A review of the Qingdao Municipal Archives (青岛市档案馆), Qingdao.
The Qingdao Municipal Archives, located at No. 148 Yanji Road in Shibei Distrist (市北区 延吉路148号), are open from 9:00-11:40 a.m. and 1:30-5:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday, with the exception of Friday, when the archives are only open in the morning from 9:00-11:40. The registration process is similar to other archives. You will need to sign in with security at the gate, store your belongings in a locker (pens, notebooks, laptops, and cell phones are allowed, water bottles can be stored near the water cooler; cameras and food are not allowed). Have your passport and letter of introduction from a Chinese university ready, as a letter from your own university or institution does not seem to help. You will then be assigned a user name and password for the computer system, which includes a digitized catalog – the only way to search for documents – and a certain number of digitized documents.
You can request archival documents using the digital catalog every day except Saturday, when you must either use the documents you previously had pulled, or confine yourself to the digitized documents available on the computer system. The number of digitized documents is not large, but a substantial number of local newspapers have been digitized, although the quality of the scanning is not always high. The catalog includes both open and closed files, and there is no indication of the file’s status in the catalog entry.
No picture-taking is allowed. You also cannot print any documents you look at on the computer or microfilm, but you can occasionally copy archival documents if you have permission, although it is not often an option. There was a fee in past years – irregularly implemented – for both printing and to pull requested documents, but as of summer 2014 there was no notification of charges posted or mentioned, and we were able to see documents without paying. It is possible that these charges have been abandoned permanently. On a visit to the Tianjin Municipal Archives during summer 2014, we were told that all charges for printing at archives had been revoked at the national level, but we did not verify this in Qingdao.
There is also a selection of published collections of documents for use in the archives, most of which are from the last 20 years. The selection includes collections of documents from the Qingdao Municipal Archives, as well as yearbooks and gazetteers from municipal and provincial archives all over the country.
On your lunch break, there are a few good noodle and dumpling restaurants near the entrance to the archive, as well as a large selection of restaurants across a wide range of price points at the Wanda shopping mall half a block down Yanji Road from the archives. The Qingdao Municipal Library is further down this street as well. If you have extra time, there is an excellent, free exhibit next to the archives in the same building. It provides a good, in-depth history of Qingdao, and is far better than the famous beer museum. In the entrance hall to the exhibit there is also a small “gift shop,” which consists of a couple of glass cases of collections published by the archives, only some of which are for sale.
For those not familiar with Qingdao, temporary housing can be surprisingly expensive, especially during the summer, when it’s high season for tourism. The transportation system and traffic are perhaps more inconvenient than one would expect for a sub-provincial city, although once the metro opens in 2015, this should improve.
Image: Qingdao Municipal Archives.