15 May Another great read from Prof. Niki Alsford in the Public History Review on the history of natural disasters in Taiwan!
The 1935 Hsinchu-Taichung Earthquake
Natural Disasters as Public History
The history of natural disasters in Taiwan has frequently been linked to the practice of historical preservation, archival science, oral history, and museum curatorship. All are collectively hallmarks of a broad range of activities that fall under the umbrella of public history. The problem for Taiwan, however, concerns the legitimacy. Taiwan does not have a single national narrative. It has been subjected to waves of colonialism since the seventeenth century and does not presently have a fully post-colonial narrative. The earthquakes discussed in this paper occurred in two different periods of colonisation. In order to situate the history of earthquakes into a public history discourse, the field of earthquake-based research in Taiwan has to incorporate different audiences and integrate into a much broader understanding. By this, I mean that the present regimental academic disciplines in Taiwan need to be cross disciplinary, especially since public history is by its very nature collaborative. It illuminates a shared authority over a much wider area. It needs to. It is my argument that it is in digital humanities that Taiwanese academics work best in collaboration. Efforts have been made to digitise the personal experiences of those involved in typhoon reconstruction efforts. A natural synergy, therefore, for the understanding of earthquakes, as public history, is to emphasise access and broad participation in the creation of knowledge. Digital humanities enables this. Attention to this is particularly important in historical preservation of particular sites on an island that frequently develops and re-develops brownfield sites.