Early Photography of Japan Digital Collection

If you’re serving researchers who might be interested in early photographs of Japan you will want to take a look at Early Photography of Japan, “a virtual collection of more than 40 souvenir photograph albums and illustrated publications with over 2,000 images from Widener Library, the Fine Arts Library, and Harvard-Yenching Library. These images primarily document the early history of commercial photography in Japan and are representative of what is often called Japanese tourist photography or Yokohama shashin. They reflect the Western image of traditional Japanese culture before the dramatic transformation brought about by modernization during the Meiji period (1868-1912).

Selected mostly from the E. G. Stillman Japanese Collection, Early Photography of Japan features many hand-colored albumen prints and collotypes by pioneering and influential photographers such as Felice Beato, Baron Raimund von Stillfried, Tamamura Kozaburo, Kusakabe Kimbei, and Ogawa Kazumasa. It also includes amateur black-and-white snapshots, probably taken by E. G. Stillman during a trip to Japan in 1905; hand-colored lantern slides produced in the late Meiji era by T. Enami and Takagi Teijiro, from the Etz-Trudell Collection of Hand-Colored Lantern Slides; and the 10-volume Imperial edition of Japan: Described and Illustrated by the Japanese, edited by Captain Francis Brinkley and published by J. B. Millet Company of Boston between 1897 and 1898.” [from a Harvard press release on the collection’s launch]

In addition to many exquisite photographic images, the collection includes a Chronology (outlining the use of photography in Japan from 1848 — when the first daguerreotype camera came to Japan — to 1912, the end of the Meiji period), a Bibliography of related publications, and brief information about the photographers whose work is featured in the collection. It’s a work of art in itself, really, and I’d like to give a shout out to my colleagues for putting together such a beautiful, and useful, research resource: Robert Burton (Cataloger for Photographs, Weissman Preservation Center), Maggie Hale (Librarian for Collections Digitization), Enrique Diaz (Web Designer), Laura Totten (Web Coordinator, HCL Communications), and Jenne Willis (Imaging Technician in the Preservation & Imaging Department). This is what digitization should be all about! Kudos!

More as it happens,

Cheryl LaGuardia About Cheryl LaGuardia

Cheryl LaGuardia always wanted to be a librarian, and has been one for more years than she's going to admit. She cracked open her first CPU to install a CD-ROM card in the mid-1980's, pioneered e-resource reviewing for Library Journal in the early 90's (picture calico bonnets and prairie schooners on the web...), won the Louis Shores / Oryx Press Award for Professional Reviewing, and has been working for truth, justice, and better electronic library resources ever since. Reach her at claguard@fas.harvard.edu, where she's a Research Librarian at Harvard University.