USC’s Korean American Archival Collections
USC’s Korean Heritage Library has been collecting archival materials relating to the Pioneer generation of Koreans in the United States for more than thirty years. Many, but by no means all, of these can be found online through the Korean American Digital Archive (KADA. Until this last year, however, it has been difficult to get an overview of all that the library has collected. With the temporary hire of an archival specialist, finding aids for most of these collections have been prepared and can be found online.
They can also be discovered by searching the Online Archive of California (OAC), a collective site for accessing finding aids from over 200 institutions in California.
With the increased exposure made possible by the preparation of formal finding aids, increased attention to and demand for such collections as the David Hyun papers, and the Mary Shon papers have already occurred.
KNA “Attic Collection” Progress Report
The Korean Heritage Library has successfully completed the first phase in its longstanding proposal to preserve and make available the cache of materials discovered in the attic crawl space of the Korean National Association (KNA) building approximately fifteen years ago. Over 18,000 scans were completed over the course of the year the Library was allotted. Included among this number were proclamations and other formal documents of the KNA and its many local branches, correspondence, membership records and several publications that are either rare or otherwise not previously available online. A large proportion of the collection dates from the full blossoming of the Korean independence movement and the formation of the Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai, both in 1919. Other significant concentrations of records relate to the assassination of Durham Stevens in 1908, which sparked a sharp increase in political support for Korean autonomy, and also to the period of World War II and the long-awaited allied effort to re-establish that autonomy.
Soon to begin will be the second phase of the project, a detailed description of the many items in the collection, necessary for preparing the “publication” of the materials in the Korean American Digital Archvie (KADA). Priority will be to have the more important documents and correspondence from the great events of 1919 ready for this spring’s centennial celebrations.
Korean American Collections at the LA as Subject Archives Bazaar
On October 20th, USC’s Korean American archival collections were on display at the 13th annual LA as iSubject Archives Bazaar, held at the University’s Doheny Memorial Library. The Bazaar is an opportunity to bring further attention to archives relating to Southern California, and over 150 exhibiting institutions were represented this year. Among the items displayed at the East Asian Library’s table were a plaster sculpture of Philip Ahn’s face, a photograph of the Korean, Chinese and Filipino members of the wartime California National Guard, and Irvin Paik’s narrated slide show about the history of the representatiob of Asians in movies and television. Plans are already underway for the 14th annual bazaar, this next fall.
Introducing a New K-A Novelist (65 years after his death)
Nak Chung Thun was born in Korea in 1875, was an early emigrant to Hawaii and, then to Southern California. He worked on the railroad, in farms and small businesses and raised his family in Riverside. Once he retired, however, he wrote a series of novels and short works that have remained unread since his death in 1953. Fortunately, the manuscripts, written very legibly but in a very dated form of Korean hangul, were kept safe first by his family. Several years ago, they were turned over to the Korean Heritage Library with the hope that they might be evaluated for their literary merit and, perhaps, translated into modern Korean and into English so that could be added to the literary canon of the pioneer generation. Finally, this March, they will be the subject of two academic panel discussions—one at USC and the other at the annual meeting of the Association for Asian Studies in Denver—marking their first formal introduction to the public.