Summer Intern Rita Wang Discovers A Passion For East Asian Archives

Thursday, August 31, 2017

By Rita Wang

Working in the archives processing room at the Hoover Institution this summer has opened my eyes to the beauty and diversity of primary sources that archival institutions have to offer. As a graduate student who is currently studying library and information science, I specialize in the arrangement, maintenance, and description of historical materials. But despite my passions in maintaining and making these historic materials accessible, history had never been a strong point for me in grade school. I found that most of what was taught typically came from a Western-centric point of view, and I found it difficult to relate to the topics covered.

However, in being a summer intern here, I have had the privilege of working and organizing East Asian collections. More specifically, I have found myself diving head-first into a plethora of Chinese and Taiwanese-centric materials, and have even found myself working intimately with materials that were recorded in traditional Chinese characters and verbal Mandarin. As a Taiwanese-American, knowing that these materials are considered important pieces of history and sought out by many researchers shows the importance of making all viewpoints and voices heard. The holdings I have encountered really display how archival institutions cater to a broad scope, housing materials that satisfy every individual’s unique interests.

During my time here, I have come across so many materials that have piqued my interest, from newspapers and other publications created in China during the Cultural Revolution to papers of various Chinese and Taiwanese politicians from the early to mid-1900s, as well as materials documenting the Tiananmen square protests. To be able to work with and make accessible materials created by individuals who have played a wide range of roles in the shaping of our history is humbling. The staff here play important roles in bridging gaps between countries and nations, showcasing how each event and individual throughout history has impacted the world around them.

Not only have I learned a great deal about history and the diversity of researchers’ interests, I have learned a great deal on how archival institutions are run. In coming across different formats of materials in the collections I processed, I was able to work with various departments here at Hoover including the preservation, digitization, and audiovisual departments. The way each staff member works tirelessly using their specializations in order to properly preserve and organize these materials blows me away. This summer has been an amazing and eye-opening experience that I know I will carry with me for the remainder of my career.