British photographic history

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Website: Early Photography of Japan

Early Photography of Japan is a virtual collection of more than 40 souvenir photograph albums and illustrated publications with over 2,000 images from Widener Library, the Fine Arts Library, and Harvard-Yenching Library. These images primarily document the early history of commercial photography in Japan and are representative of what is often called Japanese tourist photography or Yokohama shashin. They reflect the Western image of traditional Japanese culture before the dramatic transformation brought about by modernization during the Meiji period (1868-1912).

Selected mostly from the E. G. Stillman Japanese Collection, Early Photography of Japan features many hand-colored albumen prints and collotypes by pioneering and influential photographers such as Felice Beato, Baron Raimund von Stillfried, Tamamura Kozaburo, Kusakabe Kimbei, and Ogawa Kazumasa. It also includes amateur black-and-white snapshots, probably taken by E. G. Stillman during a trip to Japan in 1905; hand-colored lantern slides produced in the late Meiji era by T. Enami and Takagi Teijiro, from the Etz-Trudell Collection of Hand-Colored Lantern Slides; and the 10-volume Imperial edition of Japan: Described and Illustrated by the Japanese, edited by Captain Francis Brinkley and published by J. B. Millet Company of Boston between 1897 and 1898.

A collaboration between the Harvard College Library’s Collections Digitization Program and the Weissman Preservation Center, Early Photography of Japanwas developed and produced to support and stimulate scholarly research and educational interest in the early history of photography in Japan. It represents a model system for enhancing access and preservation of historical photograph collections that integrates conservation, cataloging, and digital imaging.

The site was created by Robert Burton, Cataloger for Photographs, Weissman Preservation Center, with the assistance of Maggie Hale, Librarian for Collections Digitization; Enrique Diaz, Web Designer, and Laura Totten, Web Coordinator, HCL Communications. Digitization was done by Jenne Willis, Imaging Technician, Imaging Services. Funding for the project was provided by the Harvard College Library Collections Digitization Program.

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