posted by Christopher Laursen
5 Archives in which to explore the Modern Metaphysical
Increasingly, scholars have been exploring the modern metaphysical — what has been considered on the fringes of human interests but (as these scholars have shown) actually constitute a significant part of people’s lives, past and present. The study has been propelled by documentation left behind by the historical actors who have studied and pursued the metaphysical — heterodox religions such as occultism, Spiritualism, and Theosophy, and controversial sciences such as psychical research and parapsychology. Here, I will review five archives that provide excellent entries into the...
posted by Anjali Vithayathil
A review of The Institute of Experimental Medicine (Научно-исследовательный институт экспериментальной медицины) (St. Petersburg).
In November of last year, I had the opportunity to visit a small but well-equipped research institute in St. Petersburg, the Institute of Experimental Medicine. Formerly known as the Imperial Institute of Experimental Medicine, the medical center was built in 1890 by a distant relative of the Tsar, Prince Aleksandr Oldenburgskii, in response to a series of devastating cholera epidemics in the Russian Empire and rumors of an outbreak of plague in China. The...
posted by Ghassan Moazzin
A review of the Federal Archives – Berlin-Lichterfelde (Bundesarchiv, Berlin-Lichterfelde), Berlin, Germany.
The Federal Archives are the largest public archives in Germany and are made up of nine different branches. Two branches, the Federal Film Archives (see review by Kristen Ehrenberger) and the Federal Archives Berlin-Lichterfelde, are located in Berlin. During a longer research trip to Berlin in June and July 2013 I spent two weeks at the Federal Archives Berlin-Lichterfelde. These archives are the biggest of the several branches of the Federal Archives and hold files that go back as far as the year 1495. However, the main...
posted by Catherine Rushmore
A review of the History of Advertising Trust Archives, Raveningham, Norfolk, United Kingdom.
In March 2013, I spent a couple of days looking at books and marketing material relating to everyday chemical products used in the home. I was interested in the archives that History of Advertising Trust (HAT) holds relating to Thawpit, a carbon tetrachloride preparation used as a dry cleaning chemical, and for some household disinfectants and bleaches made by Reckitts. I wanted to write this review because whenever I have mentioned the HAT to other researchers working on British domestic life, brands, consumers or business histories, they have never...
posted by Ghassan Moazzin
A review of the Political Archive of the German Foreign Office (Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amtes), Berlin, Germany.
In July 2013 I spent three weeks at the archives of the German Foreign Office in Berlin — officially called “The Political Archive” — to collect materials for my dissertation on German banking in late Qing and early Republican China (see the archive’s webpage in German and in English). While I was mainly interested in the files on Sino-German relations, the archives with their large collection of foreign office records, German embassy and consular files and private papers of former diplomats are of...
posted by Joel Blanco-Rivera
A review of the National Security Archive, Washington DC, United States of America.
On January 19, 1989, a lawsuit was filed against the Executive Office of the President of the United States and the National Security Council, seeking the preservation of electronic messages created during the Reagan administration through IBM PROFS (Professional Office System). The emails saved in backup tapes included messages from Oliver North concerning the Iran-Contra scandal, among other emails from the NSC. The electronic messages were successfully preserved.
One of the plaintiffs was the National Security Archive, a non-governmental research...
posted by Philip Hatfield
Digital Collaborations: Taking a Collection Online
This review takes a slightly different angle from some of its predecessors in this section, embarking on a review of one part of the digital domain. The British Library is already famed for its physical collections (some of which have been reviewed before here: http://dissertationreviews.org/archives/3487) but as of April 2013, it is responsible not only for collecting the print published output of the UK but also the UK’s digital publishing, meaning that the horizons of the Library and its collections increasingly open up beyond the reading rooms and into the digital domain...
posted by Jennifer Griffiths
A review of the Central State Archive of the Republic of Kazakhstan (Центральный государственный архив Республики Казахстан / Қазақстан Республикасы Орталық мемлекеттік мұрағаты), Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan’s Central State Archive (TsGARK) is the largest archive in the country, and essential to any researcher working on Kazakh history. With almost two million dela, the archive mainly covers the Soviet and pre-revolutionary periods, and has particularly strong holdings relating to nineteenth-century imperial administration, thanks in part to...
posted by Isabella Jackson
I recently spent three weeks researching in the Shanghai Municipal Archives, following a three-year gap since I was last there, and there are some important recent changes in regulation for researchers. I read Steven Pieragastini’s review of the archive from earlier this year, but his visit was also evidently before the new regulations came into force:
1. All foreigners are now required to provide a letter of introduction from a Chinese danwei. The fact that I had a card for the archives from previous visits did not exempt me from this requirement. They were willing to allow me access for one day without a letter of introduction, but it...
posted by Rebecca Nedostup
Researchers planning to visit the Nanjing Municipal Archives in late 2013 would be well advised to check ahead for updated information, as the archives will move to new facilities in the western part of the city. As of an August 2013 visit, the move was planned for October, and is estimated to take three months.
[Ed. Note: This is an update to Vivienne Xiangwei Guo's review of the Nanjing Municipal Archives. Be sure to visit the NMA website for regular updates.]
Important Note: Dissertation Reviews, its members, and affiliates assume no responsibility for the...
posted by Mushegh Asatryan
A review of the Matenadaran Institute Library, Yerevan, Armenia.
Presiding over Mashtots Avenue, Yerevan’s central boulevard and one of its largest, is a square building of dark basalt, rising high above the street level and inviting the reverent gaze of a casual passer-by with its imposing frame. Where the asphalt of the avenue ends, a slope of cobblestone leads you up a steep hill, up several flights of stairs, and up a serpentine walkway that deposits you, now panting, in the small plaza in front of the solemn entrance of Matenadaran. Named for the Old Armenian word for “Depository of Books,” this building houses more than 10,000...
posted by Devin Fitzgerald
A review of the Harvard Yenching Library Rare Books Collection, Harvard University, Cambridge MA, USA.
The Harvard-Yenching Library holds more than 1.3 million volumes. This review won’t bore readers with the details of each collection, which are introduced on the library’s website. Instead, my aim is to convince the reader to consider a visit to the library and its world-class rare book collection. Although most of the library’s holdings are listed in fully searchable catalogs, there are many discoveries awaiting even cursory exploration. Our persisting ignorance of the Harvard-Yenching collection is best expressed anecdotally. I...
posted by Audrey Truschke
An overview of the primary Persian manuscript collections in the United Kingdom.
We are now approaching what UK-based researchers lovingly call “the season,” meaning the time of year when academics from across the world descend on the British Library en masse and going for a mid-afternoon cup of coffee often results in a series of impromptu reunions. The British Library boasts an extensive collection of Persian and Indo-Persian manuscripts (some of which they are digitizing), but they are not the only show in town. Scholars too often overlook other Persian language archives in London and nearby that possess their own unique manuscript...
posted by Julia del Palacio Langer
A review of the Archivo General del Estado de Veracruz (Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico).
I spent a considerable amount of time doing research in the Archivo General del Estado de Veracruz (AGEV) during 2010 and 2011. I mostly worked with Local Agrarian Commission documents, but have also done some research in the archive section of governor Adalberto Tejeda and of the Veracruzan Ministry of Public Works. The AGEV can be incredibly rewarding, but also utterly frustrating. This, however, can probably be said about any repository in the world.
I narrate here a typical day in the AGEV:
• I get up in my cute little hotel in downtown Xalapa, where I...
posted by Matthew Melvin-Koushki
Will you be doing archival research on topics Islamic or related to the Islamic world this summer? Before heading out, be sure to brush up with our growing Fresh from the Archives series! And if you’d like to contribute a new article or submit an update for any of these institutions below, please contact the Islamic Studies Field Editor at email@example.com.
Süleymaniye Library, Istanbul (Christopher Markiewicz)
Ottoman Archives, Istanbul (Christopher Markiewicz)
Al-Beruni Institute for Oriental Studies, Tashkent (Ertuğrul Ökten)
Bodleian Library, Oxford (Audrey Truschke)
posted by Judit Erika Magyar
A review of Modern Japanese Political History Materials, National Diet Library, Tokyo and Special Collections Room, Waseda University Library, Tokyo.
The research I have been conducting in Tokyo for the past 2.5 years kept me busy in primarily two locations: the Modern Japanese Political History Materials Room in the National Diet Library at Tokyo (NDL) and the Special Collections Room in the Waseda University Library.
Ed. Note: Please also see Kelly Hammond’s “Reflections on 5 collections in Japan essential for China scholars” for discussions on the National Diet Library and the Waseda University Library.
Since I am...
posted by Steven Pieragastini
A review of the Shanghai Municipal Archives, Bund Location (上海市档案馆外滩新馆), Shanghai, People’s Republic of China.
I recently spent five months (September 2012 – January 2013) at the Bund location of the Shanghai Municipal Archives (SMA) researching the Catholic Church and its affiliated charities, schools, orphanages, and hospitals in mid-twentieth-century Shanghai. I would highly recommend a visit to this location for anyone working on Chinese history since 1927, although there are documents that date from before the Nanjing Decade, particularly from the foreign concessions. In general, Chinese is the working...