Date: 10 am-12 pm, Wednesday, October 19, 2016
Venue: Lecture Hall, Social Science Information Center, National Chengchi University
Minutes by Mr. Han-wei Tsai, Ms. I-chen Huang, and Ms. Yu-ting Huang
At the beginning of the symposium, Dr. Chiao-min Lin delivered her warm welcome message and gave an introduction to the current situation of public access to and use of archives in Taiwan. Dr. Lin observed that most of people in Taiwan are unfamiliar with archives and do not know how to use them because of low availability of archives. Unlike books which people could usually get from libraries easily and conveniently, archives seem to be remote and hard to be obtained. Besides, in many cases, people should always submit their applications in advance if they want to view archives. What makes this difference between books and archives happen? The answer is “contents.” Contents of archives are usually related to personal privacy. Therefore, there must be some necessary regulations or restrictions to stipulate public access to and use of archives.
Although the public is gradually aware of the issue of public access to and use of archives, people still do not understand it fully. Dr. Lin took three pieces of news in the past one year as examples to explain her observation. First news was about Academia Historica’s restrictions on foreign scholars to access their archives. Second one was about the first reading of the “Political Archives Bill” by the Legislative Yuan. And the third news was about a man who sold confidential government documents privately and was caught by the military police. Through news, people could have a better knowledge and understanding of archives and start to know dos and don’ts when facing archives. Generally speaking, for the public, their biggest question about archives always focuses on their limited access to and use of archives.
In order to interpret current situation of public access to and use of archives in Taiwan, Dr. Lin collected archive policies and regulations of seven main institutes (archives) and analyzed them with the following six categories: (1) opening hours, (2) target users, (3) contents and amounts of archives that could be viewed, (4) articles that could be brought into the archives reading room, (5) prohibited actions, and (6) charges of viewing and duplicating archives. Dr. Lin found that in most of institutes, users have to submit their applications in advance. After they receive approval from the institute, then they must visit the institute and view archives in office hours. However, if institutes are also open on the weekends, this might be more flexible to users. Although these institutes are welcome and open to the public, users still need to register with the authorities by declaring personal ID or passports numbers. Besides, there are other additional restrictions for foreigners, especially those from China, Hong Kong or Macau. How to modify those restrictions has been an important issue for institutes in Taiwan.
In addition, Dr. Lin found that in the following two situations users would be prohibited to view original documents or could only view few pages. The first kind of situation is that archives are in bad conditions, under compilation, or had been digitalized. The other situation is caused by contents. When contents of archives are violated to public or personal interests, users might be prohibited to view them. These restrictions are based on management considerations. That is why users hope policies and regulations could be flexible. For instance, digital archives would not be stained or damaged by users, so there will be no need to have viewing limits.
As for articles that are not allowed to bring into the archives reading room, Dr. Lin listed some common prohibited articles, such as backpacks, electronic devices or ink pens. Besides, actions like marking or flicking through archives rudely are also prohibited. In fact, the aim of these rules is to keep archives in good conditions. So most of user could understand and would obey them. Next is about charges of viewing and duplicating archives. Dr. Lin pointed out that viewing and transcribing archives are always free, but there will be some charges for duplications depending on material and type of each archive. For most of institutes, this is also a means to avoid archives being reproduced purposely. Though user also think it is reasonable to charge, they still hope that these charges could be much lower.
All in all, for users, it will be more convenient and friendly if institutes could consider loosening some restrictions. In fact, some of them contradict the spirit of freedom of information. Thus, how to find a balance is a difficult challenge for all institutes. Dr. Lin suggested that institutes should be more open-minded and had better to set only basic restrictions. Using digital archives is a trend in the world, so institutes must make some changes to face the new era.
【Photo 1: Dr. Chiao-min Lin delivered the welcome message (1)】
【Photo 2: Dr. Chiao-min Lin delivered the welcome message (2)】
After Dr. Lin’s introduction, five discussants respectively introduced archives policies and regulations of their institutes and what they are going to do to face the new trend of archives. The first discussant was Ms. Hsiao-wen Chou. Ms. Chou is the Director of the Department of Cataloguing, Preservation and General Service at Academia Historica. Ms. Chou said that collections of archives at Academia Historica mostly consist of government archives brought from China to Taiwan, as well as those collected in Taiwan. In addition to government archives, there are also lots of personal documents or institution records, such as records and artifacts from R.O.C.’s former Presidents and Vice Presidents, or celebrities’ diaries. Ms. Chou said that Academia Historica has already collected more than 5,000 people’s documents or artifacts.
“The rule of law” is Academia Historica’s standpoint regarding public access to and use of archives. Academia Historica must abide by national laws related to archival management, such as “The Freedom of Government Information Law.” What Academia Historica does now is to arrange all archives in order with clear catalogues. In Academia Historica, archives that could be found in catalogues and loaned to view are those had been classified and catalogued. For Academia Historica, it is their responsibility to have archives to be well arranged and catalogued. As for the problem of the right to privacy, according to “The Personal Information Protection Act,” there are some personal information in archives should be hided when users view archives. Although this might cause users’ inconvenience, Academia Historica still has to obey the national law. The best way to reduce users’ inconvenience is to modify this law so as to meet practical situations and users’ needs.
Ms. Chou continued to explain what services Academia Historica would provide for users regarding use of archives. In Academia Historica, there are some restrictions on archive copying, especially for personal documents, such as archives of Chia-kan Yen, a former Vice President of R.O.C.. As for on-line digital archives, they are now all open to the public. Users could download what they view on-line in digital forms directly from the websites or databases without any charge. Since August 2016, digital images of documents of the National Government of R.O.C. are accessible to the public and free to be downloaded on-line. Then, since October, digital images of artifacts of President Chiang Kai-shek are also open to users. Ms. Chou said that the cost of making digital archives is expensive, so how to find a price that is reasonable and acceptable to both Academia Historica and users will be their future task.
【Photo 3: Ms. Hsiao-wen Chou, Director of the Department of Cataloguing, Preservation and General Service at Academia Historica, introduced archive policies of Academia Historica】
The second discussant was Mr. Pu Shih, Deputy Director of the Services Division of National Archives Administration in National Development Council. At the beginning of his talking, Mr. Shih shared various services provided by National Archives Administration with the audience and also explained the spirit and details of the “Archives Act.” In Taiwan, the “Archives Act” is the most important law about archives and its management. In addition to the “Archives Act,” there are some other laws relevant to archives, for example, “The Freedom of Government Information Law,” the “Personal Information Protection Act, “The Classified National Security Information Protection Act,” the “Sexual Assault Crime Prevention Act,” and “The Protection of Children and Youths Welfare and Rights Act.” Mr. Shih also mentioned the situation that users from China, Hong Kong or Macau would be limited to access national archives. In National Archives Administration, scholars from China could not apply to view archives personally. They must submit applications in a name of a group or a conference.
According to Mr. Shih, as of September in 2016, there were more than 2,700,000 documents under the administration of National Archives Administration. Most of them are government archives, from central to local levels. However, these documents need to be classified and catalogued properly, and this takes time. Mr. Shih said that National Archives Administration receives about 500 applications of viewing archives each year. In these cases, 99% archives would be approved to be viewed by users. As for the rest of 1%, they are always confidential archives, so the application would be rejected. When users loan archives, what kinds of contents would be revealed to users? Generally speaking, users could view most of contents, except personal information, such as ID number, birth date, or address. Moreover, written confessions, private letters, or execution photos (executing by shooting) would also be taken away from the compiled package. Mr. Shih said that there are kinds of factors that may affect National Archives Administration to permit or reject applications.
Since the Executive Yuan has loosened restrictions on viewing and using national archives, National Archives Administration will try their best to make more archives open to public access. For those national archives that had passed the retention period of 30 years (confidential documents, written confessions, execution photos are not included), users could view them in the archive reading area in National Archives Administration.
【Photo 4: Mr. Pu Shih, Deputy Director of the Services Division of National Archives Administration in National Development Council, introduced archive policies of National Archives Administration】
Dr. Che-chia Chang, Director of the Archives of the Institute of Modern History at Academia Sinica, was the third discussant. Dr. Chang introduced collections and policies of the Archives to the audience. Dr. Chang said that diplomatic archives of the Foreign Office from the late Qing dynasty to the National Government Period, and economic archives of several economic departments before 1949, such as the Ministry of Commerce, are already open to the public. Users could access maps before 1949 as well. In the Archives, there are two main types of archives: classified archives and declassified archives. Users could not view classified archives, but they could view declassified ones which are included in catalogues and contain no personal information by visiting the Archives in person.
In the Archives, there are also many personal archives open to the public. However, users must submit applications in advance. The Archives needs to ask relatives of the person involved in the archives for approval. Only if they permit the application, users could have the right to view these personal archives. Dr. Chang said that there are collections of personal archives of former Presidents of Academia Sinica and of important figures in the political circle in Taiwan. Thanks to Mr. Kwoh-ting Li’s help and support, the Archives could obtain a large number of economic archives. Mr. Li was a leading figure in promoting Taiwan’s economy during the post-war period. Mr. Li also donated his personal documents relevant to the economic development of Taiwan to the Archives. In addition to Mr. Li’s documents, users could also find documents of Chen Lei and Ke-cheng Lin in the Archives.
In accordance to the “Archives Act” and the “Personal Information Protection Act,” users could view declassified archives in the Archives. However, in some special circumstances regarding questionable archives, the Archives would have the authority to make a double check. Dr. Chang stressed that the Archives is open to everyone, including foreigners. As an academic institute, the Archive should provide as much original archives as possible for researchers to conduct academic research.
【Photo 5: Dr. Che-chia Chang, Director of the Archives of the Institute of Modern History at Academia Sinica, introduced archive policies of the Archives of the Institute of Modern History】
The fourth discussant was Dr. Li-chiao Wang, Director of the Archives of the Institute of Taiwan History at Academia Sinica. Dr. Wang introduced policies of public access to and use of archives of the Archives of the Institute of Taiwan History. As a research institute, users of the Archives are mostly research fellows at Academia Sinica, especially those of the Institute of Taiwan History. Therefore, in order to provide better services for researchers, the Archives set a rule that users must be over 18 years old. Dr. Wang said that all archives are open to users, but they have to submit their applications first before loaning archives to view. In addition to viewing archives, users could also transcribe and duplicate archives there. The maximum number of pages for duplication is 500 pages per day. There is one more feature that the Archives would not hide personal information in archives from users. The main reason is that all archives there are more than 30 years old, and thus could be open to public access. The Archives believes that this policy could promote the development of academic research. The only restriction for users is that they come to the Archives in person to view archives. As for digital archives, there is no limit for viewing and downloading which is also convenient and friendly to users. In the present, the Archives tries to improve image size and resolution quality to pursue better services.
At last, Dr. Wang shared her opinion about “the rule of law” practiced by Academia Historica. Dr. Wang thought that archives institutes should be more active and take responsibility to examine the “Archives Act” and point out problems with their professional knowledge in archival management instead of being passive to wait for interpretations from the Ministry of Justice. Moreover, archives institutes should hold lectures or workshops for users to build their correct understanding of archives and related laws. Dr. Wang believed that if users could understand reasons why archives could be viewed or not, especially those confidential ones, quarrels would be greatly avoided.
【Photo 6: Dr. Li-chiao Wang, Director of the Archives of the Institute of Taiwan History at Academia Sinica, introduced archive policies of the Archives of the Institute of Taiwan History】
Dr. Wen-lung Wang, Curator of the Kuomintang Cultural and Communications Committee KMT Party History Institute, was the fifth and the last discussant. Dr. Wang said there are more than 3 million documents open to the public in the KMT Party History Institute, but they have no enough staff but only three to arrange such a large number of documents. Because of the shortage of manpower, the Institute could only offer four fixed time periods for users to loan archives. Similar to situations of the Archives of Institute of Modern History and the Archives of Institute of Taiwan History at Academia Sinica, users could view whatever they find in catalogues in the KMT Party History Institute. However, they must submit applications in advance. The Institute only rejects applications when archives are in bad conditions. Dr. Wang also said that the Institute welcomes foreigners’ visits. For researchers who study modern history of China, the Institute has always been an important treasury and their last hope, especially when they are not allowed to view archives at Academia Historica or National Archives Administration. Therefore, according to the Institute’s visitor statistics, their visitors and users are usually higher than above two institutes. However, users could only view archives in the Institute and are not allowed to duplicate them since the Institute is prohibited to charge users for duplications due to KMT’s own regulations. Only under special circumstances, users could duplicate or reproduce archives. For example, some people lost their family photos during the Chinese Civil War between the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party or due to other serious political conflicts. Then, the Institute turns to be the only place and hope for these users to trace back their family memory and roots. When facing such cases, the Institute would help them to find out their family members from archives. Now, the Institute has started to collaborate with Academia Historica to have a better management of archives and provide users with better services.
【Photo 7: Dr. Wen-lung Wang, Curator of the Kuomintang Cultural and Communications Committee KMT Party History Institute, introduced archive policies of KMT Party History Institute】
After five discussants’ talks, there was a roundtable discussion open to all participants. Dr. Li Chang, a research fellow of the Institute of Modern History at Academia Sinica, was the first to share his opinions on archives access policies. Dr. Chang suggested Academia Historica and National Archives Administration should be more flexible in usage of archives. Humans live in history and are parts of history. If users are prohibited to view photos, how could we study history? There was one suggested solution from Dr. Chang that both institutes could design a letter of guarantee for researchers to sign so as to reach a balance between protections of personal information and users’ needs. As for policy-making, Dr. Chang advised that the central government should take archivists’ opinions into consideration since they are always in the front line of archival management. There were two more suggestions from Dr. Chang. The first one is to shorten time period of examining applications. In the present circumstance, if users want to view archives in National Archives Administration, they need to submit applications in advance and passively wait for notifications for many days or even weeks. This policy was not user-friendly. A better procedure is that National Archives Administration could announce catalogues of archives (about 900,000 documents) that had been permitted to view. In this way, users could know if archives that they want to view need to be examined by National Archives Administration nor not. Dr. Chang’s second advice was about the problem of reimbursement at Academia Historica. If Academia Historica could give users receipts for top ups in advance (users top up first, but use them later), that must be a big convenience for users, particularly researchers executing research plans. Finally, Dr. Chang hoped that archives institutes, especially the Archives of the Ministry of National Defence, should be more flexible and loosen restrictions on confidential archives.
Dr. Li-chiao Wang said that the Archives of the Institute of Taiwan History classified and arranged archives by themselves, so they could have better understanding of archives and design suitable regulations. For example, users could view archives immediately after submitting applications. In Dr. Wang’s opinion, in addition to archives that are more than 30 years old, there must be a clear regulation for archivists and users to know which other kinds of archives should also be open directly. This is the most important issue that must be discussed and solved in the present. Dr. Wang emphasized again that all archives institutes must put users’ needs in the first priority.
Ms. Hsiao-wen Chou made a response to answer both Dr. Li-chiao Wang’s and Dr. Li Chang’s questions. When Academia Historica confronts problems about examining personal information in archives, experts on “The Personal Information Protection Act” or archivists would be entrusted with handling them. Ms. Chou said that there is no enough manpower to declassify archives at Academia Historica. For instance, in the Dashi Archives, there are six series out of 11 (more than 50% of the Dashi Archives) needed to be declassified. Staffs at Academia Historica had put lots of effort to arrange these archives. In order to response to users’ needs, Academia Historica would try their best to declassify archives and to have a better arrangement of archives with clear catalogues.
Dr. Pu Shih agreed to Dr. Li Chang’s suggestion that archives which had been examined by archives institutes before should provide directly for users to view. Archives institutes should also create catalogues to list such kind of archives for users’ reference. As for photos, Dr. Shih agreed that there is no need to hide the dead from photos. But archives institutes have to examine and check if persons shown in photos were dead or not. This is a good advice for National Archives Administration to modify related review policies regarding to photo.
At the end of the symposium, Dr. Chiao-min Lin concluded with following remarks. Every discussant agreed that catalogues should be fully open to the public. However, this is not enough. The best circumstance is that users could view whatever they find in catalogues. Hence, archives institutes must pay more attention to and carefully arrange catalogues. In this way, users would not need to wait for notifications for a long time. Besides, archives institutes should reduce restrictions on usage or duplication of archives. If users visit archives institutes in person, then, they should have the opportunity to view archives. Although both Academia Historica and National Archives Administration have rather tough rules, their rules all come from laws in Taiwan. Thus, the main problem is how to modify laws to meet practical needs. Dr. Lin expected that archives institutes in Taiwan should figure out methods together to manage archives and provide better services. At the same time, they should communicate with the public to increase people’s understanding of archives and to know what problems that archives institutes confront now. Opinions and suggestions from the public might be great references for archives institutes to modify laws. It is hoped that the symposium could promote future development of public access to archives in Taiwan.