Revisiting Siebold’s Japan Museum｜Exhibition Guide
Philipp Franz von Siebold was born in Wurzburg, a local city in Germany on February 17, 1796. He majored in medicine at university and had taken interest in not only chemistry and botany that were a part of the curriculum but also zoology, geography, and ethnology. After graduating from university, he left for Batavia (now Jakarta of Indonesia) as an army surgeon and was then dispatched to Japan to serve as a resident physician for the Dutch Trading Post in Deshima.
This chapter introduces Siebold’s biograpy and his life in Japan.
Siebold was permitted to establish a private school in Narutaki that was located outside Deshima where the Dutch residents were obliged to live. He taught his followers western medicine and natural science, while having friendly exchanges with Japanese scholars. His followers also contributed to Siebold’s risearch on Japan not only by collecting specimens and materials but also by submitting papers on the subjects set by him.
In this chapter , results of the study are introduced through the materials he brought back, his publications, and other related matters.
After returning to Europe, Siebold aggressively made efforts in introducing Japan to people. In addition to publishing books, he energetically organized exhibitions about Japan. He developed Japan exhibitions in Holland and Germany. He also reached out to King of Bavaria who then had an intention to establish an ethnological museum, explained values of the Japanese collection, and persuaded him to purchase the collection.
This chapter discloses the background and process in which Siebold, after returning to Europe, was committed to completing his museum concept, while holding exhibitions to introduce Japan.
As for Siebold’s final Japan exhibition that was held in Munich, we can trace back the order of exhibits, the classification of display cases, and his intent in it by means of the sale list of his collection that was prepared by his eldest son Alexander after Siebold’s death as well as the newly discovered explanatory notes on his collection that were written in Siebold’s own handwriting.
In this chapter, aiming to restore Siebold’s Japan Museum 150 years ago, an attempt is made to re-arrange the Siebold’s collection from his second visit to Japan that is now kept at Museum Fünf Kontinente, Munich (MFK) in accordance with his concept of the Japan exhibit. Through this, we can understand that the Siebold’s Japan exhibition was and still now is significantly anticipatory from the viewpoint of the history of modern museums and the study of ethnology.
Siebold, who first arrived in Nagasaki in 1823 at the age of 27, spent the next 43 years passionately researching and presenting information on Japan. Although the concept of developing Japanese Museum was an expansive one,overcoming boundaries through his personal strength, he sought to make multifaceted presentations through a new technique-the ethnographic museum exhibition.
Siebold died at the age of 70 on October 18,1866 in Munich.
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