The paper archives created by the Dutch East India Company (VOC, 1602-1799) and dealing with its commercial operations in Asian waters are preserved in the national archives of Indonesia, the Netherlands, Sri Lanka, South Africa and India. In particular, the archives in Jakarta contain thousands of documents originating from Asian persons, including many local rulers from around the Indonesian archipelago. The most voluminous collections spanning 2,500 metres are in the Arsip Nasional Republik Indonesia (ANRI). On 9 March 2004, the archives of the VOC were included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.

The 2,500 metres of archives in ANRI can be roughly divided into two sections:
1) The archives created in  and formerly kept at Batavia Castle, the former headquarters of the VOC in Asia. This is the archive of the Supreme Government (the Governor-General and the ordinary Councillors of Dutch Asia).
2) The archives of local private and public institutions in Batavia.

For this digitalization and public access project, a selection had to be made. The Daily Journals of Batavia Castle which can be found in the archives of the Supreme Government were digitalized and published first. This series reflects the principle concerns of the Supreme Government.  Prominent here were internal Company affairs in matters as diverse as the general management of trade, personnel and financial affairs, shipping and logistics. The Supreme Government also dealt with all political and diplomatic affairs, the administration of justice and correspondence with other VOC factories in Asia as well as the VOC Chambers and their Governing Board, theso-called Gentlemen Seventeen (Heren XVII) or Directors of the VOC  in the Dutch Republic. The Daily Journals were created to maintain an ongoing overview of such activities.

During the course of the eighteenth century, the Resolution Books of the Supreme Government became more and more important and voluminous while the registration of correspondence in the Daily Journals gradually declined. In particular, the handling of all matters to do with the regional establishments of the Company were included in the General Resolution Books. In 1743, such matters were recorded in a separate yearbook, giving birth to a separate series: the General (Foreign) Affairs Books (Net-Generale Besogneboeken).

Another, hitherto unresearched and historically unique series are the Appendices to the General Resolution Books. These total together some 742 volumes numbering some 550,000 folio pages. This series contain a variety of documents which may gradually become accessible via a special database. The first document descriptions for this database were started in 2013 by ANRI’s Content Team (see organisation).

Marginalia to the Daily Journals of Batavia Castle
Realia to the Resolutions and Besognes
Digital Reproductions

The National Archives of the Republic of Indonesia (ANRI) in Jakarta and the National Archives of the Netherlands (Nationaal Archief) have jointly identified and catalogued large sections of the 2,500 metres of VOC archives in the ANRI repositories during 2001 – 2007. This resulted in a newly published inventory in 2007. This inventory is published digitally on this website.

More then 90,000 entries give access to 165 volumes of the Daily Journals of Batavia. This imporant historical source can be accessed with a detailed secondary entry, a history search database. As the image shows, every folio page has short text summaries written in the margins of the text. These short texts are called ‘marginalia’. Mona Lohanda and Hendrik E. Niemeijer have transcribed, collated and annotated all the marginalia from all the volumes of the Daily Journals that contain marginalia.

Around 47,500 entries give access to more then 211,000 folio pages of Resolutions of the meetings of the Supreme Government of the VOC in Asia. These records were once kept in the General Secretary’s office in Batavia Castle. The Realia are a contemporary (eighteenth-century) repertorium (or subject directory) of more than 2,050 subjects including 47,500 references to government deliberations or decisions.

Original paper archives from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries have been decaying for a long time and continue to suffer heavily from ink corrosion, acidification, browning and fading. In 2012, after a preparatory year, ANRI and the Corts Foundation built a high-tech scanning street to start digitising ANRI’s large collections of oldest handwritings. This conservation part of the project is called DASA: Digital Archive System at ANRI. Digitising is not like regular document scanning. It is a way of conservation as the digital image will in time replace the original paper manuscript.