International Archives Week in Beijing
By Simon Mahony, on 24 July 2019
A planned June networking visit to Beijing, supported by the UCL Global Engagement fund, coincided with International Archives Week 2019. I was the guest of the Beijing Municipal Archives at the opening ceremony of their impressive new building and also invited to give a keynote address, the first in their new Beijing Archives Hall, on the first day of their celebrations. If you visit, it has a roof garden.
My introduction to the Beijing Archives was through my contacts at Renmin University (RUC) where I was scheduled to visit and give a talk to students and staff.
The School of Information Resource Management at RUC look after visitors very well and take care of all the arrangements. My original connection was because they are a member of the iSchools Organisation as is my home department at UCL, the Department of Information Studies.
Students from that School were volunteers at the Archives event and supporting an exhibition on Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Peking University (PKU), UCL’s strategic partner, hold an annual Digital Humanities Forum. This year, due to budgetary constraints, it had to be scaled down to the Peking University Digital Humanities Mini Forum but was still an impressive event with international as well as local speakers.
A visit to PKU always means catching up with friends there and relationships that have been built up through networking enabled by the UCL Global Engagement fund; this type of funding is so important for developing these networks and particularly in our area as Digital Humanities is such a dynamic and fast growing field in China. As well as people, it is also the places that are important. I’m a native Londoner, this is my tenth year at UCL, and I have great affection for the Gower Street campus, but we have nothing to compare with the lake and pagoda at PKU, which is a tourist attraction in its own right.
One of the great advantages of these networking trips is that it allows you to meet new people and make new connections. One of these at this trip was the Beijing Institute of Technology where I was introduced to their archives and collections – a connection that I hope I can build on.
I found their logo particularly interesting with its iconography clearly meaningful through both Eastern and Western eyes. This prompted an in depth discussion about semiotics, cultural similarities and differences with the Dean of their School.
As always, the visit was rounded off with dinner with former students (and one current one too).