井の中の蛙

5/12/2011

Collecting Local Materials in Okinawa

Filed under: — sayaka @ 9:09 am

It seems there is increasing attention to Okinawan history recently. Okinawa is such an obviously interesting place for its own rich cultures, languages, customs, and complicated historical relationships with Yamato Japan and surrounding countries. The complexity should not overwhelm comparative historians, however, because there are a couple of advantages in studying the Okinawan history even only for a short period of time.

First of all, there is a tight community of Okinawan studies scholars who are very approachable, and many materials are available even from Tokyo. The library of Hosei University’s Institute for Okinawan Studies is a great place to find basic materials, and probably to get to know people.

Second of all, Okinawa’s prefectural and municipal governments have been devoting a lot of resources to organizing local sources. Almost everything they collect and publish are available at the Okinawa Prefectural Library in Naha. If you are doing postwar histories, the Okinawa Prefectural Archives is the place to go to. I spent most of my time in the Prefectural Library. Generally speaking, there are not many documents left from the prewar period because of the magnitude of the Battle of Okinawa as well as the occupation by the US forces afterwards. For many issues and years, the only sources are newspapers (琉球新報, 沖縄タイムス, 大阪朝日付録九州沖縄版, 沖縄新報, 沖縄毎日新聞 etc) preserved mainly in Tokyo or Kyushu and the old people who lived through that period. I realize that the Okinawan officials are indeed desperate to collect everything left when I saw this:

沖縄県文化振興会『植物標本より得られた近代沖縄の新聞』 2007
They collected about 300 pages of newspapers that were used as wrappers of botanical samples between the 1910s and 1930s in Kyoto University.

To those who want to know the backgrounds of the major newspapers ( in Okinawa, Ota Masahide (大田昌秀)’s “Okinawa no minshu ishiki” (『沖縄の民衆意識』1995) is a must read although the focus is the Meiji period.

Many municipal governments, like in Miyagi but often even more eagerly, have a city history section which regularly publishes new studies. I contacted Nago city history section. Their city history is one of the most thorough ones, and like other cities in Okinawa, they indexed and re-published newspaper articles and organized all the available statics related to Nago in three volumes. The republished version of newspaper articles is much easier to read than the original bad printing, of course. Nago city also distributed an index list of “newspaper articles related to education in Nago before 1945,” which came in extremely handy for my research. Besides that, I don’t know if this is really doable for other cities, but they publish contacts of senior citizens of the city — in case you are looking for the elderly to interview, I guess…

The staff at the Nago history section is also very helpful in introducing local historians to me from the local Meio University (名桜大学) and in responding to my additional request for a copy of a couple of newspaper articles that I could not find in the Prefectural Library.

You could also visit the national Ryukyu University, whose library is one of the oldest in Okinawa. I found a few issues of 沖縄教育 that were missing from the reprinted version and random village youth periodicals there. But overall their collection is not as thorough as the Prefectural Library, and it is less conveniently located. If you suddenly need to refer to English publications, Ryukyu University is the place to go to.

Shimoina in Nagano Prefecture is probably the most popular site of research because of its rich local sources, but it seems there is an equivalent of Shimoina in Okinawa — Ogimi (大宜味)village in Kunigami (the Northern one third of Okinawa). To be precise, rather than a lot of materials left, there are more historians who write about this village from early on. Besides their very well-written 大宜味村誌, Fukuchi Hiroaki (福地曠昭) has written a number of works based on many oral interviews and his own experiences of growing up in the village in the 1930s and 40s. Ogimi, in a way, is a peculiar case because the youth created a “soviet” in the village in 1931. 山城善光 was one of the leaders in this movement, and he wrote a memoir “Yambaru no hi” (『山原の火』1976)as well. When I visited Ogimi village last summer, they just created a new village history office. Kin (金武)village is also gaining more and more attention because that village produced a large number of immigrants.

I do not need to convince others about the importance of Okinawan studies. Neither do I need to persuade Okinawan people to engage in local histories. I was totally impressed by their continuous efforts, and I hope they will get attention and admiration that they deserve.

4/17/2011

Collecting Local Materials in Miyagi

Filed under: — sayaka @ 11:29 am

To express my deep gratitude to those who helped my research in Miyagi this summer, and to encourage more researchers to explore sources in Tohoku when things return to relatively normal, I would like to share some of my experiences in visiting libraries and archives there. I will also give my experience of doing a similar research stay in Okinawa in the next post. Several weeks of research in the local prefectures do not suddenly make me a specialist of the regions of any sort, but my point is that, thanks to the taxes well spent on organizing local histories in Japan, even short stays like mine could lead you to interesting case studies in local contexts.

I am not writing this post only to support the Tohoku region after the earthquake, but mainly because Tohoku is really worth a look for many issues because it offers rich, and often unique, historical contexts. Sendai, the center of the Tohoku dynamics, is a good place to explore for that reason. The three must-visit facilities in Sendai are, Miyagi Prefectural Archives, Miyagi Prefectural Library, and Tohoku University Library. All of them are temporarily closed because of the damage of the earthquake and aftershocks.

Miyagi Prefectural Archives (MPA) have hundreds of thick files, many of which are hand-written, recording administrative conducts of the prefectural and district governments. [My friend just let me know that the archives will be moved to the Prefectural Library around February 2012, and you can download the lists of their holdings here (go to the very bottom of the page)]. You can officially bring in a digital camera to take photos. There is a professional archivist, Kanehira Kenji, who is very helpful in finding out sources and locating the ones even outside the MPA. From what I saw there, their materials on education from Meiji to Showa are impressively thorough. They have lists and resumes of thousands of teachers, for example. Many local researchers often come to the MPA, so it might be a good place to ask about and meet local historians.

Miyagi Prefectural Library is located outside of Sendai City, and it takes about 30-40 minutes on the bus to get there. They have a big local history section, and you find most of the books, including personal memoirs and journals, in open stacks. They keep rare books inside the closed stacks, however. They will let you take digital photos within the limitation of copy rights in the back room. They have the most thorough collection of Kahoku Shimpo and other local newspapers in microfilms as well. Unfortunately the important years (around 1919-1930) of Kahoku Shimpo are completely missing, but some articles related to agricultural business could be found at Kobe University’s digital archive.

Tohoku University’s library is open to the public, but unfortunately most of the books are in the closed stacks. Visitors can make a library card to check out 2 books at a time. Even though this is a little inconvenient, you must check out their online catalogue because some retired scholars have donated tons of rare books to the library. Besides, local academic journals are available in open stacks. They also received and organized the donation of a massive amount of the documents of the Saito Faimily, who used to be the second largest landholder in Japan. I have not tried but you can take a look at the list of Saito documents online by registering.

Many of the city and town offices in Miyagi also compile and revise their local history series regularly. This is partly because many administrative units are going through mergers lately and they try to record a full account of the old city histories. For example, I was doing research on Shida village in Miyagi, which was merged into Furukawa city, which became a part of Osaki city recently. The Osaki city history section have just finished the new Furukawa city history. Because their volume on “sources of modern history” included very relevant materials, I inquired whether I could take a look at other sources they have. They were both very professional and laid-back — they collect as many personally-archived materials from their citizens as possible and digitize everything, and they are willing to share these sources with researchers. They also shared with me an index of Kahoku Shimpo articles written on the region which took three city officials a couple of full months to complete. When I needed to contact individuals in the city, this city history section also helps me by going in-between.

I hope it is clear that Miyagi (I actually imagine that many other prefectures as well) is very historian-friendly, both because they have many interesting materials and because there is personnel who helps you. If you have any possible excuse to include an event, a person, a company, a perspective from Miyagi, I strongly encourage you to devote a few hours searching these catalogues and asking these professionals.

Last Updated: Nov. 10, 2011.

12/7/2010

December 7, 1941, Pittsburg, Kansas

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 12:50 am

One of our graduate assistants came in recently with an old newspaper that her husband had found on a deconstruction job. Considering that it was, apparently, stored in a wall for decades, the December 7, 1941 Pittsburg Sun was in fairly good condition: brittle, but almost entirely intact and clear. I didn’t want to force the folds into a flatbed scanner – the paper clearly isn’t going to survive too much handling, and the next step is to show it to our archivist – so I took some pictures with my camera to share.

Interestingly, we got an email today indicating that the Governor has declared today a half-staff day, in honor of the anniversary, so consider this our contribution to the remembrance.
Pittsburg Sun 1941 December 7 Evening - Detail 1 - Front Page Headlines Army Arrives Pittsburg
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3/18/2010

Modern Digital Library vs Google Books

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 9:06 pm

When the Japanese National Diet Library started putting Meiji period and Taishō period books online and fully viewable in their Modern Digital Library (近代デジタルライブラリー) I remember thinking, “Wow, this is amazing! If only there could be access to books in other languages on this scale!”

That collection now has over 150,000 books scanned and included in their database. You don’t need any special plug-ins and the page images are JPEGs. Great job!

This past week I have been doing some heavy lifting research without any library access and Google Books has once again showed itself to be a real friend. I have been able to look up things so fast, with such precision, and check even small obscure details with such ease from a kitchen in Sackets Harbor New York that I’m incredibly tempted to abandon my study of the 1930-40s and never again touch a subject which goes past 1920: why? Because there is a good chance that if you search for something Google Books has before 1920, it will be in full view and you can read, search, and download to your heart’s delight. There are exceptions, which I have complained about on numerous occasions, but still, each time I sit down and really do some heavy searching with Google Books I find an ever increasing availability of even quite obscure works in their database scanned from some of the best libraries around. The limited preview is also incredibly useful as I increasingly look things up with a quick search on Google Books instead of picking up that same book on my table half a meter away. When one knows certain tricks, the limited preview is not even that limited when you really need to read a few pages denied to you.

The internet is now filled with debates about what the Google Books settlement will mean for publishers, writers, and researchers, as well as casual readers on the internet. I don’t want to fight that fight here, but I will point out one obvious fact:

The 近代デジタルライブラリー now looks like something out of the stone age compared to the interface provided in full view on Google Books. It is downright painful to go back. It is like going from the web back to the world of gopher on a dial-up connection. It is slow to load each page and single page display. It isn’t just that Google has the money to put a lot of effort into its presentation. To be sure, it isn’t trivial to create a web based reading experience which allows you seamless scrolling while pages load in the background, and the host of other little features they have included.

However, they decided early on that if they will give you full view, they are going to give you full view: allowing PDF and ePub downloads (albeit watermarked and not searchable offline).

A lot of databases like 近代デジタルライブラリー or the アジア歴史資料センター have a completely different philosophy, even for works that have long been in the public domain: sure we will give you a whole page but only zoomed out. If you zoom in we’ll give you a little piece of it in JPEG form. Multi-page download? In the latter case, no way, in the former case, they can create a special PDF for you, with a limited number of combined images:

1度に最大10コマまで指定できます

※ご注意
・コマ番号とは、撮影された各画像に振られた番号です。
・PDFファイルが作成されるまでに時間がかかる場合があります。
・1コマのファイルサイズは、およそ300KBです。

I see how this is designed to restrict the bandwidth usage on an already slow (at least in the US) website, but this tells me that there needs to be a greater pooling of efforts – either with help from powerful private sector companies such as Google (with care to avoid some of the problems this produces, and even worse horrors of such disasters as Footnote.com) or by pooling resources between governments, or in cooperative agreements between governments and the private sector.

Side note: Google Books has a small number of old Japanese books scanned from US libraries. It has Chinese books too but many of these were affected by complaints from Chinese authors and now have little or no access. Unfortunately many of these books are backwards: page numbers don’t work properly and the pages are shown in reverse in many (but not all) old books I have looked at in the past few days. Google: if you unbind Japanese books and present them in a vertical scrolling interface, you will have reverse the order of the pages!

7/23/2009

Online Image Resources: Pedagogy and Geeky Fun

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 10:03 pm

One of my projects this summer has to do with the use of images in history classes: I’m trying to improve my teaching, and perhaps help others, by scanning pictures1 and identifying online sources for good images, as well as trying to figure out ways to do more with the images in the classroom. There’s been some great discussion of powerpoint and images in the classroom at Edge of the American West over the last week, the upshot of which is that images don’t really help all that much, unless you use them well. Not a surprising result, but the fact is that I use images sparingly in the classroom (and have never used powerpoint) because my training — and natural talents, I think — is heavily textual. I love a good map or chart, and I do use art in class both for cultural history and as historical documentation, but not enough. It’s not about “appealing to visual learners” as much as it is my belief that visual and physical materials are going to be increasingly important in historical analysis, both as sources and as forms of presentation. This isn’t cutting edge theory, or at least it shouldn’t be.

Anyway, that’s by way of preface for some of the stuff I hope to be posting here2 over the next few months: images from my collection, and discussions of what they might mean, historically and pedagogically; other resources for visual materials and commentary on potential uses; links to other discussions of visual analysis; that sort of thing.

So, here’s my first collection of links:
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  1. both from books, which has copyright limitations, and from my own collection of slides and digital pictures, which doesn’t (at least for me, which is what matters!) []
  2. and at the other Frog blogs []

5/5/2009

Dangerous Data

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 11:05 pm

By now most of you have probably heard of the erasure of buraku — the segregated communities of Japanese outcastes — from Google Earth.1 The continuing discrimination against burakumin — hisabetsuminzoku2 is the phrase I was taught to use in the late ’80s, but it doesn’t seem to have stuck — which often uses their unique geographic footprint as a tool for identifying the otherwise indistinguishable burakumin from the rest of the Japanese population was the issue: having the maps on Google Earth made it too easy.

The discussion at H-Japan has been fairly low-key3 and the UCB Library has calmed the scholars’ fears by announcing that the only alterations were made to the Google Earth versions, not to the online digital archive versions. That narrows the problem a bit…
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  1. I got that from a student just before it showed up on H-Japan. []
  2. literally “peoples who have been discriminated against” []
  3. though Paul Stephen Lim’s story of government pressure to downplay burakumin issues is pretty shocking []

5/14/2008

Archival Incidents, or What is it with Pictures?

Sean Malloy has withdrawn the pictures once touted as “newly discovered” photographs of Hiroshima in the immediate aftermath of the atomic bombing. Over the last few days, after the pictures were reported by HNN, the Huffington Post, and Wired, among others, members of the Japanese studies community took a closer look and began to doubt. I saw it unfold at H-Japan: questions about the clothing worn by the people standing in the photos, injuries that didn’t match the atomic bombing, topography issues. Most of all, there were similarities to other known pictures from the Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and the anti-Korean/anti-leftist massacres which followed: the injuries, topography and clothing are more consistent with that disaster/atrocity. How the pictures acquired the Hiroshima story is still a mystery though, as one commenter pointed out, there’s a three day gap between the bombing and the first known pictures which we’d dearly love to fill.

By a curious coincidence, I (and a lot of other innocent scholars of Asia, I warrant) got an email from an ironically named Japanese group1 whose sole purpose is to deny the realities of Japanese WWII atrocities, and one of their highlight publications is an attempt to debunk as many Nanjing Massacre photographs as possible. Daqing Yang, one of the premier scholars on the Nanjing Massacre has written

Even photographic evidence, as many of them have come to realize, can be fraught with danger if its origins cannot be ascertained. When a conservative Japanese daily newspaper made a news story out of a wartime photograph used with the wrong caption in Kasahara’s book, he offered a swift public apology for his negligence and replaced the photograph.94 One of Kasahara’s historian colleagues has included a cautionary note about the use of photographic evidence in a college textbook on historical sources, using the Rape of Nanjing as an example.95

A few days back, peacay wrote me to get clarification on a satirical map found in the ‘Block Prints of the Chinese Revolution’ collection at Princeton. The problem with it, what was confusing peacay, is that the map seemed to be too broad and didn’t say much about the 1911 Revolution. The archival commentary wasn’t helpful, being a general statement about the whole collection. So, I got a good look at it and reported back that it was actually a Japanese-drawn (that much peacay already knew, which is why I got the call) WWI satire, dated late 1914, and the sum total of Chinese commentary was to depict China as a Mandarin pig, anxiously looking at a rain gauge. (peacay has a nice detail shot of it) The rest of the collection seems to actually be from Shanghai and relate to the 1911 revolution (at least, I assume Alan would have said something!). I don’t know that Princeton is going to withdraw the out-of-place image — they’ve already got a disclaimer on the collection saying that they don’t endorse any of the sentiments contained therein — but I expect that their in-house cataloging is more detailed and accurate. I hope so, but that’s no protection for researchers who aren’t in New Jersey.

This is going to come up more and more: as archives and collections become more public, the likelihood of discovering errors (or worse, propogating them in our research) is going to increase. As others have noted, I’m sure, historians are rarely trained specifically in the critical use of visual evidence, photographic or artistic. I’ve seen some grossly overinterpreted and casually thoughtless uses of visual materials.2 Nor are many archivists, though we rely heavily on their record-keeping and expertise. But it’s getting harder and harder to excuse this kind of carelessness, while our training is not at all keeping up with the materials we’re expected to use.

  1. I’ll tell you if you really want, but I don’t want to give them any more publicity than they deserve []
  2. I used a world history textbook once which both: a. presented a photograph of modern African folk dancers in a chapter on pre-1500 African history, the only instance in which a modern photo was used as evidence in a pre-modern context; b. and claimed that the solemn expressions on native Americans in a mid-19c picture were evidence of their social and cultural plight instead of the long exposures of contemporary technology []

12/14/2006

Announcement: East Asian Libraries and Archives Wiki

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 5:21 am

The Frog in a Well project is expanding. While we hope our three bilingual collaborative weblogs dedicated to the study of East Asian history will continue to develop and add more contributors, I would like to announce a new project that we are hosting here, the East Asian Libraries and Archives wiki, or EALA:

The East Asian Libraries and Archives Wiki

This wiki will serve as a central collection site for information about archives, libraries, museums, etc. in East Asia that are of potential interest for anyone doing research on or in East Asia. It will also include sections dedicated to other kinds of resources but its primary focus it to provide researchers with a good starting place and reference for information on sites they may be visiting. While many archives have websites, my experience has been that they vary significantly in quality, convenience, organization, and speed of access. Also, visitors to archives can often provide extremely useful information to future visitors that may not be of the kind you are likely to read on the archive’s official homepage. The two most important aspects of each archive entry will be: 1) Basic reference information that will help a researcher plan ahead for their visit and easily find links to more details 2) Provide a place where researchers may record their personal experiences in the archive. As a wiki, anyone will be able to edit the individual entries, update information that might be out of date, and record their own experiences.

The East Asian Libraries and Archives wiki was originally founded in 2003 and originally hosted in a similar form at Chinajapan.org. It was inspired by the Chinese archives website at UCSD which hosts a range of useful, if somewhat outdated information for students and scholars wanting to do research in the archives of China.

I hope that other students and scholars of East Asia will share some of their experiences and, as they conduct their own research will consider updating information available. You may read more about the site here, and there are numerous help files on how to edit and create pages on the site here. The wiki has links to a blank archive form (PDF, Word, and wiki formatted text) for convenient note taking on your visit. I have posted a few entries from my time in Japan, which I added to the original site in 2003-4. To get an idea of what kind of information entries can include, see for example the entries for International Library of Children’s Literature, the Ōya Sōichi Library, and the Yokohama Archives of History.

While it is off to a slow start, I would also like to take this opportunity to introduce the Frog in a Well Library, or the 文庫, where we will host various primary documents related to the history of East Asia: The Frog in a Well Library

7/19/2006

Japanese Historical Text Initiative at UC Berkeley

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 10:49 am

A recent message on H-Japan from Yuko Okubo at UC Berkeley announced an interesting online resource: The Japanese Historical Text Initiative Here is a part of that announcement which outlines some of the materials already available:

The Japanese Historical Text Initiative (JHTI) is a rapidly expanding
database made up of historical texts written during the last 1292 years.
The original version of every paragraph in every text is cross-tagged with
its English translation, making it possible for any researcher to see, on
the same screen, both the original and English translation of any word or
phrase appearing in any JHTI text.

The texts now included are of the following types:

Ancient chronicles. These were compiled by officials of the Imperial
Court in compliance with edicts handed down by occupants of the throne.
The three oldest chronicles have been placed on JHTI: (1) the Kojiki
(completed in 712 CE) and cross-tagged with its English translation by
Donald L. Philippi, (2) the Nihon Shoki (completed in 720) with its
translation by W. G. Aston, and (3) the Shoku Nihongi (covering 697 to
791) with its translation by J. B. Snellen.

Ancient gazetteers. These texts were submitted by provincial officials in
compliance with an Imperial edict handed down during the first half of the
8th century. Only a few remain. We are inserting on JHTI the original of
the most complete extant gazetteer, the Izumo no Kuni Fudoki (submitted in
733), and linking it with Michiko Aoki’s translation. Remaining portions
of other gazetteers will be added and linked to translations by Professor
Aoki.

Ancient religo-civil code. In 927, at the close of the Great Reform period
that began in 645, a comprehensive compilation of religious and civil law
(the Engi Shiki) was submitted to the Imperial court. The first 10 books
are made up of religious (Kami) law. All other books are devoted to civil
law. The originals of the 10 Kami books have been placed on JHTI and
cross-tagged with Felicia Gressitt Bock’s translation.

Medieval stories. After the Great Reform period, and during early years of
the emerging feudal age, the most valuable historical texts were stories
written about what was said and done by powerful leaders of aristocratic
and military clans. Three are being placed on JHTI: (1) the Okagami
(covering the years 866 to 1027) with the translation by Helen Craig
McCullough; (2) the Eiga Monogatari (covering the years 794 to 1185) with
the translation by William H. & Helen Craig McCullough; and (3) the
Taiheiki (completed around 1371) with the Helen Craig McCullough
translation. Other translated texts of this type will be added later.

Medieval and early-modern interpretive histories. Between 1219 and 1712,
three great interpretive histories were written, mirroring the religious
and political interests of their authors. The originals and translations
of two are being placed on JHTI: (1) the Gukansho (completed in 1219) has
been linked with the Delmer M. Brown and Ichiro Ishida translation, and
(2) the Jinno Shotoki (completed in 1339) with the H. Paul Varley
translation. The third history of this type, the Tokushi Yoron (completed
in 1712), will soon be cross-tagged and inserted with the Joyce Ackroyd
translation.

The Japanese state and Imperial Shinto. After the Meiji Restoration of
1868, and in response to increasing pressure from Western powers, the
Japanese state adopted reforms in all areas of public life, including
religious life. After World War II the government collected and published
important religious orders issued between 1868 and 1945. This is entitled
Meiji Igo Shukyo Kankei Horei Ruisan (Collection of Religious Orders
Issued since the Beginning of Meiji) and it is being placed on JHTI, and
is being linked with translations by Brown and Okubo. In 1937, the
Japanese government published and distributed its official interpretation
of Imperial Shinto. Entitled Kokutai no Hongi (Principles of Nation-Body)
this has been placed on JHTI and cross-tagged with the English translation
by John Owen Gauntlett.

Scriptures of Japan’s New Religions. After Japan was forced to adopt a
constitution that freed religion from state control, numerous New
Religions emerged and flourished. The strongest two have amassed 10
million or more members. Their teachings are rooted in the Lotus Sutra
(Hokke-kyo) and this Sutra, thought to be the earliest of the Mahayana
scriptures, will be placed on JHTI and cross-tagged with the English
translation by Banno Kato et al and revised by W. L. Soothill and William
Schiffer et al. The Ofudesaki written by the founder of Tenri-kyo will
also be added, and linked with the translation by Iwao P. Hino.

This is an exciting project and I hope it continues to develop, adding material and ironing out problems as it does. I have only given the site a quick look but a few quick observations:

1) Searching some of the materials requires obtaining a password, which apparently is available from one of the site administrators.

2) There is a fascinating “Frequency of Appearance” feature which allows you to search a single or in all of the texts for the frequency of certain words.

3) The design of the website still needs some work. The site uses frames, which is fine, but the encoding is not set in the HEAD tag for some of the files, which renders the Japanese characters wrong in some cases unless the visitor manually chooses the correct encoding in their browser (example: their logsel.cgi file produces files without encoding, which is just lazy programming) or has the default encoding set to the appropriate Japanese encoding.

4) Some of the search pages still need work, as well as the browse function. For example, browsing the Kojiki lists the language as “Japanese and English” but only the English appears except in the footnotes.

5) Some links on the site are still broken (the search page for nihon shoki was broken at the time of writing this post)

2/11/2006

Data: Personal v. Historical

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 3:36 pm

A recent initiative in the US to limit access to birth and death records [via] along with other personal data would severely limit the ability of historical and geneaological researchers, not to mention the epidemiological studies mentioned in the article.

This reminded me that I’d meant to blog a long time ago about Sharon Domier’s H-Japan announcement that a similar law in Japan passed last year was hindering historical researchers. I’ve removed a few of the URLs she provided because they don’t seem to work anymore, but I’d be happy to provide them if anyone wants to root around in the archives.

The Japanese government recently enacted a Personal Information Protection Law that is having a significant impact on both publishing and research. In Japanese it is called Kojin Joho hogo ho.

The Japan Media Review is a good place to read about the effect of the new law on publishing. Here is an article in English: http://www.japanmediareview.com/japan/media/1060286367.php

What this means to libraries is that many are withdrawing meibo (registers) that contain personal information. School yearbooks are off limits as are many biographical registers. If you subscribe to online databases that include biographical information, you may find that the content has changed significantly in order to comply with the law. Many of the librarians that I have talked to in my recent travels are grappling with how to preserve materials and be in compliance with the law.

For an article that explains how one library handled historical material (court cases from the Meiji-Taisho period), please see this Asahi Shinbun article in Japanese. http://www.asahi.com/national/update/0414/OSK200504130060.html [I can't seem to find this, either at Asahi or in Lexis-Nexis, sorry]

Please note that libraries are removing the bibliographic records from OPACs so that there is no public trace of the materials that are problematic.

As I replied to Domier at the time, My research probably will be affected, but I haven’t done a Japanese archive trip in a while, so I can’t be sure. It sounds like some of what I had access to — official records with names and addresses — might well be included, so I’m sitting on a stash of “gray market” evidence. One of my concerns — aside from the obvious — is that research already done with these records will now be unverifiable by future researchers. Have you run into a problem in the last year or so? Let us know.

This is a serious issue: privacy and personal information protection are indeed valuable principles worthy of care and protection. But there has to be some way to preserve those principles without seriously compromising our ability to do legitimate research.

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