East Asia Image Collection Fosters International Collaboration

Since its launch in 2007, the East Asia Image Collection (EAIC) has garnered international attention with its open access collection of over 5000 postcards, photographs and ephemera tracing the visual history of the Japanese Empire. The collection is curated by Lafayette history professor Paul Barclay and Director of Skillman Library’s Digital Scholarship Services, Eric Luhrs. The success of the collection has brought attention to the fact that though these physical materials are plentiful, particularly in Japan, access to them has been difficult for researchers.


Eric Luhrs and Paul Barclay with new EAIC materials

This month Barclay and Luhrs met with a team at Kyoto University with the aim of connecting their complementary collection of materials to Lafayette’s as a model for creating cross-institutional archival collections. Connecting databases and archives across national borders will allow users to search multiple collections at once and gain access to a much wider set of materials.


Kishi Toshihiko, Eric Luhrs, Paul Barclay and Shoichiro Hara at Kyoto University’s Center for Integrated Area Studies

Luhrs joined Barclay at Kyoto University, where Barclay has been working as a visiting researcher this year, to discuss the logistics of a new collection at the Center for Integrated Area Studies and to work with their team to discuss the architecture necessary to link the two collections. The result of the meeting was a truly collaborative project. “We decided to build a pilot database with 139 of our records and about an equal number of theirs,” explains Barclay. “Having both teams in the same room enabled us to hammer out some of the key components of this project including translation, cataloging methods, and modes of development.” With the combination of these resources, the project is now moving forward and Barclay and Luhrs will present their initial findings in August to an international audience at a Digital Scholarship workshop held at Harvard University.

Expanding the reach of the EAIC even further, Barclay and Luhrs also met with Directors Matsuo and Watanabe of the Showa Memorial Museum in Tokyo. Matsuo visited Lafayette earlier this year and expressed interest in a set of Kodachrome slides from the Gerald & Rella Warner Japan Slide Collection and in the diaries and photos of Lafayette alum Robert Trout (’34) who was a medical supplies officer in Japan from 1945-46. Both of these collections are currently held in Lafayette’s Special Collections and digital versions of these items will now be included in a permanent exhibit as well as in the Showa’s spring exhibit, which draws an average of 12,000 visitors every April.


Paul Barclay and Eric Luhrs with Matsuo Kiminari and Watanabe Kazuhiro, of the Showa Memorial Museum

The Showa team will, in turn, lend their expertise with the transcription of a set of handwritten letters sent from the families of Japanese soldiers interred in American prison camps in the Philippines after World War II. This material was donated by Lafayette alum Brett Doyle (’10) and his family and is currently housed in Lafayette’s Special Collections.

As a whole, this trip has been an incredibly rich opportunity not only to boost Lafayette’s profile in Asia and increase the research audience for the EAIC, but also to build lasting modes of international cooperation that will continue to foster innovative research.


For more information about this project or on starting a new digital project with DSS  contact us at digital@lafayette.edu, or call (610) 330-5796.

Professor Paul Barclay and the East Asia Image Collection on the World Stage

Today History Professor Paul Barclay presents his paper “Playing the Race Card in Japanese Governed Taiwan – Anthropometric Photographs as ‘Shape-Shifting Jokers’” at the European Association of Japanese Studies’ International Conference in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

The paper stems from Barclay’s interest in the visual history of the Japanese empire with a particular focus on mass-produced ephemera. As the general editor of the East Asia Image Collection, developed in partnership with Eric Luhrs, Director of the Library’s Digital Scholarship program, Barclay has amassed a collection of over 5,000 digitized items including postcards, stereographic prints, photographs, and several other media types.

His presentation traces the material history of a single photograph. The image, taken by Japanese ethnologist-photographer Mori Ushinosuke, is an anthropometric portrait of a Taiwanese woman, Paazeh Naheh. Barclay argues that the heavy reproduction of Paazeh’s portrait and the shifting contexts of that image, from a lantern slide, to an ethnographic object of study, to a picture postcard, reveal more than the typical concerns of imperialist discourses and racist essentialism often associated with anthropometric materials. Instead, this image functions as a “shape-shifting joker,” refusing a stable symbolic function. Because the portrait appeared in a broad spectrum of venues and was utilized for a range of agendas, some of which ran counter to the imperial narratives about Taiwan and its people, it subverts the possibility for a monolithic interpretation


Images of Paazeh Naheh in the EAIC

The conference brings together scholars in Japanese history and culture with the aim of fostering an international exchange of ideas. Barclay will present his work alongside colleagues from both Japan and the United States on the panel “Photography in Twentieth Century Japan: Imaging Self and Other.” The presentation is part of his larger project, a book-length study on the history of Japanese-Taiwan Indigenous Peoples relations from 1873 to 1945.

Barclay’s work illustrates the value of the East Asia Image Collection in opening new avenues of investigation for scholars worldwide. The faceted discovery interface allows users to create virtual image sets of items that meet specific criteria while the ability to identify precise relationships between seemingly disparate items aids in the recognition of patterns of production, imagery, and context, making the EAIC a powerful and innovative resource in the field.

To learn more about Professor Barclay’s work and the EAIC visit the collection at: http://digital.lafayette.edu/collections/eastasia.

Connect with this project on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/EastAsiaImageCollection

or follow the latest from Professor Barclay on his new EAIC blog: http://sites.lafayette.edu/eastasia/

For more information on starting a digital project with DSS or applying for an internship opportunity contact us at digital@lafayette.edu, or call (610) 330-5796.