The Diaries and Travel Writings of King Chulalongkorn of Siam

In October 2005, Ohio University Libraries purchased of the private library collection of the late Cornell University professor David K. Wyatt. The collection, consisting of roughly 15,000 volumes, about half of which are in Thai, includes most of the standard works on Thailand and Southeast Asia in general, a substantial number of Thai royal chronicles, the greater part of King Chulalongkorn's (1868-1910) diaries and letters, and an extensive array of monographs, memoirs and cremation volumes.

Thanks in large part to funds provided by the United States Department of Education TICFIA (Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information Access) grant, Ohio University Libraries, in collaboration with Digital Initiatives, Lyrasis, the Internet Archive, and the Southeast Asia Digital Library, was able to digitize a selection of rare Thai-language materials from the David K. Wyatt Collection. The digital collection consists of King Chulalongkorn's 24-volume diary, spanning the years 1876 to 1887, and more than thirty volumes of travel writings, which chronicle the King's royal visits to India, Malaya, Singapore, Java, Western Europe, Russia, and the remote corners of Siam.

The importance of this digital project to Thai and Western scholars merits brief explanation. The reign of King Chulalongkorn, 1868 to 1910, was indeed a memorable one. It marked a critical watershed in Thai history. He ruled the Kingdom of Siam with an astuteness and foresight at a time of extraordinary danger and change. Many scholars credit Chulalongkorn with transforming Siam from a traditional Southeast Asian kingdom into a modern nation-state. Chulalongkorn's diary and travel writings, which constitute one of the single-most important collections of primary sources on the period, shed much light on the history of the fifth reign. A further reason Ohio University Libraries chose to digitize the writings of King Chulalongkorn at this time is that 2010 (October 2010, to be more specific) marks the 100th anniversary of his death.