Upcoming RAS events: Collections Evening and lectures galore

On Tuesday 26 March 2019, at 6.30pm, the Royal Asiatic Society will host another Collections Open Evening. As with similar occasions in the past, the evening will feature a series of short talks about items from the collection, and should provide a great opportunity to get “up close and personal” with rarely seen books, manuscripts, archives, art works, and photographs.

We are delighted to welcome three speakers to discuss their experiences working with the Society’s collections:

  • Mathilde Renauld will give a cultural overview of a nineteenth-century Shia Islamic pilgrimage scroll and describe its condition and conservation
  • Laurent Cruveillier will discuss what was involved in conserving Sir Alexander Cunningham’s 1850s ink rubbing and inked squeeze of a stone inscription from Visvanatha temple in Khajuraho, India
  • Amy Matthewson will share reflections on her time volunteering at the Society and researching its glass lantern slides of China, discussing their brief history and the value of these fascinating objects
A panel from the scroll conserved by Mathilde Renauld

As well as enjoying a presentation from each of our speakers, attendees will have the opportunity to view the objects featured in the talks, in addition to some other rarely-seen treasures from the collections. As usual, we will also welcome attendees with a reception featuring wine and light refreshments. We hope you will be able to join us for what promises to be a very enjoyable and stimulating occasion. The event is free and open to all, but we would be grateful if attendees could RSVP to Matty Bradley at mb@royalasiaticsociety.org.

Since the Society’s foundation in 1823, its collections have served as an important source for documenting the histories and cultures of Asia. Today the collections also serve as a window into understanding how people in the past – in Asia, Great Britain, and Europe – understood and interpreted Asian peoples and cultures, and viewed their relations with the wider world. The Society’s collections are used in a variety of ways to promote traditional research and learning, and we are also always looking for new ways to help people access the collections for inspiration and enjoyment. One of the main goals of the Open Evening is therefore to show how items from the collection are having on impact on current research, and contributing to the way that people think about Asian studies.

Part of the historical inscription conserved by Laurent Cruveillier

We also hope to shed light on the work that goes on “behind the scenes” to make our collections accessible and to ensure they are here for future generations to learn from and enjoy. We have a small team of staff, and are reliant on a much larger team of dedicated and skilled volunteers who help us catalogue and conserve our collections. One of the purposes of the open evening is to highlight the work done by these volunteers and bring it to the attention of the Society’s members and wider interested audiences. This event is the latest in a series of Collections Evenings that we have held over the past several years, and we hope to continue to hold such events in the run-up to the Society’s 200th birthday in 2023.

Our lecture programme continues apace, and this week the Society was delighted to welcome Dr Oliver Crawford (University of Cambridge) to deliver a lecture on “The Languages of Indonesian Socialism”. Oliver investigated how the language of Marxism was interpreted and adapted by early leaders of the Partai Komunis Indonesia (PKI), and how Marxist ideas were communicated to the Indonesian public. Specifically, he examined how Marxist texts and concepts were translated into Malay, the lingua franca of the Indonesian archipelago, and expressed through an Islamic moral vocabulary. Oliver’s lecture was not just a fascinating insight into an important episode in Indonesian political history: it was an illuminating exploration of how ideas were translated and made relevant in a new context. Oliver’s lecture was followed by an engaging discussion and a reception.

Dr Oliver Crawford delivers his lecture

The next event at the Society will take place at 6.30pm on Tuesday, 26 February, when Deborah Freeman Fahid will lecture on “The Àger Rock Crystal Chessmen: Some Early Medieval Imports from the Iranian World?” We hope you will be able to join us then.