Thoughtlessness behind relocation

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 September, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 September, 1993, 12:00am

MICHAEL Kirkbride's timely letter on the proposed removal of the Public Records Office to Tuen Mun (South China Morning Post, September 13) is the first I have seen which addresses the whole question in a knowledgeable manner and cites precedents for the intelligent disposal of various elements in the archives.

The question is not only one of the re-siting of the office, but of what it should properly contain and how certain contents might best be disposed between various other institutions, as they are in countries with vastly greater experience in the matter than Hong Kong has.

The immediate problem, however, is the relocation of the office. As a frequent user of its facilities over the past 30 years (researching the history of Hong Kong), I am appalled at the idea that researchers, whose work often entails many protracted sessions spread over days and even weeks, should, on top of these sessions, be forced to undertake the hours of journey time required to visit a flatted factory in the middle of industrial Tuen Mun.

The proposal offers an insight into the degree of ignorance on the part of those responsible for the suggestion.

There can be no question but that such a facility is an absolute necessity. The decisions on what it should ideally contain - what highly specialised elements might be housed elsewhere - are of course intimately involved in the relocation of the Office. Some may conceivably best be preserved under some other roof.

But not, at any cost, as is the preposterous suggestion, a roof in Tuen Mun. Michael Kirkbride's suggestion of the old Mission premises in the Cathedral precinct would seem an excellent one. We might then hope that Government would see its way to fundingthe facility so as to draw into it the multiple strands of the territory's history.

As Mr Kirkbride remarks: ''the only defence against the rewriting of history'' in Hong Kong or elsewhere - a practice fully indulged in certain countries for political ends - is the scrupulous preservation and ready availability of the evidence.