Instant Access at Hubei Provincial Archives

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After a lousy start of the day at Wuhan Municipal Archives, I had the good fortune of spending the rest of the morning and afternoon researching at the 湖北省档案馆 Hubei Provincial Archives.

Registering and starting research at Hubei was quick and painless. I earlier browsed the online catalog and collected citations for files that looked to be of use for my project. I printed these out and presented them to the staff in the “Administrative Service Hall” along with my letter of introduction.

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The staff asked me to fill out a brief form (name, danwei, research topic, and research goal) and within minutes I was looking at documents. I don’t even think the staff photocopied my passport.

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Two of the folders I requested were digitized, so, as in Beijing, I was able to look at these folders immediately while the staff retrieved my paper files from the stacks.

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Delivery of the paper files took 20 or so minutes, as it seems the staff prefer to consolidate the requests of several persons before retrieving anything. Every so often staff would enter the reading room with a cart and drop off folders at several different researchers’ desks.

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There were several other researchers and a steady stream of citizens seeking information. The reading room did become noisy a few times during the day, but I’ve been to more disruptive archives in China (some were literally under construction while I was there), so no big deal.

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Having only spent one day at the Hubei Provincial Archives, my biggest gripe would have to be the odd hours and very long lunch break. The archives is open from 8:00am-12:00pm and then again from 2:30p.m.-5:30p.m. That’s right–a 2.5 hour lunch break! I spent part of mine wandering East Lake/Donghu, just across the street from the archives.

I did not inquire about printing or photocopying, although in principle it looked like both services are available. There are notices taped on the computer monitors asking users not to take photos, so it seems photography is not an option.

All-in-all, I would happily return to the Hubei Provincial Archives in the future. Maybe I’ll come back to Wuhan if the Municipal Archives gets its act together and grants me access…

The Hubei Provincial Archives is located at 武汉市水果湖洪山路87号, near the intersection with 天鹅路.

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