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“Chinese Oral Histories at Columbia and Beyond: Lessons and Legacies for Now and Future”

April 15, 2019 @ 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

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Panel Discussion


Guangyao Jin, Professor of History Department and Director of  International Center for Studies of Chinese Civilization, Fudan University, China

Andrew J. Nathan, the Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science at Columbia University

Jim Cheng, Director, C.V. Starr East Asian Library

Mary Marshall Clark, Director, Columbia Center for Oral History Research

Yingwen Huang, Chinese Materials Archivist, Columbia Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Chengzhi Wang, Chinese Studies Librarian, C.V. Starr East Asian Library


Historical source materials keep their scholarly value unabated with the passage of time. This is especially true of the Chinese Oral History Project collections at Columbia. The WEAI’s Chinese Oral History Project was officially started in 1958 by Prof. C. Martin Wilbur and Prof. Franklin Ho, the project’s co-directors, and lasted until the end of 1970s. As a result of the decades’ hard work of many scholars and the students at WEAI, a great number of oral histories and archival collections of significant importance were created and acquired; Most of them have been preserved in the Columbia Libraries and made accessible to interested students and scholars from everywhere. WEAI’s Chinese Oral History Project leaders and scholars lent critical support to oral history initiatives of Academia Sinica in Taiwan; the WEAI’s project and the standardized approaches of oral history have inspired almost all China/Chinese-related oral histories scholars and practitioners across the world, particularly recently in mainland China. Even today, the Columbia Libraries continues processing the unprocessed archival collections associated with the WEAI’s project and improving the finding aids of many collections. And the digitization of the collections in collaboration with the Academy of China Social Sciences has been initially experimented, as in the first-phase digitization of the Wellington Koo Papers. To better understand the history of WEAI and the institute’s significant contribution to the studies of modern China through the project, at the 70th anniversary of WEAI it is fitting and useful to look back and reflect on the lessons, legacies and issues surrounding the project, the current status of the oral history creation, production, library collection and access at Columbia and in Greater China Area, and the future directions of Chinese oral and public history development.

The roundtable is intended to introduce and analyze the special status of the WEAI’s Chinese Oral History Project situated in the oral history initiatives at Columbia and the movement across the country, and in the China-U.S. relations from the cold war time. It also informs the current development and transformations of oral and public history projects in the Greater China Area in changed domestic and international environments. In addition, it addresses the issues of library collection and research access of oral histories and related papers in the U.S. and China.



International Affairs Building, Room 918


No registration required.

For any press inquiries, please contact Ariana King at ak4364@columbia.edu


April 15, 2019
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
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