Sustainability of independent community archives in China: a case study

Zhiying Lian, Gillian Oliver

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    3 Citations (Scopus)


    There are three models for community archives in China. The first one is where community archives are kept in government-funded/government-established museums or archives. The second is where community archives are kept by scholarly organizations such as universities. The third involves the community establishing its own archive. This last model is very unusual in China. The PiCun Culture and Art Museum of Migrant Labor (PCMML) provides an example of this model as it is the only independent community archives focusing on migrant workers in China. This paper explores the emergence and development of PCMML, its impact on community members and challenges faced including funding and staffing, but also those unique to China—PCMML is greatly influenced by a range of national and local government policies and regulations. Conclusions are that survival strategies for independent community archives in China are dependent on three dimensions: the community itself, society and the government. Cultural consciousness of the community is the premise for the establishment and sustainability of independent community archives, and independent community archives can be the public space to cultivate cultural consciousness of community members and thus activates community members’ agency to document, preserve and disseminate their own history. At the same time, independent community archives also need to engage with broader society to avoid involution and gain support and understanding. Independent community archives are constrained by government policies and regulations, so it is essential for them to develop strategic relationships with government.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)313-332
    Number of pages20
    JournalArchival Science
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


    • Community archives
    • Cultural consciousness
    • Farmer workers
    • Migrant workers

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