Southeast Asia Collection


The Southeast Asia Collection dates back to 1899, when Clive Day was appointed to the Yale faculty as the first American historian of the Dutch East Indies. In 1932, with the appointment of sociologist and anthropologist Raymond Kennedy, the library began building one of the deepest and earliest collections relating to the region, with particular strengths in the history, linguistics, anthropology, and political science of Indonesia and the Philippines. In addition to these historical areas of collecting, the Southeast Asia Collection includes substantial historical resources from the British colonial period in Malaya, Singapore, Sabah, and Sarawak dating back to the early 1800s; Philippine collections dating back to the Spanish-American War of 1898; and research collections from the present-day countries of Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam dating back to 1810, the beginning of Christian missionary work in Vietnam and later French Indochina. Many of these early works are unique to North American libraries, with rare and valuable monograph titles dating back to the 1600s held in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

In 1947 Yale established its Southeast Asia Studies Program, the first in the United States to embark on the study of Southeast Asia in all disciplines. Yale University Library funds and external grants and endowment funds contributed towards comprehensive collection development efforts from Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, and the Philippines. A fairly unique collecting area among Southeast Asian Studies libraries in North America is Cambodia. In support of the Cambodian Genocide Program, which studies the tragedies of the Khmer Rouge revolution between 1975 and 1979, the Southeast Asia Collection conducted a microfilming project in the late 1990s to preserve and protect the evidence of this genocide and holds the original set of this microfilmed documentation. 

Departments/disciplines/programs/subject areas supported

The Southeast Asia Collection supports the academic programs and departments reflected by the faculty and lecturers of the Council on Southeast Asian Studies. It supports the research of graduate and undergraduate students with a concentration of research in:

  • the history of Southeast Asia, particularly Vietnam and Cambodia
  • art and art history of insular Southeast Asia, with an emphasis on Indonesia and religious art of the region
  • international relations and political science for the whole region of Southeast Asia, with an emphasis on Malaysia and Myanmar
  • forestry and environmental studies of Malaysia, Indonesia, and insular Southeast Asia
  • cultural and economic sociology, ethnography, and globalization in Thailand
  • linguistic, social, and cultural anthropology for Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Laos, and Vietnam
  • language, literature, and linguistics for the region with an emphasis on Indonesia and Vietnam
  • ethnomusicology and performance traditions for Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand

Three levels of Vietnamese and Indonesian language courses are regularly taught. Thai, Khmer, Burmese, Karen, Tagalog, and Ilocano are regularly taught through the DILS program.

Subjects Collected:

Anthropology; History; Art and Art History; Agrarian Studies; Forestry and Environmental Studies; Fisheries; Traditional and Indigenous Medicine and Medical History; Economics; General Reference; Geography; Geology; Language and Linguistics; Literature; Music; Official Documents and Statistics; Philosophy; Political Science, International Relations; Eastern and Western Religions as practiced in Southeast Asia; Sociology; Theatre; and Cinema.

Subjects Not Collected:

Engineering, mathematics, medicine (except for traditional and the history of medicine), or law.

Formats collected

Books, graphic novels, serials, newspapers in non-print format, microforms, audio-visual, online databases, computer files, maps, pamphlets, and selective collections of manuscript or archival materials, subject to library approval.

Languages collected

Thai, Vietnamese, Burmese, Malay, Indonesian, Chinese (published in Southeast Asia), Tagalog, and Javanese. The Collection also acquires western-language material in subject areas of interest, and published in Southeast Asia, as well as western-language material published about Southeast Asia outside the region, in the humanities. 

Chronological and geographical focus

The emphasis is on purchasing current materials in traditional non-archival formats.  However, a limited amount of retrospective research materials are acquired on occasion, usually destined for Manuscripts and Archives.

The Southeast Asia Collection acquires materials published in Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Timor Leste’, and Malaysia, and western-language publications from Cambodia and Laos. Based on patron requests only, the Southeast Asia Collection acquires Lao and Khmer language material and publications from Brunei. The Southeast Asia Collection is also responsible for collecting materials published in the field of Southeast Asian studies for all the countries in Southeast Asia (primarily history and all humanities disciplines) published in North America, Europe, and other imprint areas outside of Southeast Asia.


Collaborations within Yale

  • Arts Library
  • Marx Science & School Science Library – economic, business, statistical, and forestry and environmental studies material.
  • Divinity Library
  • Manuscripts and Archives
  • Map Collection
  • Humanities Collections and Research Education

External collaborations

  • The John M. Echols Collection on Southeast Asia, Cornell University Library – The Southeast Asia Collection continues to work with Echols Collection curators to develop cooperative collection development agreements, whereby each institution will focus additional collection development efforts for particular regions in Thailand and the Philippines. The Echols Collection and the Southeast Asia Collection have also shared costs for microfilm projects in Cambodia in past years, and would like to continue to cosponsor these efforts in the future.
  • Southeast Asia Microforms Project (SEAM) of the Center for Research Libraries – As a dues paying member of SEAM, the Southeast Asia Collection contributes funding towards the digital and microfilm preservation of newspapers, serials, and other shared resources on Southeast Asia. The SEAM project played an important but secondary role in the microfilming of Khmer Rouge documents held by the Documentation Center of Cambodia, with Yale University Library’s Southeast Asia Collection playing the leading funding role, and Cornell as a third funding resource.

Subject Librarian

Richard (ຣີຊາດ ຣີຊີ) Richie
Head, Area Studies Group
DASHRS Administration
Department of Area Studies and Humanities Research Support (DASHRS)
(203) 432-1858