A Review of the Guomindang Party Archives (中國國民黨黨史館) (Taipei, Taiwan).
The Guomindang Party Archives originally operated within the former Guomindang Central Party Headquarters on Chung-shan South Road, opposite the Presidential Office in Taipei. The Chung-shan South Road site was sold to the Chang Yung-fa Foundation in 2006 and the Party moved its headquarters to the present location at Ba-de Road Section 2 (八德路二段). It was not until late 2012 that the archives began relocating to the Ba-de Road site. Because of the laborious and time-consuming process of moving, reorganizing, and re-shelving the entire collections, the archives were closed for nearly a year.
Given the current uncertain situation at the Second Historical Archives in Nanjing, and the progress of their digitization efforts, the reopening of the Guomindang Party Archives on August 27, 2013 is a cause for rejoicing. Under the management of its current Curator, Dr. Wang Wen-lung, the archives’ service-oriented approach to researchers, its newly developed online registration, catalogue, and document ordering system, and its endeavours to cater to the needs of its users enhance its desirability as a major research site (alongside the Academia Historica 國史館 in Taiwan) for scholars working on the history of twentieth-century China.
This review is based on my visit to the archives in September 2013 and my conversations with Dr. Wang, who I wish to thank for his warm hospitality, his generosity in discussing the archives’ ongoing effort to improve their service and plans to open up more of their formidable collections to public access in both the near and distant future. Last but not least, I wish to thank Dr. Wang for permission to take photos of the archives’ reading room and snapshots of pages from the archives’ official website to be used in this review.
Current Scope of Access and Future Expansions
The archives’ collections now amount to a total of 3 million items. Those open to public access now are classified into 12 main categories:
- General Archives (一般檔案)
- Minutes of Guomindang Central Political Meetings (中央政治會議速記錄)
- Minutes of Guomindang Extraordinary Central Political Meetings (中央政治臨時會議速記錄)
- Five Departments Archives (五部檔案)
- Wu Zhihui Archives (吳稚暉檔案)
- Guomindang Central Political Council Archive (政治檔案)
- Special Archives of Guomindang Party Affairs (特種檔案)
- National Supreme Defence Commission Archive (國防檔案)
- Records of Central Standing Committee, Central Executive Committee and other party affairs meetings (會議記錄)
- Hankou Archive (漢口檔案)
- Guomindang Central Supervisory Committee Archive (監察檔案)
- Shanghai Huanlong Road Archive (上海環龍路檔案)
Prospective researchers can go to “Collections Overview” (檔案介紹) page (Picture 1) within the archives’ official website for more detailed explanation of the scope and content of each category.
Of even greater interest to researchers will be the planned declassification of 4000 plus documents classified under the “Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek Archive” (總裁批簽). These documents comprise vitally important affairs and issues submitted by top-level party-state officials to Chiang Kai-shek for his personal comments and approval. Dr. Wang revealed that these documents can be expected to be opened to public access towards the end of 2013. In the more distant future, researchers can look forward to the opening of the Central Party Secretariat Archive (with a volume that fills up two large cabinets), which the archives are in the process of re-organizing and cataloguing. Any new development will be announced in the “News” board on the main page of the archives’ official website (Picture 5 – see below).
Location and Directions
The archives are located on the fourth floor of the present Guomindang Central Party Headquarters at Nos. 232-234 Ba-de Road Section 2 (八德路二段) in the Chung-shan District (中山區) of Taipei city center. The archives’ official website advises prospective visitors to take underground train to Chung-hsiao Fuxing station (忠孝復興站), and then get out at Exit 1, turn right, take a straight walk along An-dong Street, and to turn left at the junction between An-dong Street and Ba-de Road Section 2 in order to reach the Guomindang headquarters. This walk takes around 20 minutes. If you find this route troublesome and time-consuming, there is actually a better alternative: you can take the underground train to Taipei Station (臺北車站), get out at Exit 6, and take bus service 276 to the Central Pictures Corporation building stop (中影八德路大樓站). The Guomindang headquarters are within one-minute’s reach. Upon arriving at the building (adorned by a profusion of ROC and Guomindang party flags), you will need to take an escalator to the second floor and then a lift to the fourth. Lockers can be found on the right side after you enter the archives. The reading room is situated in front of the lockers.
There is no shortage of good restaurants along the entire stretch of Ba-de Road. For IT enthusiasts, the large gathering of electronics retailers and sale outlets along Ba-de Road Section 1 can be particularly attractive during the archives’ two-hour lunch break (see next section).
Registration Procedure, Required Personal ID Documents, Opening Hours
Before going to the archives, you will need to create an account at the official website at least one week in advance. The information required for online registration includes your name (as used in your official identification document or passport), institution, position, email address, contact number in Taiwan, and current mailing address. You will also need to set your user ID and password. The archives staff normally takes one working day or less to process your registration. Upon approval, you will receive an email confirmation.
The personal identification documents to bring along on the day of your visit include your identification document or passport, as well as an official letter certifying your status (for graduate students, a letter of introduction endorsed by your supervisor or department will also do). Archives staff requires researchers to sign in first. The staff then checks your personal identification documents and sees whether they correspond to the information you entered during the online registration procedure.
The archives are open Mondays to Fridays, 9:00 – 12:00 and then 14:00 – 17:00, with a two-hour lunch break in the middle. Prospective visitors should take note that the archives close on the last working day of each month for housekeeping and maintenance.
During opening hours, the reading room is staffed at the service counter (Picture 3). A meeting room-style table with a maximum seating capacity of eight people sits in the middle of the room. There are altogether eight PC workstations and corresponding chairs, with four workstations and chairs on each side of the table (Picture 4). As the archives can only accommodate eight visitors at a time, it is best for you to book your visiting date/timeslot and order documents at least one week in advance of your visit.
Online Catalogue and Document Ordering
The archives inaugurated their online catalogue and document ordering system (an integral part of their official website – see Picture 5) when it reopened on August 27, 2013. The system enables researchers to look for specific items in the collections through three search options (quick search, advance search, or collections browsing search) using key words, names, and terms. Moreover, it can be accessed both onsite in the archives’ reading room and offsite wherever and whenever you have internet access. For those who can recall their experience of having to conduct time-consuming and painstaking search flipping through the card catalogues in the archives’ previous Chung-shan South Road site, this latest development will sound like a dream come true. The old card catalogues, however, are still available in the reading room, serving as a stand-by for researchers in case the online system experiences a breakdown.
Since there is no built-in Chinese characters converter in the system, you will need to enter your search terms using traditional characters. For users who are more used to using Hanyu Pinyin (漢語拼音) input, you will need to adjust the input method to “Chinese (PRC)” and then set the character to “traditional script” (繁) instead of “simplified script” (简). Input methods by Mandarin Phonetic Symbols (注音符号) are of course available.
The online catalogue is actually developed on the basis of the old card catalogues, with the basic information of each document (title, dates, and brief summary of content) keyed into the database. Dr Wang pointed out that the manner in which information from the documents were extracted and organized in the past still leaves a lot to be desired. In order to further improve the keyword search function in the online catalogue as well as to facilitate the archives’ digitization plan (currently under review), archives staffs are engaging in an ongoing task of adding brief profiles of historical personalities, identification of places and other geographical names, immediate historical contexts, and further details to the record of each and every document in the online database.
Prior to your visit, you can log into your account on the archives’ official website and conduct your catalogue search. There is a feature in the system that enables you to save to your account the detailed data for each of your selected items, together with any notes or remarks you wish to make (this can be done in the space provided under the tab “my notes” – see Picture 6). This feature allows you to keep a record of the documents you selected to order (do remember to log off from your account when you have completed the online catalogue search and ordered documents to ensure your account and whatever records inside the account are secure).
After you have finished selecting the items you wish to order, you can submit your order by clicking the designated button at the top right of the search results panel (Picture 7):
A pop-up window then appears, prompting you to read through and agree to the user terms and conditions (Picture 8):
You then need to book a date and timeslot for your visit and fill in all other required information accordingly before submitting your order (Picture 9):
You will need to take note that the above procedures as indicated in Pictures 7-9 pertain to search results of one particular term only. Since the system is unable to consolidate results from different search words/terms/names, you need to go through the same procedures again for search results from a different word/term/name.
Due to shortage of staffmembers, there are only four document retrieval timeslots during a working day: 9:30, 10:30, 14:30, 15:30. You can order a maximum of 10 documents each time. During your visit to the archives, you can submit new orders through the PC workstation you are assigned to, but you have to finish viewing and return all the documents you ordered before submitting a new order, which is best made at least 15-20 minutes before any document retrieval timeslot to allow staffmembers sufficient time to process and deliver them. You can double-check with archives staff at the service counter whether your new order has been received. It usually takes about 20 minutes for the documents to be retrieved from storage and delivered to the reading room.
Upon the delivery of documents, staffmembers require you to sign a form that lists all the items you ordered. This is to acknowledge that you have received the documents and agree to observe the archives’ rules and regulations. The archives staff then countersigns the form. When you have finished viewing the documents, you need to return them to the service counter. Archives staff then retrieve the form. After checking through the documents and ensuring that all are in good order, the staff request you to sign the form, which he/she then countersigns to acknowledge that the documents have been returned properly.
Reading Room Rules
Users need to deposit their bags in the lockers before going into the reading room. A 10 New Taiwan Dollar coin is needed to lock up one’s belongings. The coin is refundable after you unlock and retrieve your items.
Since digitization plans are still under review at present, all visitors have to observe a host of rules where handling of original historical documents and when copyrights are concerned. Facial masks and gloves are provided at the service counter and visitors are required to wear them when handling the documents. Cameras, mobile devices with camera function, hand-copiers and portable disk drives are forbidden. You can only manually copy the contents of documents in your notebook. Ballpoint pens, markers, and highlighters are not allowed in the reading room and you are required to use pencils provided by the archives. A pencil sharpener is available at the service counter. Alternatively, you can bring in your own laptop to type-copy the document contents. In case you are unable to finish copying at the end of a working day, you can request that the archives staff to put the documents on hold for you and keep a record for your next visit.
My visit to the archives was quite a pleasant and hassle-free experience. Archive staffmembers are kind and friendly, always trying their best to help out and address whatever questions and queries visitors have about various aspects of using the archives. The great importance of the archives’ collections for research on twentieth-century China does not need any elaboration. The intensifying flow of prospective users who have made online bookings for visits only serves to show that the archives’ concerted effort to improve their service and overall user experience is bearing fruit. Its immense value as a key research site for scholars from all over the world working on Modern China is undoubtedly enhanced as well.
Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
St Catharine’s College
University of Cambridge
Image: Guomindang Party Archives (Photograph by Author)
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