RBML Announces Partnership with Chinese Academy of the Social Sciences to Digitize Wellington Koo Papers

V. K. Wellington Koo (1887 – 1985) came from an elite Chinese family and had a long and distinguished career in the Chinese Republic’s Foreign Service.  A triple graduate of Columbia University (BA, PhD, and LLD), Koo played an important role as part of the Chinese legation to the Paris Peace Conference and to the fledgling League of Nations.  A staunch nationalist, Koo defended the fragile Chinese Republic in the international arena from what he saw as encroachments by Japan and the Soviet Union.  

Koo went on to become China’s ambassador to France, and then, during WWII, to the United Kingdom, and finally, after the war, to the United States.  In 1957, he left the Foreign Service to become a judge on the International Court of Justice in The Hague, a position he held for the next decade.  Koo is celebrated today as a patriot who struggled to raise China’s profile in the world, and his written works are routinely studied by Chinese diplomats.  

The Wellington Koo Papers, housed at RBML, contain correspondence, diaries, memoranda, manuscripts, notes, printed material, and photographs of Koo and his contemporaries.  The archive comprises nearly 300 document boxes and covers the full sweep of his career, including the constitution of the Chinese embassies in Paris, London, and Washington DC.

In this unique venture, the Libraries will oversee and manage the digitization of the Koo Papers, while scholars from the Institute of Modern History and librarians from the Shanghai Library will provide the metadata that will make the digital files searchable and accessible.  The project is being funded by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and may be followed by additional collaborative projects in the future. 

“This is really a milestone partnership for the Columbia University Libraries and the RBML; one that may serve as a template for similar collaborations with other entities around the world looking to virtually ‘repatriate’ primary source collections of interest and importance to them,” said James G. Neal, University Librarian and Vice President for Information Services.  “It challenges us – in positive ways – to adjust our policies and practices to meet the needs of new partners with new expectations.  We have truly entered an era of global archives.”

“The Institute of Modern History cherishes this unique opportunity to collaborate with the Columbia University Libraries and the RBML on this project to digitize the Wellington Koo papers,” said Jin Yilin, Vice Director of the Institute of Modern History and Director of the Archives of the Modern Chinese History. “We are looking forward to expanding our partnership to other areas based on this venture, for example, digitizing other archival materials related to modern China preserved at the RBML.  We hope to open these digitized archives to all scholars in order to promote research on twentieth century China and facilitate the cultural communication between China and the United States.”   

As an institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the largest government think tank in Asia, the Institute of Modern History is the most important research institute in China devoted to the study of modern Chinese History. There are more than one hundred full time researchers at the Institute. The Institute recently established the Archives of Modern Chinese History to preserve approximately 200,000 historical documents from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and a large amount of digital material from all over the world. 

Columbia University Libraries is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 13 million volumes, over 160,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, and graphic and audio-visual materials. The Libraries employs more than 400 professional and support staff and hosts over 4.7 million visitors each year.  The website of the Libraries is the gateway to its services and resources: library.columbia.edu.







“这是哥伦比亚大学图书馆和珍本手稿图书馆一次具有里程碑意义的合作项目;世界上其他机构若有意寻求使那些对其有重要意义的史料‘重返故国’,那么这一项目也许可以为日后的类似合作提供先例”,哥伦比亚大学图书馆长暨负责信息服务的副校长James G. Neal如是说:“这是以一种积极的方式促使我们挑战既有政策和惯例,以满足新的合作伙伴的需求和期望。我们已经真正进入了全球档案馆的时代。”