Gwulo's plans for 2024

Submitted by David on Mon, 04/08/2024 - 18:00

The big change for the Bellis family in 2024 will be our move in July, leaving Hong Kong to go and live in the UK. Here's a look at how that affects this year's plans for Gwulo.


  • First half of 2024
    • Farewell talk
    • Upgrade the website software
    • Relocate to the UK
  • Second half of 2024
    • Will there be any effects on the Gwulo website?
    • London talk
  • Medium term
    • New website features
    • Try videos
  • Long term
    • Passing on the baton
    • Keeping the data safe



1.1 Farewell talk

Before we leave I'd like to give one last talk, looking at some of the highlights since I posted my first page about Hong Kong's history back in 2006.

I'll show some of my favourite photos and tell their tales, and we'll revisit some of the other stories which Gwulo has been involved with that I've found most memorable. I'll also take us on a quick whistle-stop tour of how the website has changed over the years.

We've booked two theatres that have sharp projectors and tiered seating, so that everyone gets a clear view of the photos:

  • 8 May, 7:30 pm - Lecture hall, HK Science Museum, TST - $150 / $75 - Book tickets
  • 22 May, 8 pm - Louis Koo Cinema, HK Arts Centre, Wanchai - $200 / $100 - Book tickets

As the Science Museum's lecture hall seats well over 200, and the Louis Koo Cinema seats over 100, I'm a bit nervous they'll look empty! Please help fill them up by letting any friends who are interested in Hong Kong history know about this talk.

1.2 Upgrade the website software

Meanwhile, down in the boiler room ...

The software that runs the website is due another upgrade. Thankfully this one isn't as much work as the big upgrade back in 2021-22 - if that was like relocating to another country, this one should be like moving from Hong Kong island to Kowloon! Some of the changes in the new version should also make it easier to keep the software updated in future.

It will be a lot easier to perform the upgrade while I have access to my desktop PC and a fast internet connection, so I want to get this done before we move.

1.3 Relocate to the UK

Our flights are booked for late July. Once we arrive we'll start by renting a place to live in southwest Wales, so we're close to my mum. We'll get settled in to UK life there first, before deciding where we'd like to live in the longer term.


2.1 Will there be any effects on the Gwulo website?

When I've mentioned to people that we are leaving Hong Kong, the usual questions are:

  • Q: Will the Gwulo website keep running?
    A: Yes. It will keep running as it currently does, though I guess that the e-mail newsletters will become less frequent, at least until we're settled in.
  • Q: Are you taking the website with you?
    A: The website lives on a server at a hosting company's site in the USA, so nothing changes there - I can access it as easily in Wales as I can in Hong Kong. (Though I'm sure I'll miss my current speedy internet connection.) I will be shipping my photos, books about Hong Kong history, computer, scanner, etc., to the UK. Once they arrive I'll have access to all my resources again.
  • Q. Will you come back to Hong Kong?
    A: I'm sure we'll be back to visit, to see friends and family.

2.2 London talk

I've been asked to give a talk in London in the autumn, so I'm looking forward to seeing Gwulo's UK readers there. I'll share the details once a date is fixed.


3.1 New website features

By the time the winter evenings draw in, my desktop PC and monitor should have arrived safely, and I can get back to working on the code that runs the website. There are two items on the to-do list at the moment:

  • Make it easier to upload batches of multiple photos.
  • Improve how we record the current view of a map. I still think it is a very useful tool (e.g. here's Nathan Road in TST in 1920), but the way I implemented it causes some problems, e.g. it means that the What's new link to the latest comment on a Place doesn't work. I have a better solution in mind.

3.2 Try videos

I currently introduce new photos in my collection via an email newsletter. I'd like to try introducing them via a short Youtube video instead, to see if it helps Gwulo reach a broader audience.


4.1 Passing on the baton

This summer I'll complete my fifth cycle through the Chinese Zodiac, giving me about two weeks of $2 fares before we leave. Or in simpler terms, I turn 60 this year.

It's one of those milestones that can bring on a spot of navel-gazing, and got me thinking about where Gwulo goes next - not tomorrow or even this year, but sometime before I'm 65 I can see I'll be ready to pass on the work of running the website and upgrading the software to a younger set of hands.

If my fairy godmother is granting wishes, an academic institution would be thinking about how to build a crowd-sourced record of Hong Kong's history, and instead of paying to build it from scratch they'd give me the money instead and take over running Gwulo. They'd be up and running immediately, Gwulo would have a new lease of life, and my retirement fund would get a boost!!

Ah well, no harm in dreaming ...

4.2 Keeping the data safe

It's also good to be prepared for the worst, as a website is a fragile thing: How to make sure that Gwulo's data remains available to researchers, even if the website is no longer online for any reason?

Currently the Hong Kong University and the British Library take regular copies of the Gwulo website, so that the data on the Gwulo website is backed up independently of me.

As an example of the risks to online records, the large cyber-attack on the British Library in late 2023 means that their Web Archive is currently offline. When it comes back online I'll need to check that pages from the Gwulo website are still available there, and that they continue archiving us in future.

It will also be worth investigating whether any other online archives are willing to include copies of the Gwulo website.


Good luck David on your relocation plans. Life goes on and am sure the connection with Gwulo will continue to flourish. Cheers!

What have the good folks at the University of Bristol's , Hong Kong History Center said about adopting Gwulo ?

I think the most valuable thing this website has provided to the world is taking the photos and hand linking them to specific locations on the map. Many Facebook pages have photos, but we, over time, placed them carefully on the map creating a social timeline for each scrap of land in Hong Kong. (many scraps anyway) focused on English speakers.

I've recently been asked if we have a page that lists all our research sources, and that's not yet a standard part of the website. It is still all in our heads.  

Random thought, but have you tried reaching out to the Internet Archive about preserving all of Gwulo's media through their servers? I plugged your site into their Wayback Machine a few minutes ago, and while they have your homepage and directories saved, individual pages for photos are not included since they use a webcrawler to index pages. As the internet's largest (unofficial) library, they try to preserve global content from textbooks to music albums even to obscure and out-of-print video games, and Gwulo might be an excellent fit for their history collection.

Alternatively, there's always the image library on JSTOR run by ITHAKA, though JSTOR has come under fire in the past for their for-profit approach to access. (I can attest to this as a member of the general public who can only read abstracts for academic papers on their site.)

Apropos of nothing: the Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus (slightly misleading name; they analyze the Asia-Pacific in general) might be a relevant space for writing about your work as a Hong Kong historian, if you've got the time and desire for it. Submitting a research or analysis paper there might help attract attention from scholars who work on Hong Kong history and, by extension, institutions willing and able to preserve Gwulo for the future.

(I made an account just for this comment. Not employed by or affiliated with any of the three sites I mentioned, by the way; I'm a major fan of theirs and nothing more.)

I was going to make the same suggestion as ember_blaze, above. It's possible to upload your own content to the Internet Archive servers via their upload page as long as you have a (free, can sign up on their website) account.

Thanks for the good wishes about making the move to the UK.

Adopting Gwulo is still a few years away, so no concrete plans there yet.

For history resources, the Directory block on the left of the screen lists two pages that are a good starting point:

For archiving, I want to archive the web pages rather than individual JPG image files, so that all the supporting information (date, location, comments, etc.) is stored with the images. I did look at Internet Archive and their Wayback Machine, and it is possible to archive a page at a time manually but that would be too much work. They do have a paid Archive-It service, but it doesn't look to offer any advantages over archives of the British Library and HKU.

Hi David

Thank you for your passion about Hong Kong, so people at large can share their understandings about this wonderful city. Hong Kong will surely continue to shine in the Far East on the very unique foundation by her history.

I wish you good health and best wishes through the process of moving!!

Tea Time!!