The purpose of this paper is to report the results of a qualitative study exploring the conditions associated with the creation, preservation and transmission of Shuishu archives in China, and the crises today in their preservation and transmission and the reasons behind them. It also proposes activation mechanisms to shift Shuishu archives from jeopardized collective memory to preservable cultural memory.
Semi-structured interviews and ethnographic fieldwork were conducted over the course of a month in 2015.
The creation, preservation and transmission of Shuishu archives in the community of the Shui rely upon the community’s closed system. But this system has been broken as a result of modernization and wide use of new media in China. To preserve and transmit Shuishu archives to future generations, there needs to be mutual trust and equitable cooperation between government archives and the Shuishushi. The “cultural consciousness” of the Shui needs to be stimulated, and more members of the Shui and the whole of society need to participate in the preservation and transmission of this distinctive memory.
The study can provide a provocative example for education in preservation and LIS about community culture and archiving, and the preservation of social memory, identity and culture. The activation mechanisms seek to aid in the preservation and transmission of Shuishu archives and other similar community memory.
The study uses semi-structured interviews and ethnographic methodology to develop a rich understanding of the history and the status quo of the preservation and transmission of Shuishu archives. It redefines Shuishu archives and sheds light on the roles government archives should play in the preservation and transmission of Shuishu archives.
The author is particularly grateful for the assistance given by the archivists at Sandu County Archives and Libo County Archives, and Linxi Meng, Ling Wei, and the Shuishushi at Zenlei village and Shuiyao village. The author would also like to thank Professor Anne Gilliland at UCLA and the two referees of this paper for their insightful comments which were very helpful to improve the manuscript. This study is supported by the Key Project of the National Social Science Foundation (Project No. 15ATQ009).
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