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Primary Source Materials in China

Researching special collections and archives in or about China? This site will describe both physical and digital repositories.

Handling Special Collections Materials

Special collections respositories contain materials in a wide variety of formats, including books, manuscripts, documents, serials, broadsides, photographs, printed ephemera, and objects.  These items are often one-of-a kind.  To ensure their long-term preservation, please observe the following guidelines: 

  • Handle documents carefully. 
  • Read books in book cradles, if appropriate. 
  • Inform library staff when you encounter volumes with uncut pages.
  • Keep folders of documents flat on the table.
  • Do not hold documents up in the air to read them. 
  • Turn pages gently.
  • Maintain the order of the documents. 
  • Use pencils to take notes. 
  • Do not eat or drink near special collections materials. 
  • Wash your hands before handling documents and frequently during the sessions. 
  • Be sure to alert archives staff if you encounter damaged or extremely fragile material that may need special attention before it can be safely handled. 

New to Archives and Primary Source Research?

If you are unfamiliar with the institution, the culture or the Chinese language, accessing special collections (rare books, archives, manuscripts) in Chinese libraries can be very tricky. Archives in China often require a letter of introduction written by NYUSH. Speak to your department chair to have a written letter made for you. 

You must look at the institution's finding aids or websites to make the best use of your time and theirs before you head over there. 

Most importantly, speak to NYU professors in various departments such as East Asian Studies who have done fieldwork or archival research in China who can tell you more about their experiences.