DIGITAL LIBRARY OF LAO MANUSCRIPTS

About DLLM: Project


Project

The three-year project to produce the Digital Library of Lao Manuscripts officially started in October 2007. Collaborating institutions are the National Library of Laos, the University of Passau, and the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin Preußischer Kulturbesitz.

The project has the support of the Government of the Lao PDR, which has granted permission for the manuscript collection to be made accessible via the Internet.

The grey-tone manuscript images were digitised by Herrmann und Kraemer GmbH & Co. KG, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, from over 1,000 rolls of microfilm taken by the National Library of Laos during its Preservation of Lao Manuscripts Programme. Colour images are directly digitised by staff of the National Library of Laos.

Data model and database design by Justin Reese and Justin MacCarthy with input from Harald Hundius and David Wharton. Website content by Harald Hundius and David Wharton. Database development and web integration by Justin Reese and Justin MacCarthy.

The server for the Digital Library of Lao Manuscripts is hosted and maintained by the East Asia Department of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. The database is maintained via Internet by the National Library of Laos. Master copies of digital data are stored at the National Library of Laos and at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin and the Gemeinsamer Bibliotheksverbund (GBV) in Germany.

Click here to see more technical information about the project.

The project is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and the Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung (BMZ, Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development), under the DFG/BMZ programme Research Cooperation with Developing Countries. Click here for more information about DLLM project funding.

The main aim of the project is to enhance the study of Lao literature and culture in Laos and internationally through making a countrywide selection of primary sources from the Lao literary tradition freely available via the Internet.

The project also seeks ways to enhance networking and coordination with related manuscript preservation and inventory projects in neighbouring countries and overseas, in particular in the development of digital libraries. It is to be hoped that digital images of Lao manuscripts held in collections outside of Laos may later be incorporated into the digital library.

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People

The Project Directors are Professor Dr. Rüdiger Korff, Chair of Mainland Southeast Asian Studies, University of Passau, and Mme. Kongdeuane Nettavong, Director of the National Library of Laos.

The Project Supervisor, Professor Dr. Dr. h.c. Harald Hundius, was Professor of Languages and Literatures of Thailand and Laos at the University of Passau from 1993 to 2004, during which time he also supervised the Preservation of Lao Manuscripts Programme. He conducted the first comprehensive survey of Lan Na manuscripts in the eight northernmost provinces of Thailand from 1971-1974, and later initiated the Preservation of Northern Thai Manuscripts Project, which was coordinated by Chiang Mai University’s Center for the Promotion of Arts and Culture. In recognition of his contribution to Northern Thai studies, he was awarded an honorary doctorate in Lan Na Language and Literature by Chiang Mai University in 2000.

The three-person research team, based at the National Library of Laos, comprises:

Researcher
Mr. David Wharton has worked at the Manuscript Section of the National Library of Laos since 2004, and previously worked in Cambodia for six years. He spent twelve years as a monk in the Thai forest tradition of Theravada Buddhism, and holds a BA degree in Mathematics and Philosophy from Durham University, UK.

Research Assistant
Mr. Bounchan Phanthavong has worked at the Manuscript Section of the National Library of Laos since 2000, and was a field researcher during the Preservation of Lao Manuscripts Project. He spent fifteen years as a Buddhist novice and monk in Laos and Thailand, and holds a BA degree in Buddhist Studies from Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University (Khorat), Thailand.

Data Assistant
Ms. Bouasy Sypaseuth has worked at the Manuscript Section of the National Library of Laos since 1996, and conducted data entry during the Preservation of Lao Manuscripts Project. She holds a BA degree in English Language from Thipvali College, Vientiane.

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Funding

The DLLM project is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) and the Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung (BMZ), under the programme Research Cooperation with Developing Countries. The application was jointly made by the National Library of Laos, the University of Passau, and the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin.

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) is the central, self-governing research funding organisation that promotes research at universities and other publicly financed research institutions in Germany. It serves all branches of science and the humanities by funding research projects and facilitating cooperation among researchers.

The DFG signed the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities on 22 October 2003, thereby demonstrating its efforts to promote the advancement of science through the funding of easily accessible, freely available electronic publications and to facilitate research based on the documentation of cultural heritage. The DLLM project was approved under its Scientific Library Services and Information Systems (LIS) programme.

The Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung (German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development) funds the overseas components of projects under the DFG/BMZ programme Research Cooperation with Developing Countries.

Additional funding and administrative support is provided by the University of Passau and the National Library of Laos. The direct digitisation of manuscripts held at the National Library of Laos, which started in late 2011, is supported by the German Foreign Ministry.

In addition to the Digital Library of Lao Manuscripts project, the National Library of Laos has an ongoing programme of manuscript preservation, research, and related work such as direct digitisation of texts. Click here to Contact Us if you would like to support this work.

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Statistics

The statistics in the following tables are updated as texts are inventoried and added to the database.

Number of texts and digital images by language and script

Language Script No. of Texts No. of Digital Images
Monolingual Pali Tham Lao 839 44,449
Tham Lan Na 4 78
Tham Lue 20 570
Khom 58 5,984
Other 2 17
Pali and Vernacular Tham Lao 8,470 333,387
Lao Buhan 93 3,083
Tham Lan Na 237 6,414
Tham Lue 870 30,750
Lik Tai Nuea 22 3,457
Khom 34 1,409
Thai 1 30
Lao Tham Lao 9,458 369,695
Lao Buhan 788 35,452
Tham Lan Na 6 215
Tham Lue 10 395
Khom 34 2,112
Other 2 110
Lan Na Tham Lao 4 195
Tham Lan Na 244 6,625
Khom 1 83
Tai Lue Tham Lao 6 215
Lao Buhan 2 80
Tham Lan Na 1 38
Tham Lue 884 31,116
Lik Tai Nuea 5 653
Other 1 51
Tai Nuea Tham Lue 4 267
Lik Tai Nuea 204 26,651
Tai Dam Khom 1 13
Tai Dam 1 32
Thai Tham Lao 9 401
Khom 7 308
Thai 4 87
Khmer Khom 1 9
Other Lao Buhan 1 59
Other 4 177
Total Monolingual Pali Texts 923  
Total Texts which contain Pali and Vernacular 1,265  

Click here for more information about languages and scripts found in the collection.

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Technical

Digitisation and Image Processing

The scanner used to digitise the PLMP microfilms was a NextScan Eclipse, at 300ppi resolution and in grayscale scan mode, with batch settings adjusted for each microfilm roll. Image processing to improve legibility was undertaken using Adobe Photoshop CS3, ThumbsPlus 7 Professional, and in-house tools at Herrmann und Kraemer GmbH & Co. KG.

It was not possible to make adjustments to individual images due to their huge number. While most images are clearly legible, there is considerable variation due to the condition of the original manuscript and also the quality of the microfilm copy used for digitisation (the microfilm master is archived in Vientiane). However, in some cases where downloaded images are difficult to read, significant improvements can be made using image enhancement tools such as those found in Adobe Photoshop.

Click here to see a guide to image enhancement for users of the DLLM Collection.

Direct digitisation at the National Library of Laos uses a Nikon D300s digital SLR (DX format) camera with a Nikon 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, mounted on a Kaiser Fototechnik copy stand and lighting system. The camera is tethered to a MacBook Pro laptop computer and operated using Nikon Camera Control Pro 2 software. The images are processed and the folios numbered using Adobe LightRoom 3 and Adobe Photoshop software.

Database and Website

The DLLM web application was developed using Ruby on Rails, with additional static content written in HTML, CSS and Javascript. The website is hosted on a Suse Enterprise Linux server and is maintained by the East Asia Department of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. The codebase is maintained using Git and deployed using Capistrano.

DLLM manuscript images are stored as JPEG files and the associated metadata are stored in a MySQL database and retrieved using ActiveRecord, a component of Ruby on Rails.

Image Search

The Image Search tool, available when viewing digital images of texts, is an experimental feature that allows users to search for words or phrases within the images of a given text. It uses a process called template matching to find regions in the images in which the pixels correlate well with the pixels in the region selected by the user. The algorithm overlays the region selected by the user with each possible region in each image in the text, and calculates the correlation between each corresponding pair of pixels in the region selected by the user and the regions in text images. Those regions in which the correlation exceeds a cut-off threshold, which maybe adjusted by the user, are displayed as results.

Digital Image Naming

The naming convention used for images digitised from microfilm is as follows:

PLMPaaaa_bbb_ccccccccccc_dd_eee_J72.jpg

Where aaaa is the 4-digit number of the microfilm roll in the PLMP collection, bbb is the 3-digit running number of the frame within the microfilm, ccccccccccc is the 11-digit PLMP code number for the manuscript bundle, dd is the 2-digit number identifying the text within the bundle, and eee is the 3-digit running number for the digital image frame within the text.

The name of each digital image therefore contains core information identifying its precise location in the PLMP microfilm collection as well as the unique PLMP Code Number assigned to each text, which identifies the location, category, and manuscript bundle of the original text. In a few cases, the Code Number appearing on the PLMP data sheet and at the bottom of the digital image frames has been corrected in the DLLM collection. All such cases are noted under Remarks in the Inventory.

Digital images of the PLMP data sheets are also included with each text, where available. There are normally two such images, named as above, but with DS1 and DS2 replacing the 3-digit running number for the digital image frame within the text (eee).

Note: Some duplicate or illegible microfilm frames have been omitted from the digital collection, which means that the running number of the microfilm frames (bbb) is not always consecutive. The running number for the digital frames within a text (eee) is always consecutive within each text.

The naming convention for directly digitised images is:

PLMP9999_000_ ccccccccccc_dd_eee_J72.jpg

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Contact Us

Click here to contact DLLM.

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