First Advisor

William Lang

Date of Publication

Summer 1-1-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Kwan Hsu (1913-1995), Asian American women college teachers -- Oregon -- Biography, Chinese American businesspeople -- Oregon -- Biography, China -- History -- Republic (1912-1949)



Physical Description

1 online resource (x, 107 p.) : ill.


Dr. Kwan Hsu was neither a superstar nor a celebrity. Her name does not come up in conversations about important contributors to her field of biophysics nor is she instantly recognizable for her contributions to Portland State University's international program or the state of Oregon's business ties with China. Yet she was a contributor, a cog-in-the-wheel, at the very least, in all of these areas and more. She was a peripheral member of a well-known Chinese family, but few in the United States know of or perhaps have interest in, but otherwise, she had no great connections or family ties to generate interest in her story. How does one process a collection for a woman who does not meet the traditional criteria for excellence or success or public interest for an archive? Where is the value to the larger historical narrative of our time in preserving the memories of someone who was non-remarkable, or, conversely, someone who may be even too unique to contribute to that greater narrative? These are the questions I wrestled with when I first came to this collection. As my research progressed, I realized that I faced more questions, and that to come to any understanding that might answer them, I was going to have to research the history of archives and archival processes. Science, the Cold War, Communist China, women, the immigrant experience, all of these issues became part of my thesis, however shallowly I was able to investigate them. Questions of identity and historiography, of power and discourse were explored. In the end, what I found was that a collection that on the outside looked unimpressive and unenlightening, could indeed be very valuable, and provide insight into any number of areas of current interest in historical research. This is that story.


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