WE ARE ALL ARCHIVISTS
WE ARE ALL ARCHIVISTS
When we think about archives, we tend to think it is the responsibility of the government. But sre there any bottom-up efforts that citizens can still contribute to? This is where Brian Wong from Liber Research Community (本土研究社) and Elaine Lin from Asia Art Archives come in with their expertise. They shared how they use archiving to give voice to forgotten histories and make use of archives to keep history alive and useful.
Bottom-up effort to preserve histories
Elaine told stories about the collections in the Asia Art Archive from the history of protest performance art in Singapore to projects preserving Chinese artists’ works that would have been otherwise forgotten. She recalled exhibiting in the US their records of a performance art piece by the Lhasa River from the 1990s by a Chinese female artist called Zhang Lei who no one could contact anymore. A woman among the audience cried throughout the event, and later, she came up to them and told them that she performed the piece. She was Zhang Lei, a former artist in China who changed her career and settled down in a foreign country. Her work was nonetheless kept in the archive and given a voice, avoiding the fate of obscurity. Elaine had more stories like this one, each making it clear to the Fellows that archives can highlight micro-narratives and marginalised perspectives in history and help empower people and communities at the present time.
Brian, on the other hand, focuses on the utility of archives as ways to investigate and engage with current affairs in Hong Kong. Using the archival records they have retrieved from local archives and archives in the UK, the team at Liber Research Community revisit community controversies in their historical contexts, using history as advice in contemporary issues. Brian introduced the team’s research projects on MTR fares, policies regarding wild boars, and development around country parks, showing the Fellows that research and archives can be community driven and relevant, and that it is not something that only belongs in tertiary education and academia.