Japan in Manchester & Beyond

Yesterday I attended the Researching and Using Japanese Collections in Museums study day at the Palace Green Library, University of Durham. The Library is currently host to the V&A exhibition The Seven Treasures: Japanese Enamels from the V&A and their own in-house production Off the Wall: The Art of the Japanese Movie Poster, both well worth a visit (http://bit.ly/SKf9WH).

The day was filled with fascinating papers from both UK and Japanese colleagues that addressed the wide and varied nature of Japanese collections in the UK. Such collections which can be found in museums, galleries, libraries and stately homes are testament to the UK’s relationship with Japan politically, economically and industrially over the past several centuries. I was intrigued to hear about historic and contemporary industrial connections between England’s north-east and Japan, as presented by  Andrew MacLean, National Trust.

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Battleship Yashima on the River Tyne after fit out in 1896. It was built for the Imperial Japanese Navy by Sir W G Armstrong Whitworth & Co Ltd.

Dr. Yoshi Miki, Curatorial Consultant and Visiting Professor, detailed his experience of compiling the recently published Survey and Analysis of the Database of Japanese Collections in the UK and Ireland, in which Manchester Museum’s internationally important Japanese collection is included. This comprehensive publication, as funded by the Inter-University Research Institute Corporation National Institutes for the Humanities, scrutinises access to UK Japanese collections on-line. This publication is a must for anyone interested in Japanese collections and access to museum databases on-line.

It was exciting to hear further news about Manchester Art Gallery’s forthcoming East Asian exhibition by Janet Boston, Curator: Collections Access at Manchester City Galleries. Development of the exhibition has led to a fundamental reappraisal of Manchester Art Gallery’s Japanese collection and stimulated contemporary collecting. We’ll be loaning several pieces from our Japanese collection to support the exhibition.

There are almost 2000 Japanese objects in the Living Cultures collection. They range from large pieces of furniture to intricately carved netsuke. The majority of the collection belongs to the 1958 Robert Wylie Lloyd bequest, an industrialist who also bequeathed his butterfly collection. Interestingly the Japanese collection bequest was split between us and the British Museum. Damian Scully, Objects in Mind Project Lead, recently shot a short film of one of the objects included in the Lloyd bequest which you can see below.

 

All this talk of Japan stimulated me to read again a captivating article called A Samurai at Oxford published in the Manchester Evening News 2nd December 1982. The article details the exploits of Mr Nori Shibahara described as a ‘sort of unpaid Japanese consul’ , a gift shop owner on Brazenose Street, whose ancestor Saburo Ozaki arrived in the UK in 1867 dressed in full samurai attire. Shibahara arrived in Manchester in 1966 when the article claims there were only two other Japanese people ‘a judo instructor and a nurse’. Shibahara was conscious of the lack of understanding about Japan and it’s people, culture and history when he first arrived. He stated that ‘I’ve been to bookshops in Manchester to find books on Japan and when I’ve opened them, they’ve shown hairstyles 100 years out of date’. As chairman of the North West Japanese Society Shibahara promoted greater understanding of Japan across the region. In this vein, with our ever popular Japanese display in the Living Cultures gallery, we’re continuing to promote further understanding and interest in Japan across Manchester.

 

 

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In & Out

Loaning objects to other institutions is an important function of any collection, and non more so than with the Living Cultures collection. As I mentioned in my previous post (Coming to America) we currently have an Iroquois club and axe head on loan to the Bowes Museum, but we also have several Maori objects on loan to the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, Whitby. The objects, which inlcude an impressive Maori canoe prow, are taking part in the exhibition Oceans apart! Canoes of the Pacific on until early November 2013 . For more information visithttp://www.cookmuseumwhitby.co.uk/special-exhibition/. Quite wonderfully the Cook recently won the 2013 Visit England award for the best Small Visitor Attraction!

Maori canoe prow on display at the Captain Cook Memorial Museum. Manchester Museum Living Cultures collection. 2013.

Maori canoe prow on display at the Captain Cook Memorial Museum. Manchester Museum Living Cultures collection. 2013.

We also have a loan returning to us soon from the exhibition The Seven Treasures: Japanese Enamels from the V&A at Weston Park Museum, Sheffield. The exhibition closes this coming Sunday, for more information visit  http://www.museums-sheffield.org.uk/museums/weston-park/exhibitions/current/the-seven-treasures-japanese-enamels-from-the-v-and-a. The loan in question is a samurai helmet used to illustrate the importance and sophistocation of Japanese lacquer work.

Samurai helmet on display at Weston Park Museum. Manchester Museum Living Cultures collection. 2013.

Samurai helmet on display at Weston Park Museum. Manchester Museum Living Cultures collection. 2013.

Samurai helmet on display at Weston Park Museum. Manchester Museum Living Cultures collection. 2013.

Samurai helmet on display at Weston Park Museum. Manchester Museum Living Cultures collection. 2013.

Sharing objects from the Living Cultures collection with new audiences, institutions and colleagues is always a welcome opportunity.