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Building an Info-Forum Database for the Asaeda Toshio Collection Focusing on his Oceania Ethnography

Research period : April 2018‒ March 2020 / Project for Database Improvement (project period: max. 2 years)

Coordinator NIWA Norio

Outline

Objectives

Asaeda Toshio was a Japanese curator, artist, photographer, and taxidermist based in the United States. The Asaeda Toshio collection held by Minpaku is mostly made up of photographs of places and people in Oceania, taken by him from 1929 to the 1930s while accompanying the expeditions of prominent Americans such as Zane Gray, Templeton Crocker and William Beebe. The Collection is now a valuable resource for historical and regional research on Oceania, shedding light on the lives of the people of Oceania in the early 20th century. The materials are significant as an ethnographic record of past culture, and for the present people of Oceania where archiving of many historical records is scarce or still in progress.With this project we wish to enhance the ethnographic, historical and cultural value of the Collection by:
(i) describing the collection materials held at our museum,
(ii) collaborating with researchers in museums or other institutions that hold other materials related to Oceania and Asaeda Toshio, and
(iii) adding the new information obtained to our database records.

These activities are part of a larger effort to gather information on Oceanian ethnographic materials at our museum, for sharing with local and scholarly communities.

Description

The Asaeda Toshio collection consists of 6,243 samples of image data (16 volumes of photo albums and a roll of film), 136 watercolor paintings, four diaries, one barkcloth, and several miscellaous papers. Although the prime focus will be on the photos of Oceania, many of those taken by Asaeda during his course of life are dispersed and part of them are now stored in other museums. Cooperating with overseas museums and research institutions such as the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology of Britain, Musée du quai Branly of France and the California Academy of Science of America and so on, the project tries to restore the entire list of his photos as much as possible. In addition, with the help of Japanese specialist on Oceanic studies, the project also examines every photo in the collection in order not only to expand and improve the reliability of the core information, but also to seek the way to open the collection for public use through possible publication or exhibitions held in Oceania.
Through scrutinizing various documents from formal expedition reports, books of expeditions to Asaeda’s personal records in the Collection, the project will unpack detailed information both on the expeditions in which Asaeda took part and their social and historical background. The Minpaku library and project leader have already purchased several books and papers written by expedition members or Asaeda himself.
By reviewing all the information regarding Asaeda’s photos, making them accessible as widely as possible, and collaborating with the source communities to utilize them, the project aims to enrich our insights into the cultures and histories in the world.

Expected results

Note: Results also reveal what kind of database it would be.
Currently, access to the Asaeda Toshio collection is limited. Other than a short introduction of videotheque displayed in the second floor of Minpaku, the database is viewable only in Japanese from within Minpaku. This project will aim to widen the scope of access to the database as much as possible. It will also aim to improve the reliability and expand the quantity of information of the collection with the assistance of the research community as well as source communities. A plan to hold exhibitions in Oceania is under consideration.

Annual Report

Outcomes from 2018

Outcomes from 2019

1. The state of the implementation of this year’s research

The photographic resources were classified by region. The specific data was carefully examined and added to the database by experts on Tonga, Kiribati, Rennell and Bellona Province and Malaita Province in the Solomon Islands. Regarding images of Rennell and Bellona Province in particular, we asked an expert who had carried field resea in the region in the 1970s with photographs from Hawaii’s Bishop Museum which overlap with Minpaku’s own Toshio Asaeda collection to examine our collection. Transcription and interpretation of the four volumes of handwritten diaries that are part of the Asaeda Toshio collection was also completed. In order to further investigate information on Asaeda Toshio’s personal history, a survey is scheduled to take place at Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture in January. In terms of local relationships, information of postcards were checked at the Fiji Museum in Fiji, planning of future exhibition in 2020 was held in Solomon Islands National Museum. The archival research at the California Academy of Sciences and American Museum of Natural History are planned for February and March respectively.

2. Overview of the research results (achievements of the research objects)

In terms of the database, details on Samoans of Japanese ancestry, local ceremonies in Rennell and Bellona Province in the Solomon Islands were added. We also collected detailed data on the Cook Islands expedition route and photograph location. The collection exhibition, ‘Toshio Asaeda and his Galápagos ―― Expeditions and Exhibitions of Natural History in the 1930s’ will be held. In terms of publications, a special feature in the February edition of Gekkan Minpaku (Minpaku Monthly) was produced, a related essay in Kikan Minzokugaku (Ethnological Quarterly) , and paper in Kokuritsu Minzokugaku Hakubutsukan Kenkyū Hōkoku (Bulletin of the National Museum of Ethnology) were also published. An exhibition at the Solomon Islands National Museum is also in the preparatory stages.

3. Records disclosing achievements (publications, public symposia, sectional meetings of academic conferences, electronic media, etc.)

1. The state of the implementation of this year’s research

The photo materials were classified according to areas. Then, the items to be entered in the database were formulated through consultation with Inter-University Project Researchers. Concretely, the photographic data was scrutinized in collaboration with the experts who have been researching for many years in the Oceanian islands communities, including the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Samoa, French Polynesia, and Cook Islands. Regarding photo materials related to the Galápagos Islands in particular, their value and positioning in the history of Galápagos research were assessed and the academic names of species were identified in cooperation with the Japan Association for Galapagos and Dr. Syuzo Itow (Professor Emeritus at Nagasaki University), a leading Japanese authority on the Islands. As interaction with local communities, we exchanged opinions on photographic materials and the planning of future exhibitions at the iTaukei Trust Fund Board in Fiji, the Fiji Museum, and the Solomon Islands National Museum. We schedule studies of the bibliographical materials and photographic data stored at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge and the California Academy of Sciences , as well as information exchange with the researchers, in February and March, respectively.

2. Overview of the research results (achievements of the research objects)

The names of areas in the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Samoa, French Polynesia, and Cook Islands were mostly organized. During the process, we found that some of the photos of Fiji were not taken by Asaeda, but were postcards. It turned out that the photos taken in the Galápagos Islands included those which would clarify the detailed scientific investigation of that time, the natural environment lost now, and lifestyles of the foreigners staying there. We proceeded with the exhibition in the Solomon Islands as an outcome of the project as appropriate thanks to the deputy director of the National Museum who takes an active stance toward it.

3. Records disclosing achievements (publications, public symposia, sectional meetings of academic conferences, electronic media, etc.)

<Publications>
Norio Niwa 2018, “Far Away from Japan (1) Who is Asaeda Toshio” on p. 2 of the evening edition of the Mainichi Shimbun
Norio Niwa 2018, “Far Away from Japan (2) Expedition in the Galápagos Islands” on p. 2 of the evening edition of the Mainichi Shimbun
Norio Niwa 2018, “Far Away from Japan (3) Snapshots” on p. 2 of the evening edition of the Mainichi Shimbun
Norio Niwa 2018, “Far Away from Japan (4) Experience in a Concentration Camp and the Postwar Period” on p. 2 of the evening edition of the Mainichi Shimbun