Just a couple links, today, on topics related to early modern Japan, and two related to museum matters.
*First, a recent issue of the scholarly journal City, Culture, and Society, focusing chiefly on early modern Japanese cities, especially Osaka. All thirteen articles are freely downloadable (no login or university affiliation necessary).
Article subjects include “Urban social policymaking in modern Osaka,” “Poverty, disease, and urban governance in late 19th century Osaka,” “The traditional city of Osaka and performers,” and articles on carpenters, construction workers, and stevedores (dockhands) in early modern Osaka, among others.
*Next, a full-hour video of a talk given by Constantine Vaporis back in 2008, entitled “Samurai in Edo and the Culture of Early Modern Japan.” The talk focuses on the lifestyle of samurai retainers in Edo during their stay there on sankin kôtai (alternate attendance), a major element of the content of Vaporis’ book Tour of Duty, which would be published the following year. This is easily one of my favorite books on Japanese history, in its detailed “facts on the ground”-oriented approach, helping us envision life in that time and place, rather than subordinating the historical evidence to the advancement of abstract theoretical arguments.
This video is a great taste of what you’ll find in the book.
*In our third link today, Metropolitan Museum Director Thomas Campbell presents at TED.
He speaks on a variety of subjects, mostly on the value and importance of museums – of seeing actual objects rather than just digital images on the Internet, accessible as those may be – and addresses, in part, the value of museums in bringing the cultures of the world to the museumgoer. The Islamic galleries at the Met have just reopened after being closed for renovations for many years, and present a view of the Arab world quite different from that we see in the news. They play an important part in helping us understand our world – and specifically, that part of the world – more fully. And, at a time when Turkey, among other countries, are trying to reclaim anything and everything excavated from their lands, these exhibits serve an important purpose in inspiring people to be interested in Turkish history and culture, to visit Turkey, and perhaps even to think positively of Turkey, its people, and its culture. As Campbell says:
“We are in the business of celebrating Turkish culture. It is the great displays in London, Paris and New York, more than anything else, that will encourage people to go to Turkey and explore their cultural heritage, and not just the sun and beach.”
Japan understands all too well the importance of soft power – the effect that art & culture can have on creating a positive, friendly attitude among people around the world. It is a shame that Turkey does not seem to feel the same way.
*Finally, an article in the New York Post discussing Nazi provenance issues, and alleging that many top New York museums have resisted claims that objects in their collections were acquired after being stolen from their proper owners by the Nazis.
These issues can be quite complex, especially these days so long after the Nazi era, when former owners have passed away and inheritors are now making claims, and when, in at least some cases, the paper trail may be incomplete, leading to inconclusive evidence as to whether or not a work was obtained ethically.
I was not surprised to read in this article that many museums take this issue seriously and are working on doing the necessary research, but that it’s difficult and takes a long time and that they only have one or two part-time staff able to devote time to doing the work. I was surprised, however, at this statement from MoMA: “The museum maintains the work wasn’t considered stolen because the German museums were state institutions ‘and the art in them was owned by the German government.'” I should sincerely hope there is more to the story than what this NY Post article implies, because, seriously, shame on you, MoMA, if that’s your genuine stance.
My thanks to my father for alerting me to the existence of this news article. Thanks, Dad!