Archives and History Making in 21st-century Asia and Beyond: Politics, Problems, and Possibilities

Title: 1168 | Archives and History Making in 21st-century Asia and Beyond: Politics, Problems, and Possibilities
Area: Border Crossing and Inter-Area
Stream: History
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Yuet Heng Wong, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), The University of London, United Kingdom (organizer, presenter, chair)
Ruobing Wang, McNally School of Fine Arts, Lasalle College of the Arts, Singapore (presenter)
Siu Yin Cora Lee, Independent Scholar, Graduated from M.A. in East Asian Art, London Sotheby`s Institute of Art (presenter)


Asia has not only become a place of strong economic growth, but also a vibrant space for academic research, as well as a dynamic field itself to be studied. This panel discusses the multiple roles and possibilities of archives in today’s academia and society.

Archival research involves the study of historical documents which were created in the relatively distant past, providing people access often to institutions’, museums’, libraries’, companies’ records of events, people and objects of the past. It facilitates the investigation of documents and textual materials produced by about the institutions. In this digital age, online archives and databases become part of an important archival research material. With these various forms of archive, the identity of both user and archivist also expands from internal scholars, to international researchers, to artists, to research students, and to the public. These changes open more research directions and destinations, from studies of histories reflected by sources in archives, to studies of the histories and politics of archives in relation to their social-historical contexts, to contemporary art production, and even to business promotion.

However, these expansions of users, forms, and purposes require new methods to manage archives practically, as well as re-consideration of the objective and definition of “archives” itself theoretically. This panel includes studies and analysis of archives of three different types of institutions, discussing their formations, presentations, purposes, potential problems and possibilities, as well as politics, in order to generate a more up-to-date and critical review of current issues of “archives”.

Panel Abstracts:
Re-Activating Archives in Museums in Hong Kong
While many papers presented in the Conference concern various aspects of Contemporary Asia; this presentation aims to take the process of academic research in Hong Kong seriously as an issue to analyse. In recent decades, research students have increasing opportunities to step out of their institutions and libraries and to explore useful sources from different sources around the world. One important type of site is museum archive, especially for students in history, art history, and museum history studies. Notwithstanding pools of useful materials in Hong Kong, many tangible and intangible borders exist between the institutions and international researchers. This paper will therefore first discuss what museum archives available in Hong Kong, when and how they were formed, in what forms they are being presented; then what the current policy and management of these archives regarding access, usage, and reproduction are, to what extent they have met with the new research directions, interests, and methodologies among historians; and finally, what international and other Asian examples we could refer to further open up, re-activate, and create more possibilities and values to these archives, especially regarding the mechanism of interaction between curators and research students. Sharing specific experience and case studies of the speaker and her colleagues, she hopes that this presentation could generate discussion with other scholars in the venue and come up with ideas on how to facilitate a more fair, open, and international use of museum archives in Hong Kong.

The Archived Everyday in Contemporary Chinese Art
The paper intends to investigate the artist’s intervention what it is like to be in the real world, through the archival of everyday objects with a focus on the practices of contemporary Chinese artists. The archaeological appropriation of everyday objects is one of the frequently used artistic methods by contemporary Chinese artists. The trivial objects, often comprising the common ground of daily life, are treated as the records of form of life. Such a ‘creative’ activity of archiving non-art is hence turning art into a form of life. In this aspect, life itself can be considered being the object of technical and artistic intervention. Focusing on two artworks: Song Dong’s Waste Not (displaying the lifetime possessions of the artist’s mother) and Xu Bing’s The Phoenix (consisting of massive construction debris and tools from construction sites), the paper contextualises how art is identical to life and how the use of everyday objects allows the lived experience to be brought into visibility.

Business Archives & Its Social Role
Records give information on how an individual, family, and/or business perceives itself and operates. Business archives serve their prime missions by collecting records through internal transfer or by donation. Archivists who acquire, categorize, appraise, preserve records are crucial of building memory and shaping history; of making choices about the heritage and other values of information; of identifying and selecting archival and historical documentation accessible to the use of society and its future generations. Business archives accumulate wisdom and knowledge of the past like our historical connections with ancestors and families, customs and traditions that continue to shape and define who we are both as individuals and members of the society. In view of the growing number of archival exhibitions, business archives also play an increasingly vital role in the preservation of the social memory and history. This paper will use Lee Kum Kee Archives and other business archives` participation in Hong Kong Industry exhibition organized by the Hong Kong Museum of History in mid-2020 as an example to illustrate how a business archives serves its social role. In Hong Kong, most business archives like Hong Kong Heritage Project, John Swire & Sons HK Archive Service, HSBC Asia-Pacific Archives, and Manulife Archives are open to public by appointments to facilitate research and historical studies. It is a continuous challenge how business archives further develop with their social and community-engagement strategy to open the possibilities of re-interpreting the historical narratives, exploring the missing or silenced voices, and others for the public

This panel is on Thursday - Session 03 - Room 3

Go to Room 3