dewantara, also known as Suwardi Surjaningrat, was a pioneer in the fight for education for Indonesians and an important figure in the Indonesian independence movement. The Museum Dewantara Kirti Griya in Yogyakarta holds his correspondence. Many of his letters dating back to the early 20th century were written in Dutch, they are also frequently handwritten, making them difficult to access for modern-day Indonesians.
In 2017, Wikimedia Indonesia reached out to Wikimedia Nederland: could the two chapters jointly make the correspondence of Ki Hadjar Dewantara accessible for scholars and historians? From the beginning, there was enthusiasm on both sides and it was decided that Wikisource would be a good platform.
Wikimedia Indonesia worked hard to digitize the correspondence from the archives of the Museum Dewantara Kirti Griya.They had to be very careful with the fragile old letters and were not allowed to scan them in high resolution. After scanning, the files were uploaded to Wikimedia Commons:
In December 2017, Wikimedia Nederland volunteers made a start with transcribing the content of the letters written in Dutch and make them available via WikiSource.
Because many letters were handwritten, the work in Wikisource was totally different from the normal transcription process. There was no OCR possible for the handwritten letters, so text had to be transcribed ‘manually’ by three experienced Dutch WikiSource volunteers. Using the tools in the proofread-extension of Wikisource, the process was made a lot easier.
By December 2018 the transcription process was completed.There were 365 letters from the library of the museum uploaded to Commons. About 160 letters were in Dutch and those were transcribed on nl.wikisource. Most of them are now also translated in Bahasa Indonesia.
From Indonesia there was this response:
“I would like to thank you for your kind efforts in transcribing those letters. I can say it is very helpful for the museum to exhibit the transcription in their place. On Wednesday (Dec. 12, 2018), I went to the museum and talking how the project benefits them. They were very grateful for the collaboration between the Museum, WMID, and also WMNL in digitizing the letters. In October 2018, there was a local museum exhibition in Yogyakarta where every archive institution can bring their valuable items to be exhibited, and some of the transcriptions (and the translations, of course) were printed and presented in front of the public. Some of them are helped with the transcriptions when they were reading the letters, and they are able to understand what the letters say. I was contented at hearing their story of our mutual project.”
The project is a great example of how Wikimedians can work together across continents to provide access to knowledge about a shared history. Thanks to this cooperation, letters written over a century ago by a pioneer of education are now available for scholars and historians.
Our thanks go to the Wikimedians WeeJeeVee, DickBos, Annekewiki and Meursault2004, who were responsible for transcribing and translating!
Wikimedia Nederland is keen to work with partners across the globe. Dutch archives, libraries and museums hold a treasure trove of knowledge related to Africa, North and South America, Australia and Asia. Reach out to us, if you feel we can work together to make this information available.
Link to the letters: