France set up a national archive in 1790, the first country to do so. The establishment of the French National Archives has had far-reaching effects on how other nations handle their documents.
For example, such archives should store the documents and files produced by a national government, a national archive network should be set up and the archives should belong to the general public and be accessible to it.
The establishment of the National Archives in Taiwan has been a frustrated development: It was only recently decided that they should be set up in New Taipei City’s Linkou District (林口). Construction of the archives is to be completed by 2023, a full 233 years after those of France.
Newly independent countries around the world have prioritized the establishment of national archives at an early stage: As documents are the foundation of every state, it is only by the uniqueness and reliability of these documents that the existence of the state can be proved.
The files and documents produced by the central government have a direct bearing on the development of Taiwan as a whole, including politics, the economy, fiscal matters, and military and foreign affairs. Because of their significance, it is expected that the National Archives would mainly collect and store the documents produced by the central government and its departments and agencies.
Although the archives are to have up to 100km of shelf space for document storage, the National Archives Administration already has 30km worth of documents. This leaves only 70km of shelving to store the documents that the central government is to produce over the next 20 to 30 years.
If the documents produced by the central and local governments are not kept separate, the archives will soon be filled up. A plan should be implemented to store primarily just the important documents produced by the central government and its departments and agencies at the facility.
While documents from local governments are also important, they should not be kept at national archives. Instead, they should be kept at county and city-level facilities set up by those local governments.
The six special municipalities should establish their own archives, making it more convenient for residents in these cities to get access to documents directly related to the local population.
If documents produced by the Pingtung County Government were kept in New Taipei City, county residents would have to travel quite a distance to gain access to county documents. This would not be a very convenient solution for local residents.
For this reason, documents produced by local governments in European and North American countries are kept at local public archives rather than at the national facilities.
Hsueh Li-kuei is director of National Chengchi University’s Graduate Institute of Library, Information and Archival Studies.
Translated by Perry Svensson
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