The process for getting a research permit for Indonesia is lengthy, laborious, and opaque, but it seems to depend heavily on a clear statement by the researcher of exactly what he or she will study once in country. This produces a bit of a catch-22: historians cannot know what exactly they will study until they have been allowed in to survey archive holdings, but they cannot get a visa to survey archive holdings until they know exactly what they will study.
The AHA Archives Wiki can help to alleviate this problem by letting historians survey the broad strokes of the holdings digitally. For the country’s flagship archives, the Arsip Nasional Republik Indonesia, the wiki lists all of the post-independence collections by the donor institution or individual (something unavailable on ANRI’s website), and includes information on how to search the incomplete online catalog. For other collections, such as the surprisingly extensive Arsip Propinsi Sulawesi Selatan and the little-known Yayasan Perpustakaan dan Museum Ali Hasjmy, the wiki gives a survey of what is available and lists a few highlights that are worth special consideration.
With contributions from more researchers (and archivists in Indonesia who want to spread information about the collections where they work), the Archives Wiki has the potential to do more than just provide research tips. It could save foreign researchers significant time and frustration in the research permit process and identify collections worthy of further historical attention.
Kevin Fogg is currently a PhD candidate in History at Yale University, studying the fate of Muslim nationalism in independent Indonesia. His research has taken him through 16 of Indonesia’s provinces, several of its finest Minang restaurants, and to the peaks of Gunung Merapi (Bukittinggi), Gunung Merapi (Jogja), Gunung Dempo, and Gunung Singgalang. (Well, maybe the eating and the hiking weren’t research, strictly speaking.)