Recognizing Excellence in Records & Information Management
Simon Fook-Keung Chu
WRITTEN ADDRESS READ AT THE EVENT IN HONG KONG:
To all the attendees at today’s very special, prestigious gathering:
My name is Jason R. Baron, and I have the honor of holding the title of Chair of the 2019 Emmett Leahy Award Committee. It is my pleasure to welcome everyone to the presentation of the Emmett J. Leahy Award to Simon Fook-Keung Chu for his Outstanding Contributions to the Records and Information Profession. I wish first to especially thank Trudy Peterson, the former Acting Archivist of the United States, and the winner of last year’s Emmett Leahy Award. Trudy, thank you for your willingness to travel to Hong Kong to take part in being master of ceremonies on this wonderful day where we honor Simon Chu.
When our good friend Charles Dollar presided as the former Chair of the Emmett Leahy Committee, he often started off his introductory remarks by saying: “Many of you may not recognize the name Emmett "Ed" Leahy and may be wondering, who is this guy and why is there an award bearing his name?’” What follows is an abridged version of remarks Charles previously made at an Emmett Leahy award ceremony, which I think remain appropriate to remember and recite here:
Born in 1910 in Washington, DC, Emmett Leahy's first day on the job was July 22, 1935, when he was assigned to work as a "Special Examiner" of records of the Treasury Department. Under the National Archives Act of 1934 the Archivist of the United States was authorized to deputize examiners to examine records in federal agencies. One group of examiners, called Deputy Examiners, was charged with identifying records of permanent value. The task of Special Examiners was to identify records of useless value that the Archivist of the United States would submit to the United States Congress for approval of destruction. Very soon both the Deputy Examiners and Special Examiners recognized that the disorganized state of records in federal agencies made it very difficult and time consuming to identify permanent and useless records. Among others, Emmett Leahy began calling for the engagement of archivists to promote good records administration early in the life history of records, long before records would be eligible for disposal or transfer to National Archives. With the strong support of Solon J. Buck, who became the second Archivist of the United States in September 1941, both Brooks and Leahy initiated activities called records administration that eventually became records management.
In September 1941 Ed Leahy transferred to the Department of Navy where he became the Director of Records Administration. Leahy also was an "evangelist" for the use of microfilm to reduce the volume of paper records, such as engineering drawings required for repair work on navy vessels.
Later in 1945 Leahy left the Navy Department to join Remington Rand as National Sales Manager for Microfilm and a records management consultant. After two years Leahy left Remington Rand to establish the National Records Management Council to promote records management. In 1948 his national visibility as a records management expert resulted in being invited to join the Hoover Commission on the Reorganization of the Executive Branch of Government and to head a task force on the reduction of records. One outcome of the task force that Leahy chaired was a movement to incorporate the National Archives into a new government organization, the General Services Administration. Of greater importance was the Federal Records Act of 1950, which for the first time established a comprehensive records management program for the federal government. What is frequently overlooked is that many key provisions in the Federal Records Act of 1950 were included in a proposal he submitted to the Budget Bureau in 1942.
In September 1963 at the age of 52 Leahy suffered a stroke and died. Three years after Leahy's death, Rod Exelbert, editor of a newly formed magazine, Information Management Magazine, decided that he would use the magazine as a venue for the creation of the Emmett Leahy Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Records and Information Management Profession. The first Emmett Leahy Award was presented in 1967 to Edward Rosse of the Social Security Administration. The award has been presented annually ever since with only one break in continuity in the 1980s."
Simon Chu is the 50th recipient of the Emmett Leahy Award. Over time, and especially in the past two decades or so, the Emmett Leahy Award has become a truly international honor. There have been multiple recipients from such countries as Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia, as well as a recipient from Italy. Simon Chu is however the first recipient of the Award whose principal place of residence is in Asia. I am delighted that his work on behalf of the citizens of Hong Kong and throughout Asia is being recognized here today.
I am grateful that I have this opportunity to provide some historical context to the award being presented today. I will leave to Trudy Peterson to make additional remarks in Simon Chu’s honor. Congratulations Simon and thank you all for being here on this joyous occasion.
Simon Chu obtained degrees in history and information science in Canada and a law degree from the United Kingdom. He joined the Public Records Office of Hong Kong Government in 1984 and was head of the Archives until he retired in 2007. He also served as the government's first records manager and the Government Records Service Director.
During his time at the Public Records office, Simon Chu was one of two archivists who designed and conducted the first comprehensive records survey for the Hong Kong Government (1988) and produced a report recommending strategy for the long-term development of archives and records management in the Hong Kong government. Simon established the Records Management Office and published a number of records management manuals and guidelines, paving the way for the implementation of a large scale records management strategy across the government between 1994 and 2000. He launched the first records management training program for civil servants and organized a government-wide records disposal program. And he convinced the government to build the first purposefully-designed archives facility in 1997, a spectacular achievement.
Serving as the vice-chair and public face of the Archives Action Group, which has campaigned for an archives law for Hong Kong for years, Simon Chu used radio programs, television, interviews, conferences--anything he can dream up--to promote the issue of an archives law.
Simon helped found the Hong Kong Archives Society (HKAS) in 1999 to promote learning and information exchange among local practitioners. He has been the Adjunct Associate Professor in the History Department of the Chinese University of Hong Kong since 2007: the first person in the history of Hong Kong to teach a course on archives and archivists in a university.
Simon was, for about 20 years, the Secretary General of EASTICA, the East Asian Branch of the International Council on Archives, and continues as the Special Advisor to EASTICA. As such, he manages to keep the sometimes tricky relationship between China, Korea, and Japan on a friendly professional level. In 2019 Simon's devotion and contribution to the archives and records profession was acknowledged by the International Council on Archives when it named him an ICA Fellow.
Since 2001 Simon Chu has worked to develop the UNESCO Memory of the World Program (MoW) in the Asia Pacific Region by serving as the vice-chair of the International Advisory Committee of the MoW Program and Secretary General and Special Advisor of its Asia Pacific Regional Committee. He made three trips to North Korea to train their information professionals and help that nation develop a National MoW Committee and identify documentary heritage for nomination on the international MoW Register. Through his work in EASTICA and his work for UNESCO, we can truly name Simon Chu an archival diplomat.
But perhaps the most important and enduring thing Simon Chu has done is to create the EASTICA Post Graduate Certificate archives course at the University of Hong Kong SPACE (school for advanced professional studies). Starting in 2003, he organized this three-week intensive archives course almost every year, with lecturers he chooses from around the world. Participants in the course have come from all parts of Asia—from Bangladesh to Korea—and through the course Simon has educated hundreds of archivists and records managers. In addition to the Hong Kong-based Certificate course, Simon once took the entire course to Mongolia and another year to Beijing, in both instances at the request of the national archives leadership there. And starting in October 2019, he organized the very first two-year Postgraduate Diploma in Archival Studies in Hong Kong. It is an amazing continued effort to bring archival education to the region.
For all these reasons, and more, the Emmett Leahy Award Committee presents the Emmett Leahy Award for 2019 to Simon Chu, the first person from Asia to receive this honor.