What I am looking for on the street
I am Nami Won, a Ph.D. candidate studying archival science at the Graduate Course of Gakushuin University in Tokyo, Japan. I am from South Korea. I came to Japan because I wanted to research the establishment and management of local archives, including its system.
I often get embarrassed when I have to explain what I do and what my research is about, when I introduce myself to someone whom I meet for the first time. It is because I have to answer those difficult questions: what archives is, what records management issues are, what a definition of archives is, and what archivists do. (I believe the readers of this newsletter know the meaning of the word, “archive”.) Even if I succeed to explain what it is, people continue to ask me why I study archives and records management, where I can work, how I can get a job, and so on. I guess that most people imagine archives is something like an office with dirty and old documents, a library with worn books, or a museum with rolls of torn papers. This happens a lot whether I am in my country or abroad.
Whether because of that, when I visit archives I have never been before for the first time, I always look for the word “archives” on a city map or on street signs only to know if it actually appears on any of them. During the last 6 years I have regularly worked for two-weeks volunteering on archival arrangement and description at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) headquarters in Geneva. After the activities, I took a short flight from Switzerland to neighboring countries in order to undertake some research visits to the municipal/local archives. On such occasions I got some information from maps and signs in almost all the cities I visited such as London, Bedford, Dorset, York, Paris, Berlin and Barcelona. I felt happy when the word “archives” presented on the maps and information boards maybe because I think that this shows how much archives is recognized as an important agency by citizens, which is different from both Japan or South Korea. What do you think about it?