Thursday, April 19, 2012

The #Batak #script gets its #font

 Thank you #Wikimedia Foundation
History is written by the victor. The Dutch were victorious over the Batak people and as a result they became part of what is now Indonesia. At that time the Batak languages were written in the Batak script and many documents ended up in Dutch archives and museums like the Tropenmuseum.

Once the existence of a script is recognised in the ISO-15924, the characters of that script can be defined in Unicode. Once they are defined in Unicode, a font can be created for a script. When this font is freely licensed, everybody may use this font. Existing documents and literature can be transcribed and texts that were transcribed in something other then Unicode can be converted.

With documents and literature transcribed or converted, they can become available for research and when they can be easily found, it becomes possible to understand more of the history of the Batak people from their point of view.

A free font makes it possible to display the Batak characters. As you can understand, with the development of a first Unicode font for the Batak script, there is not much to display yet. Documents and literature have to be transcribed and typically a keyboard is used for this. A standard keyboard does not map to Batak characters and a keyboard mapping is what makes this possible.

The Wikimedia Foundation makes it possible to have this font. A grant has been given to do a GLAM project about Batak documents in Dutch museums and archives. Scans of Batak documents will be uploaded on Commons and the transcriptions will have to go to a Wikisource that supports both the WebFonts and the Narayam extension.

Now that we can start building a font, we are getting ready to reach out to people who have documents in one of the Batak languages. We will be reaching out to people who know these languages and as people like myself transcribe documents, they are the ones who have to identify the precise Batak language.

As you may understand, a project like this is many faceted. It will be an adventure to learn how many facets there are. Watch this space for future updates.
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