After eight years of consultation with the University of London, Malaysia’s own Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) is now the only university in the world to have the sole right to study the digital collection of letters written by Penang’s founder Captain Francis Light.

Captain Francis Light Statue inside Fort Cornwallis, George Town. Light was the founder of the British colony of Penang and its capital city of George Town in 1786.

The historic collection, which was previously kept at the School of Oriental and African Studies in University of London, is expected to rewrite Penang’s history, and even the world.

USM vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Asma Ismail said the project,  known as ‘The Beacon of Light@USM’, will take off when it is launched.

She said the collection comprises a digitalised collection of 1,200 letters that were bounded in 11 volumes from 1771 until 1794 and were all written in traditional Malay script of jawi.

The contents of the letters included correspondence activities and notes recorded by the Malay leaders, dignitaries, wives of dignitaries and business associates at that time, she added.

“Through the collection, there are several letters to be studied in great detail and to be explored by USM experts in the field,” she said.

The documents, said Dr Asma, were not only stored in various forms by the USM Library as reference for researchers and historians, but would also get injections of artificial intelligence technology.

“This will allow USM to conduct more accurate and in-depth interpretations as well as to have the potential to check on historical accuracy during the period,” she said.