Last Week!

This Wednesday, I presented on the Yao Family Papers at the Founders Room. When I arrived in front of the room, I immediately noticed a familiar face. It was none other than Norman Yao’s son, the donor of the collection, Peter Yao. I have seen so many photos of him in the past year, as a child or a young adult. Although he certainly had aged, the way he looked did not change very much and was highly recognizable. I exchanged a few pleasant words for him, and felt really honored that he came to my presentation. Many librarians attended the presentation, and I was pleasantly surprised to find my academic advisor there too. 

In the presentation, I talked about the history of the Yao family, the contents of the collection, the themes of Yao’s photography, and my favorite items in the collection. The other two fellows presented on a LA composer and the novelist Irving Wallace. I really enjoyed the event. 

As I am studying abroad next semester, this week might be my last week working for CCEPS. The past year had been really fun and I learned a great deal in the process. As an aspiring historian, when I first saw primary sources such as the collection, I was inclined to invent stories for the items. However, I gradually learned that as an archivist, I had to assume the innocence of the items, and let future researchers give them meanings. This “post-modern” mentality had been refreshing in the sense that metanarratives were forbidden and fragments were celebrated. 

Hope you have a fruitful final week! 



Here’s an auspicious Cantonese junk boat for your good luck. 

Presentation Next Wednesday!

This week, I mainly worked on the presentation that I will be giving next Wednesday. Based on my knowledge of the collection, in the presentation, I am going to talk about the Yao family’s history of education, work, and migration. Additionally, I will show some of my favorite photographs from the collection, including photos of Hong Kong, the Claremont Colleges, and art works. Finally, I plan on talking about one object that interested me the most: a 1938 graduation book from University of Shanghai, where both Norman and Anne Yao attended. 

The book is very fascinating for me on many levels. The bloody Battle of Shanghai was fought a year before the book was published, and the Japanese captured the city. University of Shanghai had to relocate to the International Settlement, but the university’s president was assassinated by the Japanese. In the year book, in which students reacted differently to the war. As for Norman, he was upset because he lost his collection of photographs in the war. 

The presentation is going to be at Honnold/Mudd Library’s Founders Room at 1:00 on Wednesday, December 12. I am presenting along with other two CCEPS students. Please come to our presentations if you have time.

See you then! 


Family Travels

This week, I finished processing the 35mm slides in the collection. Perhaps because the 35mm slide technology was made available to the general public later than film negatives, most of the slides were from the late 1970s and early 1980s. Since Norman Yao no longer worked for the Claremont Colleges and was likely retired, most of the slides were about their family life and their travels around the world. 

The Yao family had interesting choices of travel destinations. They visited not only their native China after the country opened its gate to the world, but also New Zealand because they had relatives living there. Besides, as a religious person, Yao took a large number of photos of churches and Christian gatherings when he visited Southeast Asia. Furthermore, the family also visited Israel in 1983. Additionally, they also visited Europe and famous cities across the United States. 

I noticed that the collection only included objects up until the early 1980s, around the time of Norman Yao’s death. Thus, I suspect that these objects were stored away upon the passing of the family patriarch. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

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This week I finished processing the vast majority of the photographs in the collection and begun processing the 35mm slides in the collection. Since I am simply taking 35mm slides out of their boxes and slide trays and placing them into protective plastic sleeves, the process was in fact quite therapeutic. 

The 35mm slides mostly recorded the travels and daily lives of the Yao family in the early and mid-1980s. They travelled rather extensively to China, Europe, Israel, and New Zealand. Among the 35mm slides, I came across a few taken on Yao family’s Thanksgiving party. 

Happy Thanksgiving and please enjoy the photos! 



Cutting the Turkey


Having a Food Baby


Strike a Pose

Photos by Yao

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For the past few weeks, I have almost finished processing the photos in the Yao Family Collection. The next step is to process the 35mm slides, placing them into plastic protection sheets. 

Even though most of the photos are in black and white, I could not help but to appreciate Norman Yao’s sympathy for his photographed subjects and his great artistic sensibilities, especially given that he took up photography as a hobby in college and had never received any formal training in art schools. One could notice his early passion for photography in his college graduation book, in which he described the most painful thing that happened to him during college had been that he lost a part of his photo collection in the Second Sino-Japanese War. Yao worked as a photographer for nearly two decades in Hong Kong for US Information Service and in Claremont for the Claremont Colleges. Here are some of my favorite photos by Yao, enjoy! 

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                                                   Pomona Theater Production

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Behind the Bleachers


Woman by the Window

Have a nice week! 


Back with CCEPS!

Hello again! It’s me Marcus! This Friday, I was very excited to return to working on the Yao Family Papers at CCEPS. I genuinely enjoy going through documents, photographs, and personal letters and gradually formulating increasingly wholistic pictures of members of the Yao family in my mind. 

This week, I processed a series of the Yao family’s official documents that came in a black leather briefcase. These documents include Norman’s University of Shanghai diploma from 1936, Anne’s love letter to Norman from 1943, their British Hong Kong ID cards from 1950s, US immigration documents in 1956, naturalization documents in the early 1960s, and even Norman’s certificate of death in the 1980s. They marked not only the change in their legal status, but also told the personal stories of the immigrant family. 

Finishing processing this leather briefcase marks the completion of my work on the first half of the Yao Family Papers with the exception of the photo negatives, which require special processing actions. I am very excited to bring the second half of the collection from the Asian Library to the CCEPS room and continue my exploration of Yao family’s stories! 

Have a nice week! 


Photo Albums

Last week I finally finished working on the scattered photographs and moved on to the much easier task of processing the photo albums. As I will be traveling to Hong Kong during the reading days, this is the last week I am working as a CCEPS fellow this semester. I will resume archiving when I return to Claremont in late August. 

The photo albums mostly contain old photos that Norman Yao took in British Hong Kong, some for the US Information Service and others of his own interest. Norman documented many local events such as Zhang Daqian’s (1899 – 1983) visit to an art exhibition, the catastrophic 1952 fire in Kowloon, and industrial exhibitions of native goods. A number of these photos were published in local newspapers as they showcase Hong Kong’s search for identity as a one of the last Asian colonies in the postwar era. 

There is also a particular discourse among Norman’s photo albums. The albums usually begin with a photo of Norman with his camera, and they proceed with a few auspicious photos, usually eagles or Chinese junks. Then Norman would include a few photos of his beloved wife, Anne Yao, before the actually contents begin. 

Have a good weekend! 



Chinese sailor on a British ship, c. 1954


Anne Yao in Hong Kong, c. 1953

My Favorite Photos

Hi Everyone! 

Last week I finally finished processing the majority of the collection. Hopefully I can finish the remaining of the collection this week. As I went through the photos yet again, I found a few that I especially appreciate. So here a few of my favorite photos: 


The doctor seems to be pleasantly surprised that the child has a heartbeat. I really appreciate the humor. 


The bride looks genuinely happy in this picture, and I hope she has(d) a good marriage. 


United States Post Office really did not change at all since the mid-1960s, when this photo was taken. I just went there this morning to send my tax forms to the Department of Treasury. 


As a cat lover, I would most certainly include a cat. This casual yet adorable sketch of a elegant cat is by renowned English-American sculptor Albert Stewart (1900 – 1965) who was appointed the head of sculpture program at Scripps College in 1939. If one looks closely, one can find his works all around the Claremont area (Pomona College, Scripps College, Community Church, United Church, Padua Hills Theatre). 

Hope you have a good week! 


More Processing Problems

Hi Everyone! 

This week I continued processing the photos. First, I laid out all the photos on the table and then split all of them into three groups: people, arts, landscape. However, the borderlines between the three categories are hard to define. For instance, a photo of an artist who is working on an art piece can be categorized as both “art” and “people,” and a photo of a person posing before stunning landscape can fall into either “people” or “landscape.” So I had to create subcategory under the existing three major categories. 

Another problem is dating the photographs. Although some of the photos are in envelops that has dates on them, the majority of the photos are scattered and cannot be dated. However, I am able to discern the events portrayed in some of the photos, so I looked up the dates of those events. But that only consists of a small minority of the photos. 

Besides, because laying the photos out and sorting them back to the boxes is quite a time-consuming process, I will work on a different schedule in order to work longer shifts on fewer days from this week onwards.

The library hosted a taco party today to celebrate the completion of the refurbishment of the fourth floor, and it was really awesome to chat with my colleagues outside the setting of the work place! 

Hope you have a good week! 


Problems with Processing

Hi Everyone! 

This week, I officially started processing the Yao family papers, which is exciting but also quite challenging. Although I spent the first few weeks surveying the documents and took my time to draft the processing plan carefully, my proposed processing plan still proved to be ineffective. As I was sorting through the photographs in the collection, I realized that some photos do not belong to any of my conceptualized categories. Additionally, I discovered that when I was surveying the collection, my categorization of the photographs was not standardized. For instance, I sometimes placed the photos of Claremont boy scouts under  the “people” category, and other times under “Claremont.” Thus, facing these problems, my week was not as productive as I wanted it to be. 

However, it was definitely fun to do the detective work to find the connections between the photographs and group the relevant and related ones together. 

Since the library will be closed on Friday in recognition of Cesar Chavez day and I usually work all day on Fridays, I will only work seven hours this week. 

Hope you have a good week!