Getting to Know and Making Known the Alfred Rodman Hussey Papers

Tour Program for the 8th US Army
Tour Program for the 8th US Army

The Alfred Rodman Hussey Papers are coming to Special Collections! While microfilm copies exist at the Library of Congress and the National Diet Library of Japan, the University of Michigan houses the originals, which are already available via the Mirlyn catalogand are SOON to be accessible through the Special Collections finding aids!

Alfred Rodman Hussey worked with the Government Section of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP) during the Allied occupation of Japan post-WWII. He played a very important role in drafting the new Japanese constitution and, more generally, in the restructuring of the Japanese government. The papers include constitutional drafts, private and governmental correspondence, government reports, oversized maps, a few cassette tapes and photos, and monographs. While most of the materials are in English, a significant portion is in Japanese, some of the documents with English translations afterward.

Letter to MacArthur from the sister of a military prisoner (1946)
Letter to MacArthur from the sister of a military prisoner (1946)

University of Michigan's Asia Library received the Hussey Papers from Hussey's family in the 1960s, most likely due to Hussey's connection to Dr. Robert Ward, who headed the Center for Japanese Studies at various points in the '50s, '60s, and '70s. Due to preservation concerns and the belief that the papers were better suited to the Special Collections Library (partly because most, if not all, were in English and not East Asian languages), the decision was made to transfer the materials to Special Collections. Since the physical papers (as opposed to the microfilm) did not, at the time, have any official finding aid or catalog record at Michigan, the next step was to process them. Because of the importance of this collection, especially to Japanese and American history, and the presence of a student (me!) excited to gain more archival experience, there was added impetus to get the project rolling.

This processing project had three main goals: to increase the discoverability and improve the storage of the materials, give the University Library Associate experience with processing, and, more concretely, to create a finding aid. The process began with a basic assessment of the entire collection, looking at general content, types of materials, and organization of materials. Then, in order to ensure that researchers could easily move between the records in the Library of Congress, National Diet Library, and our own, we kept the organization system and entered the folder headings and numbering scheme provided into the finding aid. Finally, in addition to the finding aid, a catalog record was produced so that users could discover the materials in multiple ways. Throughout the project, simple preservation procedures were followed, such as re-housing in acid-free folders and boxes, interleaving newspaper with acid-free sheets, and taking out paper clips (but not going as far as removing staples!).

But the work is never done! Ideally, the maps left folded at this time due to lack of space would be housed flat and unfolded to avoid wear and tear along the creases. Another possible option, resources allowing, would be to digitize the maps so that, not only could more people have easy access to them, but the originals themselves might not have to bear the burden of frequent, physical use. Furthermore, while archives often shy away from processing at the item-level due to the amount of time this takes, because the papers include an item-by-item checklist at the end, it would be nice to provide this online to researchers – either by finding a way to attach the checklist to the finding aid after scanning it or, although more time-consuming, going back and entering the item-level information into the finding aid itself.

Hand-drawn map of Kyushu
Hand-drawn map of Kyushu (“Map of the Taxation Offices Administrated by the Kumamoto Financial Bureau”)

The Hussey Papers have come far but have the potential to go even further, not just with the work of archivists but also with increasing public awareness of their existence!

1 Comment

on Oct. 14, 9:47pm

I am a Ph.D. student at the University of Washington in Seattle. I am studying under Kenneth Pyle and John Haley. I would like to arrange a trip to the University of Michigan to examine more closely the Hussey files. In particular, I'm looking for a box that contains stenographic notes taken by a woman I believe eventually married Commander Hussey. Professor Haley tells me these notes have not yet been transcribed. Can you help me to arrange access to these materials. Thanks. Mark