Urgent Update about Shanghai Municipal Archives


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 was only the good luck of seeing a Chinese professor I knew who promised to bring in such a letter for me that allowed me to use the archives for the following couple of weeks.

2. As of 1 August 2013, it is no longer possible to have photocopies taken of original documents, which means that all notes have to be made by hand. Digitised and microfilm records can, however, now be printed free of charge up to a maximum of 100 pages.

Isabella Jackson
Helen Bruce Lecturer in Modern East Asian History
Department of History
University of Aberdeen

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  1. The required content of the introduction letter from the Chinese danwei is: name, passport number, country of origin, 1-3 sentences about your research and the kind of materials you will be looking at. And it should be on luokuan (I gather that’s sort of like letterhead?), and have the official stamp of the danwei. (Call placed to Municipal Archives October 2013.)

  2. According to my experience a standard letter of introduction from a Chinese danwei that simply states your name is sufficient. Of course you have to bring along your passport as well. (this was the state of affairs in December 2013).

    When I called up the archives I was also told that I had to provide a very detailed letter of introduction, but – as I was told by Chinese colleagues here – this might just have been the case because the person on the phone wasn’t sure of the current guidelines either. In the end I went to the archives with the aforementioned simple letter of introduction and got my readers card within a few minutes without any problems.

    On another note, the daily limit for free copies from the digitised collections is 50 pages. I am not sure whether there is a similar limit for microfilm collections, but the computer system will prevent you from making any more copies after you have copied 50 pages. (again, this is the state of affairs in December 2013).

  3. En abril de 2014 -y desde octubre de 2013, cuando volví a los archivos tras un par de años sin acudir- en efecto permitían imprimir hasta 50 páginas al día. No obstante, la impresora de microfilms está rota y no parece que piensen arreglarla o cambiarla, de manera que no se pueden imprimir esos documentos.
    Yo llegué con mi tarjeta antigua del Archivo y me dejan siempre entrar sin carta alguna, y sin pasaporte, aunque he de decir que el primer día sí entregué mi carnet de estudiante (hago el doctorado en una universidad de Shanghái), nada más.
    Supongo que la cuestión será que si eres estudiante local, aunque seas extranjero, no necesitas esa carta. Desde luego yo jamás entregué ninguna ni me la pidieron, ni siquiera, como digo, el pasaporte. Bastó con el carnet de estudiante.

    [Ed Note. This comment is posted in Spanish. A rough translation is pasted here. Corrections are welcome:
    In April 2014, and since October 2013, when I returned to the archives after a couple of years without going — in fact I am allowed to print up to 50 pages a day. However, the microfilm printer is broken and there does not seem to be any plans to fix or change it, so you cannot print these documents.
    I arrived with my old archive identity card and they always let me in without a letter, without my passport, although I must say that on the first day itself I was asked to present my student card (I do a doctorate at a university in Shanghai), nothing more.
    I guess the question is if you are local student, even if you are from abroad, you do not need that card. I certainly never presented my passport to anybody and nobody asked me. They only asked for the student card.]

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