[Unpad.ac.id., 26/10/2012] Conventional historians would normally reconstruct history simply based on written sources due to general assumption that when there are no written documents, history does not exist.
This, however, is not necessarily true for Dr. Reiza D. Dienaputra, a lecturer at the department of history who is also the vice dean of academic affairs at the Faculty of Arts (FIB). The world in his opinion has entered the era where writing on paper can be said has come to extinction, the era of paperless culture. Electronic media have become the replacement.
“If a historian still thinks that history can only be reconstructed by means of written document, it is very likely that he will not have subjects to be studied,” said he when met at his office in Jatinangor.
It is about the time that visual history be developed, a method of reconstructing history based on visual sources such as photographs, documentaries, fictional footages, or news in electronic media. Indonesian historians have yet to make recourse on these sources.
“The development of technology has shown the vast visual sources of history, which requires attention from the historians,” added he.
A lack of understanding on visual history contributes to the meager amount of research on it. What’s more, visual history requires additional understanding on other disciplines such as communication science, arts and design in order to better examine whether the sources are reliable or not.
What are the outcomes of visual history? The outcomes may consist of textual and purely visual findings. Textual means that the visual sources are examined and reconstructed as written documents where visuals will result in similar forms, films, for example, which are generally favored by public compared to books for films offer more interesting content and packaging that also include entertainment.
Dienaputra, however, does not gainsay that books that include a lot of visuals will remain interesting to study for they will let the readers to linger in their imagination, seeing the visuals as a time machine that brings back the readers to the past.
“I am certain that if history presents itself in a nonconventional manner, it will be more interesting to dig in,” said he optimistically.
Slowly but sure, visual history will become a new method for reconstructing history in Indonesia. It begins with the classes he is teaching, Visual History and Methods of Visual History which he believes are only taught in Unpad.
“I really hope that in the future, final assignment will be more varied, not only stressing on writing thesis but also making films. History, I think, will be more alluring,” said he.
History makes human beings mature and wise for it teaches the past that reflect both the present and the future. This is the inception of his interest in history, a discipline that progresses as long as human civilization lasts.