Palm leaves to tablet as Lao manuscripts go online

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The nation’s heritage of palm leaf manuscripts is now available for everyone to read free of charge via their computer, tablet or mobile phone, Director of the National Library of Laos (NLL), Khanthamaly Yangnouvong said recently.

Containing priceless wisdom and ancient literary expression, images of these ancient palm leaf manuscripts are now widely accessible to everyone over the internet for the first time at http://www.laomanuscripts.net

Mrs Khanthamaly explained the NLL is in efforts to encourage readers to access Lao manuscripts more easily as an important goal of conservation.

The Digital Library is not only available for Lao Manuscripts. Books related to Lao linguistic dialects, history, tradition and culture will also appear on the E-book system.

The Preservation of Lao Manuscripts Programme (PLMP) is under of Lao Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, and received support from the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

PLMP was established in 1992 and ran for more than ten years. It followed an inventory project funded by the Toyota Foundation of Japan, laying the groundwork to reignite interest in the manuscripts held in rural Lao communities.

The oldest manuscripts known in Laos today are from the beginning of the sixteenth century.

Identified in the manuscripts held at NLL are at least seven different spoken languages transcribed in at least nine distinct written scripts.

The Digital Library of Lao Manuscripts (DLLM) has created images of over 12,000 texts from throughout Laos via collaboration between NLL and the University of Passau and the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin Preußischer Kulturbesitz.

The project was funded by the German Research Foundation and the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development.

There is a wide diversity in the manuscript collection, covering a broad geographical area and historical timeframe, different literary traditions and schools of scribes, and different languages and scripts.

The majority of the texts are from the Lao, Lan Na and Tai Lue traditions, with further texts in Tai Neua and Tai Dam.

The DLLM website also provides information about the Lao literary tradition, the Preservation of Lao Manuscripts Programme, study resources, and a gallery of photographs showing the manuscript preservation work of NLL.

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