Since its foundation in 1955, the Institute of Modern History has dedicated itself to the accumulation of materials from governmental archives and oral history in order to support the study of modern history. In its early years the archive of the Institute specialized in collecting governmental documents. In 2002 with the legislation of Archives Act and the completion of the former archival work, it came to extend its reach to the fields of culture and the society. Tapping into the experience of governmental projects and the faculty’s expertise in oral history, it aims to diversify the nature and use of the collections by incorporating more data from the general public.
The Hwai River Commission (導淮委員會) is the first governmental body of modern China that instigates water administration using modernized methodology. Today, facing the thorny issue of environmental damage, knowledge of water administration becomes tied up with the well-being and survival of a nation. The digitization of the Huai River Management Commission’s archives will make significant contributions to environmental studies and hydrology by unifying hydrological information with archival documents which used to be scattered in different places. The value of this archive lies not only in informing policy-making, but also in investigating the history of post-war water administration in Taiwan by tracing the career and network of the Huai experts who came to the island.
Another key pursuit of this project pertains to military science, a discipline that may attract more attention in Taiwanese politics in the future. The academic strength of the Institute of Modern History has long been linked to the accounts of generals on wars and their life and time as oral history materials. It also holds documents of the Military News Agency, which are precious first-hand materials to examine the attitudes and activities of the army during the martial law period. In addition, archive studies can offer a fresh perspective on Taiwan’s strategic status and international profile in the post-WWII era.
Digitizing these materials is clearly an undertaking to initiate a dialogue with the value system of those historical times.
In June 2018, the Institute is to receive a gift from the Association of Cultural-Economic Exchange between China and Ryuku Islands, which has played an active role in maintaining the friendship and trading between Taiwan and Ryuku Islands over decades. Its files bequeathed to the Institute will stand as a living instance of successful civil diplomacy, as well as shed light on the cultural-economic aspects of the Senkaku Islands dispute and Ryuku Islands.
In the digital era, archives can no longer stand isolated; they ought to seek to form interconnection among different systems in order to sustain an organized and holistic approach to further historical inquiries. The Institute of Modern History Archives intends to build on thirty years of experience in archiving to facilitate data observation and develop ways to identify clues for research that human labor cannot achieve. It hopes to push a step forward in bridging archives and academic research and maximizing the potentials of digital humanities.