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Acquisition History of the Japanese Artifacts

Japanese Archaeological Objects in the Penn Museum: A Collection from the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893

 

Yoko Nishimura

 

Introduction

There are thousands of Japanese archaeological artifacts stored in the major arts and archaeology museums of the United States alone. Many of the collections crossed the Pacific Ocean and came to the United States in the late 19th century, while many others arrived during the first half of the 20th century. For example, some of the collections at the Peabody Museum at Harvard, and at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History were gathered by the famous zoologist Edward S. Morse, who excavated Ōmori shell midden in Tokyo after 1877. In those days, archaeological objects left their home countries more readily than today and reached foreign museums through colonial expeditions, inter-institutional exchanges, purchases from private art galleries, and gifts from wealthy art collectors. 

 

Japanese Prehistoric Objects at the Penn Museum

The Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania (hereafter Penn Museum) houses one of the largest Japanese prehistoric collections. It includes objects dating to the Paleolithic through Kofun periods (ca.30000 BC-ca.AD 600). Among the 483 artifacts in the collection, easily identifiable ones include decorated pots, phallic-shaped stone rods, and obsidian arrowheads from the Jōmon period, as well as magatama beads, stoneware pots, and a bronze mirror from the Kofun period. Currently two of these objects are on display at the Penn Museum, due to the limitation in the gallery space and the lack of in-depth investigation on these artifacts. This seems to be a common situation in many of the museums of Arts and Archaeology, resulting in long-time oblivion of the valuable Japanese artifacts in the museums’ storage areas.  

 

The WCE Collection at the Penn Museum

Of the 483 prehistoric Japanese artifacts at the Penn Museum, 188 items derived from a group that was displayed at the World’s Columbian Exposition (hereafter WCE) of 1893 in Chicago. The other 295 Japanese prehistoric artifacts stored at the Penn Museum came primarily as gifts of Francis C. Macauley in 1890 and via a project by Coon, Marringer, and Bowles in 1956, while many others have lost their acquisition records. These 295 artifacts consist primarily of intact pots, sherds, arrowheads, scrapers, and beads dating to the prehistoric periods. The 188 items from the WCE collection consist of 127 pots/sherds, 58 stone tools, 3 stone rods, and 1 ‘knife’ pendant dating to the Jōmon through Kofun periods (Tables 1 and 2). Together with these artifacts, the Penn Museum acquired a total of 16 large watercolor paintings of archaeological items and sites of these prehistoric time periods, also displayed at the exposition in 1893.

 

 

Table 1: The 127 pottery items from the WCR collection at the Penn Museum.

 

Object Number

Sherds/Pots

Culture

13018

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13019

Sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13020

Sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13021

Sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13022

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13023A

Deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13023B

Rim sherd, deep pot

Jōmon

13024

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13025

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13026A

Sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13026B

Sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13027

Sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13028

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13029

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13030

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13031

Sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13032

Sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13033

Sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13034

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13035

Sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13036A

Rim sherd, shallow pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13036B

Sherd, shallow pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13037

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13038A

Rim sherd, deep pot

Jōmon

13038B

Sherd, deep pot

Jōmon

13039

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13040

Sherd

Late/Final Jōmon

13041

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13042

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13043

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13044

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13045A

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13045B

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13046

Sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13047

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13048

Rim sherd

Late/Final Jōmon

13049

Sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13050

Sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13051

Sherd, deep pot

Early? Jōmon

13052

Sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13053

Sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13054

Base sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13055

Base sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13056 2 entries

Bowl, like a cup

Late/Final Jōmon

13057

Bowl

Late/Final Jōmon

13058

Base sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13059

Base sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13060

Base sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13061

Bowl

Late/Final Jōmon

13062

Bowl

Late/Final Jōmon

13063A

Base sherd

Late/Final Jōmon

13063B

Sherd

Late/Final Jōmon

13063C

Sherd

Jōmon

13064

Pedestal sherd

Late/Final Jōmon

13065

Rim sherd

Late/Final Jōmon

13066

Rim sherd, jar

Late/Final Jōmon

13067

Rim sherd, bowl

Late/Final Jōmon

13068A

Rim sherd

Late/Final Jōmon

13068B

Sherd

Late/Final Jōmon

13069

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13070A

Sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13070B

Sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13071A

Sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13071B

Sherd, deep pot

Jōmon

13071C

Sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13072

Sherd

Late/Final Jōmon

13073

Rim sherd, deep pot

Middle/Late Jōmon

13074

Rim sherd, bowl

Middle/Late Jōmon

13075

Rim sherd

Middle/Late Jōmon

13076

Rim sherd

Middle/Late Jōmon

13077

Rim sherd

Middle/Late Jōmon

13078

Rim sherd, deep pot

Middle/Late Jōmon

13079

Rim sherd

Late/Final Jōmon

13080A

Sherd

Jōmon

13080B

Sherd

Late/Final Jōmon

13081

Rim sherd

Late/Final Jōmon

13082

Sherd

Late/Final Jōmon

13083

Rim sherd

Late/Final Jōmon

13084

Rim sherd

Late/Final Jōmon

13085

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13086

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13087

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13088

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13089A

Rim sherd

Late/Final Jōmon

13089B

Rim sherd

Late/Final Jōmon

13090

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13091

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13092

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13093

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13094

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13095

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13096

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13097

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13098

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13099

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13100

Rim sherd, deep pot

Middle Jōmon

13101

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13102

Rim sherd, deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13103

Rim sherd, deep pot

Middle Jōmon

13104

Rim sherd, deep pot

Middle Jōmon

13105

Spout sherd

Late/Final Jōmon

13106

Spout sherd

Late/Final Jōmon

13107

Sherd

Late/Final Jōmon

13108

Sherd

Late/Final Jōmon

13127

Bowl, pedestal missing

Late/Final Jōmon

13128

Pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13129

Deep pot

Late/Final Jōmon

13130

Pot

Kofun Sue-ware

13131

Pot, waster

Kofun Sue-ware

13132

Pot (wine server?)

Kofun Sue-ware

13133

Pot, horizontal vase

Kofun Sue-ware

13134

Pot

Kofun Sue-ware

13135

Pot

Kofun Sue-ware

13136

Pot (wine server?)

Kofun Sue-ware

13137

Un-necked pot

Kofun Sue-ware

13138A

Dish

Kofun Sue-ware

13138B

Dish-lid

Kofun Sue-ware

13139

Base sherd?

 

13140

Dish on foot

 

13141

Dish on foot

 

13142

Vase

 

13241 A-E

Jar

Kofun Sue-ware

13242

Pedestal bowl

Kofun Sue-ware

13243A

Pedestal bowl

Kofun Sue-ware

13243B

Rim sherd

Kofun Sue-ware

13243C

Rim sherd

Kofun Sue-ware

13244

Footed jar

Kofun Sue-ware

 

Table 2: The 62 lithic objects from the WCR collection at the Penn Museum.

 

Object Number

Stone Tools

Culture

13109

Hammer stone Fragment

Paleolithic/Jōmon

13143

Point/Knife

Early Jōmon

13144

Adze

Jōmon

13145

Adze

Jōmon

13146

Adze

Jōmon

13147

Scraper

Jōmon

13148

Adze

Jōmon

13149

Adze

Jōmon

13150

Adze

Jōmon

13151

Adze

Jōmon

13152

Adze

Jōmon

13153

Adze

Jōmon/Yayoi

13154

Adze

Jōmon

13155

Adze

Jōmon

13156

Adze

Jōmon

13160

Scraper

Jōmon

13161

Scraper

Jōmon

13162

End-scraper

Jōmon

13163

End-scraper

Jōmon

13164

Scraper

Jōmon

13165

Scraper

Jōmon

13166

Arrowhead

Jōmon

13167

Un-stemmed arrowhead

Jōmon

13168

Stemmed-arrowhead

Late/Final Jōmon

13169

Arrowhead

Jōmon

13170

Arrowhead

Jōmon

13171

Arrowhead

Jōmon

13172

Arrowhead

Jōmon

13173

Arrowhead

Jōmon

13174

Arrowhead

Jōmon

13175

Arrowhead

Jōmon

13176

Arrowhead

Jōmon

13177

Drill

Jōmon

13179

Stemmed arrowhead

Jōmon

13180

Arrowhead

Jōmon

13181

Drill

Jōmon

13182

Arrowhead

Jōmon

13183

Arrowhead

Jōmon

13184

Arrowhead

Jōmon

13185

Arrowhead

Jōmon

13186

Drill

Jōmon

13187

Arrowhead

Jōmon

13188

Arrowhead

Jōmon

13189

Arrowhead

Jōmon

13190

Arrowhead

Jōmon

13191

Arrowhead

Late? Jōmon

13192

Drill

Jōmon

13193

Projectile point

Incipient Jōmon

13194

Arrowhead

Jōmon

13195

Arrowhead

Jōmon

13196

Arrowhead

Jōmon

13197

Arrowhead

Jōmon

13198

Arrowhead

Jōmon

13199

Arrowhead

Jōmon

13200

Drill

Jōmon

13201

Arrowhead

Jōmon

13202

Projectile point

Jōmon

13157

Stone rod

Late/Final Jōmon

13158

Stone sword

Late/Final Jōmon

13159

Stone rod

Jōmon

13178

Pendant, modeled after a knife

Kofun

 

 

The Large 16 Drawings

The large drawings were intended to make up for the absence of certain artifact types, especially those too valuable to send to Chicago. They depict, at full size representative, national-treasure-level artifacts, many of which are still on display at the Tokyo National Museum to this day. No examples of dogū and haniwa figurines, for instance, were sent to the World’s Columbian Exposition. Bronze mirrors, a dagger, a dōtaku bell, as well as the various stone beads and bracelets went to the exposition but were returned to Tokyo afterwards. To fill in the absence of the major artifact types, the Tokyo National Museum (back then, Tokyo Imperial Museum, hereafter TIM) donated the drawings along with the pots and stone tools. By displaying the 188 artifacts and 16 drawings at the Penn Museum after the conclusion of the WCE, the TIM wished to create an exhibition in a major museum in the United States that resembled, as much as possible, the archaeology section of their museum in Tokyo. It was a balanced, informative display of the prehistoric objects, reflecting the current state of archeological knowledge, rather than an attempt to highlight visually attractive artifacts, such as bronze bells, and mirrors and terracotta figurines, which would have afterwards been on good demand in foreign antiquity markets. As a representative assemblage of prehistoric objects from the Jōmon to Kofun periods, this collection is of great value as an educational and research tool.

 

The Transfer of the Displayed Objects

Based on the available archival documents stored at the TIM, it appears that the TIM intended, from the onset, to hand over the pots, sherds, and stone tools, as well as the drawings, so they would continue to be displayed after the exposition at a major museum in the United States. It seems that these 204 artifacts and drawings amount to approximately half of the Japanese archaeological objects that were displayed in the TIM booth at the WCE. After the exposition, the 204 objects were transferred to the Penn Museum, while the remaining objects that had been on display, primarily bronze items and stone beads, seem to have gone back to Tokyo. Together, the 204 artifacts and drawings show that the TIM, supported by the Meiji Government, carefully chose the artifacts from different parts of Japan to exhibit a representative set of all the major ancient Japanese artifact- and site-types that were known at that time.

 

The famous ethnographer, Stewart Culin (1858-1929), became the director of the newly founded Penn Museum in 1892. As Secretary to the Commission of the United States to the WCE, Culin played a major role organizing exhibitions at the world's fairs, both in Madrid in 1892 and Chicago in 1893. Culin was widely praised and celebrated for having brought to Philadelphia from the WCE many rare and valuable objects, of which the Japanese artifacts are just a portion (North American, 21 December, 1893; Philadelphia Press, 26 December, 1893; Philadelphia Press, 21 January, 1894).

 

Culin’s notes that he took during the WCE list the objects that were donated to the Penn Museum from the TIM. Headed “Exchange, the Government of Japan”, they enumerate the objects that were later given to the Penn Museum (Figures 1 and 2). The transfer of the TIM archaeological specimens that came to Philadelphia via Chicago is also confirmed by a thank-you letter dated on July 19th, 1895, that was sent from Ryūichi Kuki, the then Director of the TIM, to Steward Culin (Figures 3 and 4).

 

Figures 1 and 2: Culin’s notes that he took during the WCE (Office of the Director/Board of

   Managers 1892-1896)

Ryūichi Kuki (1852-1931) was a government official and politician who worked in the Ministry of Education during the Meiji era. In 1889, Kuki was appointed as the director of the museum and worked there for 11 years. Following this appointment, Kuki became increasingly engaged in art administration in Japan, and he was one of the major figures who planned and designed the Japanese pavilions and exhibitions at the WCI. Unlike the previous world’s fairs, Kuki and his colleagues focused on traditional Japanese arts and crafts in the 1893 Exposition and greatly encouraged exports of craft artifacts.

 

In the letter, Kuki thanks Culin for having sent to his museum in Tokyo “a box containing ethnological specimens and its catalogue” and mentions that the TIM received this box in return for the articles that the TIM had displayed at the WCE and had consigned afterwards to the Penn Museum. It no doubt denotes the archaeological items and drawings currently in the Penn Museum collection. Kuki also thanks Lamborn, who was one of the Board of Managers of the Penn Museum at the time of its establishment and who contributed greatly to the museum’s initial development by donating his large collections of books and artifacts (Philadelphia Evening Telegraph, 27 March, 1893). In the thank-you letter, Kuki asks Culin to “forward the enclosed letter to Dr. Robert H. Lamborn”, presumably to thank Lamborn for the exchanged ancient artifacts.

 

Figures 3 and 4: The front and back of the thank-you letter from Ryūichi Kuki to Steward Culin.

   (Imperial Museum, Japan (Kuki, R.) 1894).

The question remains why the TIM chose the Penn Museum to receive the displayed specimens, instead of some other prominent institution in the United States. In the era of the world’s fairs during the second half of the 19th century and the first few decades of the 20th century, the exchange of cultural, natural, and industrial properties between the major museums, especially cross-culturally, was one of the common ways to acquire foreign artifacts (e.g. Shirai 2016). It was therefore conceivable that the TIM planned in advance leaving some of their specimens to a major museum in the United States for display. Meanwhile, the Field Museum (called the “Columbian Museum of Chicago” until 1905) was established in 1893 in Chicago, precisely for this purpose – to collect and house the many artifacts and exhibits displayed at the fair. Many other major institutions, including Harvard, Columbia, Princeton, Yale, and Cornell, displayed their own artifacts in the same gallery as the Penn Museum at the WCE (Philadelphia Evening Telegraph, 19 April, 1893).

 

The reason that the TIM decided to have the transaction with the Penn Museum seems to have been the availability of gallery space and the types of objects available for reciprocal exchange. Compared to other major museums that had already been in existence for several decades, the Penn Museum had been recently founded in 1887. A newly established museum might have been more flexible in terms of the available gallery space for public display. In fact, the minutes of the Penn Museum directors from 1894 record an order that “a section of Japan be created and dissevered from the section on Asia and General Ethnology. The title of the Section, whether on Japan or Japanese art being left to the Museum Committee” (Board of Managers Minutes 1890-1898: 77). This space seems to have been secured as a gallery space to publicly display the Japanese collection.

 

16 Drawings of Archaeological Objects and Sites from the Jōmon to Kofun periods

 

The 16 watercolor drawings were displayed at the WCE along with the hundreds of the archaeological objects in the TIM’s booth. The archaeology section of the Tokyo National Museum has recently identified the artist as Hōryū Goseida, II (1864-1943), a well-known Western-style painter in Tokyo, who worked for the Meiji emperor in Tokyo (Katsuya Shirai, personal communication, July 2017). Most of these paintings were severely damaged on one of their short-sides, most likely as the result of a flood in the past (Alessandro Pezzati, personal communication, February 2017).

 

Tags for the Objects’ Provenience

 

Of the 127 pots and sherds, 20 are Kofun-period artifacts and the rest date to the Jōmon period. The majority of the Jōmon sherds and intact pots belong to the Late-Final Jōmon periods (ca. 2400 BC-400 BC). Among the 107 Jōmon pots/sherds, 46 retain traces of tags that were probably attached to the artifacts by the local authorities where they were found before the authorities sent them to the TIM. It is not clear if all of the Japanese archaeological objects displayed at the WCE had such tags on them. Many of these tags indicate a source for the object in Chiba Prefecture, northeast of Tokyo (Table 3). 

 

Table 3: The tags that are still attached to the sherds.

 

下総國…

Chiba Prefecture…

6

下総國千葉郡六通村

Chiba Prefecture, Rokutsū village

5

下総國千葉郡平山村…

Chiba Prefecture, Hirayama village…

10

下総國千葉郡平山村主理臺

Chiba Prefecture, Hirayama village, Shuridai

17

下総國千葉郡平山村字番人

Chiba Prefecture, Hirayama village, Azabannin

8

 

Total

46 sherds

 

Stone Artifacts

 

The 61 stone artifacts in this collection consist mainly of axes, arrowheads, spearheads, scrapers, drills, and stone rods. Nearly all of these objects date to the Jōmon period. The locations indicated by the tags that remain on the stone objects present more variety than those on the sherds and pots, ranging from Hokkaidō to Nagano Prefecture (Table 4). Interestingly, the two stone rods came from the same village in Chiba Prefecture from which many of the sherds originated.  

 

Table 4: The tags that are still attached to the stone artifacts.

 

???

???

2 axes

横濱?松〇村

Yokohama? Matsu〇 village

4 axes

北海道

Hokkaido

1 axe

羽前 狩川今町裏畑

Yamagata Prefecture

1 axe

信濃伊奈郡澤岡村

Nagano Prefecture, Shinano Ina-gun

1 axe

北海道〇〇室蘭…

Hokkaido, 〇〇 Muroran…

1 axe?

越後 伊弥彦

Niigata Prefecture, Echigo Iyahiko

1 scraper

下総國千葉郡六通村

Chiba Prefecture, Rokutsu Village

1 stone rod

下総國千葉郡六通村

Chiba Prefecture, Rokutsu Village

1 stone rod

津軽

Aomori Prefecture

1 stone sword

 

Total

14 stone objects

 

 

References Cited

 

Board of Managers Minutes

      1890-1898       Board of Managers Minutes. Pp. 77.  Penn Museum Archives.

 

Imperial Museum, Japan (Kuki, R.)

1894    A letter by Ryūichi Kuki addressed to Steward Culin. Penn Museum Archives.

 

North American

1893    From the Exposition: Many Rare Exhibits Secured for Philadelphia by R. Stuart Culin. 21 December. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

           

Office of the Director/Board of Managers

1892-1896       Culin’s memos. Pres. Charlemagne Tower. Columbian Exposition Acquisitions. Penn Museum Archives.

 

Philadelphia Evening Telegraph

1893    Archaeological Collection: An Important Addition to the University of Pennsylvania Library. 27 March. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

 

Philadelphia Evening Telegraph

1893    The College Exhibit: Arranging the Display of the University of Pennsylvania at

Chicago. 19 April. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

 

Philadelphia Press

1893    Many Fair Exhibits Come to Philadelphia. December 26. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

 

Philadelphia Press

1894    University Museum Enriched by the Fair. January 21. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

 

Shirai, Katsuya 白井 克也

2016    Kanshi shiryō karamita tōkyō kokuritsu hakubutsukan to gaikoku hakubutsukan tono bunkazai kōkan館史資料からみた東京国立博物館と外国博物館との文化財交換 (The exchange of cultural properties between the Tokyo National Museum and foreign museums viewed from archival documents). In Meiji-ki hakubutsukan no kokusaiteki na bunkazai kōryū明治期博物館の国際的な文化財交流 (International exchanges of cultural properties between the Meiji-era museums). Pp.4-11. Tokyo National Museum.