Collecting and displaying Japanese culture in 19th-century Scotland - NMS Research Repository
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Collecting and displaying Japanese culture in 19th-century Scotland

Abstract

Disciplinary boundaries are inevitable within a complex academic system and as those boundaries shift with time, the problem of speaking across them only increases. The scholars today who study the Japanese collections held by British museums are primarily art historians or archaeologists, but the context in which these collections were created was little informed by either of these disciplines. Other motivations were at work, such as the advancement of British manufactures, the comparative study of religions, or a desire to capture “specimens”. In Edinburgh, construction of what is today the National Museum of Scotland began in 1861 to parallel the institutions created in London during the previous decades. The citizens of Glasgow, too, desired a museum for their city, and the Kelvingrove House Museum was created in 1872. By establishing the context for collecting Japanese material artefacts in the second half of the 19th century we can understand the divergent trajectories taken since their acquisition, and thus better appreciate their significance within our national collections.

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