Exploring Republican China in the USC Digital Library: An Experimental Metadata Analysis


The USC East Asian Library has been making remarkable progress collecting East Asian archival materials in diverse formats, including photographs, videos, audio recordings, manuscripts, diaries, letters, documents, and maps. These collections were donated to USC by donors in Los Angeles and across the Southern California region. Many of these archival collections focus on Republican China (1911-1949), a period of revolution, political upheaval, and social change in modern Chinese history. The USC Digital Library has digitized most of the items in these collections and made them available to the public. However, they are scattered across various collections and are difficult for researchers to track and discover. Furthermore, since many of these archival materials were given to USC by lesser-known donors and families, their research value may be overlooked by faculty, students, and scholars at USC and around the world. Therefore, conducting a systematic study to examine the content and research value of USC collections would increase their visibility and discoverability to the USC community and worldwide, demonstrating their breadth and significance and promoting more in-depth research in the future.

This exploratory study, funded by the FY2021 USC Libraries Research Grant, analyzes the metadata of over 1,500 items in various categories from digital collections related to Republican China in the USC Digital Library. Nearly one-third (31.8%) of these items are photographs, videos, and maps.

The digital collections included in the study are as follows:

Data visualization, mapping, social network analysis, and other analytic tools were used in the study to investigate their coverage and connections in terms of geographic locations, timeline, historical figures and events, themes, and possible social networks. The results of this study, particularly the visual mapping and analysis, will help researchers gain a deeper understanding of USC’s Republican China collections.

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