In 2005, the US Department of Education's Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information Access (TICFIA) program awarded a four-year, $780,000 grant to a consortium of institutions from around the world to create the Southeast Asia Digital Library. The grant was administered by Northern Illinois University (NIU) Libraries, which also housed and maintained the digital library. A consortium of institutions represented by librarians from the Committee on Research Materials on Southeast Asia (CORMOSEA) and faculty from participating institutions acted as an advisory committee to guide the digital library from its inception. Work on the library commenced at NIU Libraries and around the world in October 2005 to provide free access to archives of textual, still image, sound, and video resources, covering both historical and current information from the region.
Over the four years of the grant, the Southeast Asia Digital Library supported eight constituent content projects at partner institutions in the US and Southeast Asia. The projects include:
- Upgrades to an online bibliographic index at Thammasat University (Thailand), creating an interface to access the index and providing a full-text article delivery service;
- Digitization of palm leaf manuscripts from Northeastern Thailand at Khon Kaen University (Thailand).
- Creation of an archive of historical photographs covering a century of life in Cambodia, in partnership with Arizona State University;
- Provision of training seminars for librarians at the University of San Carlos’ Cebuano Studies Center (Philippines), covering the latest techniques in preservation, conservation, and digitization, resulting in the creation of an online archive of images and textual materials;
- Creation of a video archive of contemporary Indonesian television programming, in partnership with the University of Hawai’i, Manoa;
- Digitization of rare early printed works in the vernacular languages of the region, in collaboration with the British Library and Vietnamese Nom Preservation Foundation;
- Creation of a video archive of interviews with former political prisoners in East Timor, in partnership with the Living Memory Project (Australia);
- Conversion of the Berita Database at Ohio University, a collection of journal articles and other resources from Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region, to a free-use resource.
In 2009 the Southeast Asia Digital Library received a second round of funding from the TICFIA program, supporting the development of nine new initiatives. These include:
- Digitization of Buddhist murals and cloth paintings in Thai temples, supported by interpretive materials, in partnership with Chiang Mai University (Thailand);
- Digitization of Vietnamese art objects and criticism, supported by interviews with artists, from the Doi Moi (Renovation) period in Vietnam;
- Digitization of printed Vietnamese Nom materials, in partnership with the Vietnamese Nom Preservation Foundation;
- Development of a bibliographic database of digitized Islamic manuscripts from Indonesia, in partnership with the State Islamic University of Indonesia;
- Digitization of archival photographs and videos discussing and documenting Indonesian literature and culture, in partnership with the Lontar Foundation (Indonesia);
- Creation of a video archive of interviews with surviving victims of the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia;
- Digitization of selected works from the Malay and World Civilization Library, National University of Malaysia;
- Digitization of Buddhist murals in Laos, supported by interpretive materials.
In addition, the Southeast Asia Digital Library will work with many US institutions and international partners to link with already completed digital projects in Southeast Asian Studies to create a network of resources available to students, teachers, scholars, government officials, and many others with interest in the region. Collaboration on future projects will also enable these institutions to use available resources more efficiently by continuing to build the cooperative digital library.
Produced with funding provided by the US Department of Education's TICFIA program