Workshop focusses on preserving manuscripts

Syazwani Hj Rosli

The conservation of priceless manuscripts is far from an easy task, with the preservation and restoration process often delayed by lack of proper equipment.

“It is further complicated from the lack of laboratories and skilled and expert staff, which will result in huge losses when the manuscripts become even more damaged,” said Acting Director of Museums Pengiran Hajah Mahani binti Pengiran Haji Ahmad at the opening of a five-day workshop on the basic conservation and digitalisation of manuscripts yesterday.

Organised by the National Archives of Brunei Darussalam, in collaboration with the Conservation and Restoration Section of the Museums Department under the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS), the workshop is intended to promote awareness on preservation work and the value of collection materials, particularly manuscripts.

The process of digitalisation is one of the methods to preserve manuscripts in their physical form and the content. Through this process, the content of the digital manuscript can be accessed quickly and easily, without touching the original copy.

Pengiran Hajah Mahani said that manuscripts are valuable as primary sources, as well as proof of a nation’s cultural heritage.

Participants during the workshop. PHOTO: BAHYIAH BAKIR

“Some owners consider manuscripts as intellectual property. They are willing to preserve what has been handed down by their forefathers, without realising the contents, while storing these manuscripts in chests, within the house ceiling and so on,” she said.

“Natural factors such as moisture, sunlight and air pollution can cause manuscripts to become damaged and easily fragile. Apart from that, insects such as termites, silverfish and cockroaches are also capable of destroying and obliterating manuscripts.”

A total of 29 participants from various government agencies are currently attending the workshop, and will be exposed to the practical and theoretical knowledge of paper conservation which include visits to the Conservation and Restoration Section of the Museums Department, the Language and Literature Bureau and PenBorneo.

Throughout the workshop, several conservation methods will be displayed, such as the physical repair of tissue.

“Preservation efforts through the aspect of content will also be carried out physically, by the transfer of the original form into digital, as a measure to save manuscripts from extinction,” said Pengiran Hajah Mahani.

She also highlighted the need to raise awareness on the importance of manuscripts, to ensure that the collection of national treasures would be in sound condition for the reference of current and future generations.

The workshop will end on October 3.