Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Delegation Visit with the Chinese Archives Society
October 13, 2008
Representing the Chinese Archives Society (CAS):
Mr. Feng Hewang, President of CAS
Mr. Sun Senlin, Secretary of CAS
Ms. Huo Lihua, Deputy Secretary of CAS
Mr. Qiu Xiaowe, Vice Director of Archives Science and Technology Research Center
Ms. Wang Jian, Professor from School of Information Resource Management (SIRM) at Renmin University of China
Mr. Fang Ming, Vice Director of Archives Education Center
Mr. Fu Hua, Vice Chief Editor of the Chinese Archives Newspaper
Overview of the Chinese Archives Society
The Chinese Archives Society (CAS) is a registered legal organization that represents all archivists in China. CAS acts as the bridge between the Communist Party, the government, and archivists. It is an important vehicle for education. It was established in November 1981 and resides under the leadership of the China Association of Science and Technology and the Civil Administration Department. CAS abides by all laws, morals, and ethics and promotes a democratic society and scientific research. [Note that the term "scientific" as used here is meant to convey a disciplined approach to the profession, following standards and best practices.] It is focused on the scientific development of archives and the modernization of the profession in China. They help archives to modernize. The society is affiliated with the government’s National Archives Bureau.
CAS has 12 areas of activity, including:
1. Promote academic development of the profession (including an annual meeting with Japanese archivists);
2. Promote the scientific development of the profession;
3. Develop a management system for digital files;
4. Promote involvement in policymaking;
5. Publish findings in papers and in a professional journal;
6. Continuing education of its members;
7. Recognize those professionals who have made outstanding contributions;
8. Provide consultation on facilities and technologies;
9. Provide research services for entrusted and related allied agencies for specific programs;
10. Promote the exchange of scientific ideas;
11. Ensure the rights of members; and
12. Carry out activities on behalf of its members.
The CAS membership: 7,412 individual members (with professional and educational prerequisites [includes students?]); plus group members (agencies and organizations).
Total: 101,000 members.
CAS has seven associated professional committees, including:
• Filing & Compiling
• Filing, Cataloging & Appraising
• AV technology
• Management of Automation Technology; and
• Corporate Files
CAS publications include an Archives Study Journal that is distributed throughout China. Other journals are published bimonthly. The CAS website is located at www.wdjj.cn.
Each Global Archives Management delegate received a copy of "China Archives News," published July 18, 2008. This issue of the paper is published in English and carries a banner that reads, "The Only Archival Newspaper in the World – Founded in Beijing on January 9, 1995." Stories covered in the paper include coverage of the International Congress on Archives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia [it is possible that this issue of the paper was developed for distribution at the ICA Congress]; efforts to document the Olympic Games in Beijing; information on China's hierarchical system for archival work, starting with the central government; Chinese electronic records management efforts; the impact of the Sichuan Province earthquake on archives and archivists, and their response to it; and the Chinese archival education system.
The CAS is an academic and non-governmental organization based on volunteers. CAS representatives expressed the hope that communications between their organization and the Society of American Archivists can be continued and strengthened.
Overview of Society of American Archivists (SAA)
Ms. Elizabeth Adkins, former SAA President and leader of the delegation, provided an overview of the Society of American Archivists.
SAA was established in 1936. It’s the oldest and largest association of archivists in North America. We thought we might be the largest in the world until we learned about the Chinese Archives Society.
SAA has two major membership categories: individual and institutional. Individual members include regular, associate and student members. Institutional members are organizations. Associate members are individual members who are not from the United States – and are entitled to a discount. Regular members have more membership benefits. SAA has approximately 5,200 members, of which 4,600 are individuals, and 600 are institutional members.
The mission of SAA is to facilitate education and learning within the archives community. This is accomplished through major programs: publications, educational offerings, and an annual conference. Anyone can join, including non-archivists. SAA publishes a professional journal, The American Archivist, twice per year, and a newsletter called Archival Outlook, once every two months.
SAA primarily accomplishes its work through volunteers on committees and task forces. It has a paid staff of about a dozen people who work in SAA’s Chicago office to manage the education program and the publications program, organize the annual meeting, and provide member services. It is independent (not associated with the government) – it’s grown in a more ad hoc manner.
SAA has an elected body (the Council) that governs SAA, with officers and representatives who chart the strategic direction of SAA. A few years ago, the SAA Council made an assessment of the current state of profession in North America, and what might be done to develop and support it. The Council developed three top strategic priorities:
- Technology: dealing with electronic records and the corresponding implications
- Diversity: ensuring that the profession reflects the diversity of society as a whole
- Public awareness and advocacy: raising understanding and acting as an advocate for issues of professional importance
Elizabeth brought a handout that describes work that has addressed these three top priorities, as well as a printout from SAA’s website with the URL (http://www.archivists.org), so additional information about the organization can be accessed. She also provided copies of an SAA recruitment brochure with information on how to join the organization.
Elizabeth talked about SAA's efforts to launch American Archives Month. Since October of 2007, SAA has led efforts to consolidate what had formerly been ad hoc and regional celebrations of Archives Week or Archives Day (usually during the month of October). SAA has distributed American Archives Month public relations kits to each of its members, as a way to help members promote their collections and their programs. They have also provided information on American Archives Month activities on SAA's website. Elizabeth distributed copies of the latest American Archives Month public relations kits.
Every year at the SAA Annual meeting we offer presidential addresses, highlighting some of the most important issues facing archivists in the United States. Elizabeth provided copies of her address from August 2007 talking about diversity, as well as the address from August 2008 by Mark Greene, our immediate past president. His address is on the topic of what it means to be an archivist and what our values should be.
Elizabeth provided one final handout on the topic of access to archives in the U.S., from a Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission seminar in Tokyo last about access to archives. SAA sponsored the seminar, and SAA leaders participated in it.
Presentation by Mr. Fu Hua
He has toured archives in the United States twice and has read about the profession in the U.S. He has learned about the contrasts in the profession in both countries. The administration in China is more centralized than in the U.S. Various government agencies maintain their own archives and archivists with their own repositories with two to ten employees each.
They are using the same standards among the various government agencies, creating less need for the transfer of records in China. Sometimes two local agencies may share the same repository.
After learning about the U.S. administration of archives, reforms were proposed in China, but not all were implemented. The Code of Freedom of Information archives law is an example of one such reform; it was initiated in 1987. The law states that records may be accessed 30 years after they are created. Regular citizens who follow certain procedures may now access records. There are record centers now where the public may conduct research.
There are many archives established by businesses, organizations, and public enterprises. Some conduct research about specific subject areas or histories of their institutions.
Presentation by Mr. Qiu Xiaowei
Three stages in the organization of archival information resources in China:
1. During the 1980s, they managed files with the assistance of computers.
2. Archives Pre-Informationization Stage (1990s – 2000): they learned from U.S. counterparts to establish standards.
3. Third stage: establishment of digital archives, integrated management of electronic records. Conversion of records into digital forms for public access.
They are in the process of collecting more resources on archival information and integrating them with existing paper resources. They are developing archival theory in China. There are 11 five-year plans for the national archives. They are working to provide more access to and sharing of information.
Archival information is an essential information component for a nation. He provided the example of local farmers needing access to county archival records, which increased their income ten-fold. There are some who still believe archival records belong to government agencies and have no place for public use.
Many records have been digitized and can now be accessed from the Internet. Efforts are being made to ensure open access to information.
The government is now providing more active financial support for archival management. They are working to integrate their current databases, and to digitize files and collections to allow more open access. They are facing new challenges in creating and managing electronic files, and are trying to learn more from professional counterparts.
Central construction of e-government must be accomplished by application of strict archival management guidelines. They must equip their archivists to be prepared to address challenges of digitization. They hope to work on more open access to archival users. Limited equipment and facilities inhibit user access. They want to conquer the problem of unequal access to information to promote a more harmonious society. There are barriers between different departments in sharing information. From the U.S., they learned to survey individual user needs.
Presentation by Wang Jian
Dr. Wang is a member of the International Council on Archives (ICA), and is involved with archival education. From 2005 through 2006 she was a guest lecturer at the University of Michigan School of Information. She is involved in research on electronic records. Electronic records laws are just emerging in China, e.g. electronic signatures.
Three national standards for appraisal and management of electronic records have been developed since 2005. They are currently in the process of implementing these standards nationwide. CAS is working on a joint project with the University of China on optimizing electronic records; the findings will be reported to the national government. Several Chinese archivists are currently involved in the development of ISO electronic records standards. They are interested in the U.S. Presidential Records Act, and the U.S. national strategy to preserve electronic records (Electronic Records Archives).
Presentation by Mr. Fang Ming
There are many challenges for archival education in colleges and within local government agencies. A total of 29 institutions provide professional training in China, from bachelor degrees to doctoral levels.
The professional training of archivists is receiving greater attention. The major responsibility of the National Archives Bureau is to maintain educational standards. The officials above the province level and those at the central national level receive their education at the central bureau. At the provincial level there are 26 centers for education. All the training centers for provincial records are for archivists of their areas. There is currently tremendous stress in training due to the huge population of China, which produces huge quantities of governmental records.
There are more than 1 million people working in archives in China. There is not great stability in the archives workforce; there is a high turnover. Most workers are women. The training is both continuing education and on-the-job. There is a need to widen the educational horizons of the beginning workers. There is a greater need for basic training in preservation. Training for digital records is a hot training topic. They need to develop different management approaches for varying record formats, e.g. images. The task of making lectures attractive and interesting is challenging. Online training has been initiated as well.
Under the leadership of CAS some experienced instructors provide online training, which helps those who are unable to get away from regular duties. Now in China they have an equivalent of a Masters Degree diploma. They are corresponding with the East Asia branch of ICA for cooperation in education. It is their hope for mutual training of U.S. and Chinese archivists.
Questions and Answers
Q. I’m interested in obtaining a copy of the government legislation of statutes of archives for application to Hong Kong, where no legislation exists.
A. www.zgdazxw.com.cn – specific column contains statutes and regulation.
Q. In the U.S., we have multiple organizations around the management of information. There is a different focus between archives [historical documents] vs. records management – creating a different challenge for us. Electronic information has helped mitigate this problem. By “archives,” do you mean all historical documents and records management?
A. The terms includes both.
Q. Procter & Gamble has been in China for the past twenty years and is considering starting a local archives program. Are you familiar with any other companies or corporations in China that have started archival programs? Do they belong to any professional associations?
A. Many. CAS includes corporate members. Corporate archives can apply for different types of services. Both private and public companies can be included.
Question for Elizabeth Adkins:
CAS was founded 45 years after SAA – our professionals tend to be younger. CAS staff are all paid. We may be facing changes due to world economic situation. The U.S., given its smaller population, has a higher ratio membership. At the same time, SAA covers all of North America. SAA has a larger staff – what is the source of their salary?
A. Every member must pay dues. SAA obtains revenue from dues, publication sales, professional workshops, and annual conference fees.
The first SAA paid staff member started 30 years ago. Positions are very demanding, and still cannot meet all the needs and goals of the Society. The top staff position at SAA is the Executive Director. The salaries for the SAA staff positions have been compared with other corresponding organizations through information obtained from the American Society for Association Executives. SAA's salaries tend to be proportionally smaller. We are lucky to have a dedicated and hard-working professional staff.