You could imagine my surprise last night when I stumbled upon a reference on the internet to the David R. Chan Collection at Stanford University. The two most likely reactions are (1) it's a joke or (2) it's another David R. Chan. But, as it turns out, the reference really is to yours truly. Now I have no real connection to Stanford aside from the fact that I dropped a big bundle there sending my son to law school on The Farm. So obviously there's a twisted path here.
As I have previously written, I was finishing my undergraduate studies at UCLA right at the time that the formal study of the history of the Chinese in the United States was just beginning. I hadn't even dreamed of logging in Chinese restaurant visits back then, but I was always a collector of things. And back then, materials on the Chinese experience in America were so precious that I tried collect everything I could on the topic. I spent probably hundreds of hours photocopying articles, and even books, from the UCLA library, and I subscribed to any English language Chinese American publication I could get my hands on, including the weekly East West newspaper out of San Francisco.
Of course after the years things really piled up, particularly the newspapers. In a way it was fortunate that East West ceased publication in the 1980s, stopping further additions to that collection. The historian in me prevented me from tossing the newspapers out, but I didn't want to be stuck with storing them forever. I approached the UCLA Asian American Studies Library about taking the newspapers, and they were receptive, saying they would get back to me. However they never did. Meanwhile, my daughter enrolled at UCLA so I sent her to the Asian American Studies Library to follow up. She actually found the person I had spoken with a few years previously (who had gone on medical leave in the interim), who was again receptive. But once again there was no follow up.
A few years later my son moved to the Bay Area to go to law school. At the same time, the Chinese Historical Society of America in San Francisco hired their first professional curator, Anna Naruta, and I told her about my newspaper collection. Anna said there was no known collection of East West newspapers (only a curator would know that) and that CHSA would gladly take them. Of course there's the question of how you transfer 20 years of newspapers from my house in Los Angeles to the CHSA building on Clay St. in Chinatown. Now I always did look for excuses to visit the Bay Area, and with my son in school there, I had the perfect excuse to regularly drive north. Indeed in three years of law school, I made the trek 18 times. And during 2006 and 2007, a number of those trips were made with boxes of newspapers in my trunk. Actually, the hard part was the parking in S.F. Chinatown. Basically there isn't any. On some occasions Anna gave me access to a parking spot on their premises. But when Anna wasn't around, I was reduced to carrying the newspapers from my car parked at the Royal Pacific Motor Inn on Broadway to the CHSA building five blocks away.
After delivering the newspapers (and receiving my charitable contribution tax receipt) I didn't give any further thought to the newspapers except to be glad to have found a good home for them. Consequently it was a bolt out of the blue when I saw the "David R. Chan Collection" referred to in the latest CHSA Bulletin, announcing that Stanford University Library was making available four listed CHSA "archival
collections to researchers, in its Department of
Special Collections in Green Library", which had apparently been transferred by CHSA to Stanford some time before. (It would have been nice if somebody had told me what was going on.) But I'm happy to make this contribution to academic research. And happy as I am at this turn of events, I have one regret. I probably should have taken a larger charitable contribution deduction in 2006 and 2007.