Research, Updates, and Resources Relating to the Visual Culture of Imperialism in East Asia

Digital Image Repositories

Postcards (abbreviated)

Postcards (annotated)

East Asia Image Collection

Lafayette College Digital Scholarship Services.

Postcards, photographs, negatives, and slides of imperial Japan (1868-1945), its Asian empire (1895-1945) and occupied Japan (1947-52). Postcards of Taiwan, Korea, Manchuria, and North-Central China predominate. High resolution scans with backs of postcards are also visible.  Cards are sortable by topic, place, title, maker, and several other categories. Date ranges are provided for postcards based on postal regulations, cancellation marks, and the content of the images.

戦前期東アジア絵はがきデータベース (Database of Pre-1945 East Asian Postcards)

京都大学 地域研究統合情報センター (Kyoto University Area Studies Center for Integrated Information)

Open-access archive of Postcards from Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Manchuria, Mongolia, Sakhalin (Karfuto), China, Siberian Far East, and the Western Pacific Islands.  These cards are marked by topic and place and scanned at high resolution. The metadata includes approximate dates and names of publishers, as well as titles of envelopes where known.

札幌市中央図書館デジタルライブラリー Sapporo Municipal Central Library Digital Archive

Sapporo Municipal Central Library

A collection of 3998 high resolution, searchable, prewar picture postcards of places, customs and manners, military matters, imperial household cards, etc..  The collection is particularly strong on Hokkaido and Karafuto postcards. The metadata is limited to the postcard titles, which are sorted into places and subjects. Images can be downloaded at high resolution.

臺灣記憶 日治時期臺灣圖像寫真 (Taiwan Memory: Historical Images from the Japanese Period)

國家圖書館 (Taiwan National Central Library)

This open-access Chinese-language site contains thousands of Japanese postcards of colonial Taiwan. Each record has metadata for time-period, physical characteristics of the cards, Japanese titles, Chinese translations of titles, and detailed information about the subjects depicted in the cards. The physical items are also accessible to researchers at the National Central Library in Taipei. The images are low resolution and watermarked.

The Leonard A. Lauder Collection

Boston Museum of Fine Arts

This open-access database contains over 20,000 postcards from the 1900-1945 period. The great majority of them are Japanese, but some are American and European cards with Japan-related themes. The collection contains hundreds of postcards with Chinese and Manchurian content, with fewer having scenes from Korea or Taiwan. Most of the records have titles and many have metadata for the names of artists, photographers, publishers, and printers as well as the physical aspects of the items. The MFA collection is especially strong in Russo-Japanese War and Pacific War postcards.

海外神社(跡地)に関するデータベース  A Database of Overseas Shinto Shrines

Kanagawa University 21st Century COE Program

Postcards, photographs, maps and texts related to the shrines built in East Asia and the South Seas during the early twentieth-century.  Excellent metadata, navigation, and scholarly data on shrines in the empire.

Manchukuo Stamps

This site emphasizes stamps, but has numerous examples of postcards–picture postcards and imprinted postcards.  This site provides detailed and helpful information on postmarks, postal history, military mail, and many other related themes.

日本の古写真 Old Photos of Japan

From DUITS, a commercial photography service.

Many postcards are contained in this well organized and accessible database. The Japanese-language descriptions of the scenes in the photos and postcards are detailed and seem reliable.  The resolution on the images is good enough to view the images, but not to read texts or study details.

絵葉書資料館 Postcard Museum

The Postcard Museum in Kobe

A very large variety of well-organized postcards with reliable and searchable titles.  There is a nostalgic element to this website, but it is still a useful research tool.  The images themselves are little more than thumbnails, but they are presumably viewable on the premises of the museum itself.

Digital Photograph Archives (abbreviated)

Digital Photograph Archives (annotated)

臺灣舊照片資料庫 Database of Taiwanese Old Photos

Taiwan National University

“The NTU library’s large collection of Japanese colonial period printed materials relating to all aspects of Taiwan cover topics such as Politics, Economy, Infrastructure, Geography, Botany and Zoology. There are also materials on society, culture, language, anthropology, literature and tourism and also contains statistical information from both the Governor General’s and local government offices. This database comprises digital images, selected from the NTU Library’s Japanese colonial period printed materials…”

臺灣大學典藏數位化計畫(Digital Archives Project of National Taiwan University)

Taiwan National University

Thousands of anthropological and sociological photographs from the early twentieth-century to recent times.  Very large collection of digitized manuscripts, and images of minerals, animals, and plants.  Subcollections based on the personal papers of Ino Kanori and Tashiro Antei are also part of this digital repository.

Metadatabase of Japanese Old Photographs in Bakumatsu-Meiji Period 幕末・明治期日本古写真メタ・データ・データベース

Nagasaki University Library Collection

Number hand-tinted photographs of Japanese “manners and customs” and “famous sites” from the late nineteenth-century.  High resolution, water-marked images with good check-box browsing capabilities.  There are many postcards in here, some of them European.  There are photos from China, but not from Taiwan or Korea.

American Geographical Society Library Digital Photo Archive: Asia and the Middle East

University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Digital Collections

This database contains thousands of photographs, some going back to the 1870s, of all parts of Asia. Photographs of people, landscapes, urban and rural scenes, and aspects of major events or monuments, mirror the imagery found in Japanese Imperial Postcards. The AGSL Digital Photo Archive features consistently applied and fine-grained metadata structure and high-quality imaging. Researchers can generate results pages organized by general regions, specific localities, photographers, donors, or along a number of other lines.

The Digital Collections of Harvard Library

Harvard College Library

“Early Photography of Japan,” “Edwards Bangs Drew Chinese Maritime Customs Service Photographs,” “Etz-Trudell Lantern Slides of Asia,” “Images of Colonialism – Africa and Asia,” and “Hedda Morrison Photographs of China” all contain images relevant to Japanese Imperial history and the Second Sino-Japanese War.  Features very detailed meta-data and high resolution scans. Browsing and searching functions are specific to sub-collections and better for some collections than others.

Historical Photographs of China

University of Bristol

Over 9000 photographs of China from the 19th and 20th centuries. In addition to a large collection of rare photographs of China, this site features meticulous documentation and state-of-the art web design. From the site:  “A collaboration between scholars at the University of Bristol, University of Lincoln, the Institut d’Asie Orientale and TGE-Adonis, this project aims to locate, archive, and disseminate photographs from the substantial holdings of images of modern China held mostly in private hands overseas.”

『亜東印画輯』 (East Asia Photographic Print Album)

東洋文庫と京大人文研図書室・京都大学地域研究統合情報センター (The Oriental Library and Kyoto University Institute for Humanities Research with the Cooperation of the Kyoto University Center for Integrated Area Studies). 

High-resolution, twenty-year run (1924-1944) of albums of photographs and detailed captions of Chinese, Mongolian and Korean scenery and peoples. These albums were issued monthly in sets of 10 by a Japanese photographic society in Dalian (Daren).  Many of these images were used as postcards for Japanese military mail.

村山智順所蔵写真選 (Photo Collection of Murayama Chijun)

Keio University Faculty of Letters

An archive of photos from colonial Korea that Murayama Chijun (1891-1968) either produced or collected. Many of these ended up as postcards.  Murayama was a prolific student of Korean folkways and sociology and published numerous, photograph-rich multi-volume studies under the colonial government’s auspices. This collection is concentrated of images of folkways.

小川尚義 浅井恵倫 臺灣資料 (N.Ogawa and E.Asai Formosan Collection)

 Tokyo University of Foreign Languages

This site includes over 22,000 digitized photographs, field notes, word lists, maps, manuscripts and pamphlets from the collections of Japanese anthropologists Ogawa Naoshi and Asai Erin. The materials are all related to the study of Taiwan Indigenous Peoples.  The editors of the site include noted anthropologists of Taiwan Tsuchida Shigeru, Kasahara Masaharu, Miyaoka Maoko, and Mio Yuko.

Digital Archives of Visual Materials

Formosa: Nineteenth Century Images

Reed College Digital Collections

Drawings, engravings, paintings, maps and texts of 19th-century Taiwan. This site includes a number of resources that are helpful to researchers, including several full-text articles written by residents and visitors to 19th-Century Taiwan. The images are organized by artist and according to theme.  Each image, map, word list, and text is scrupulously documented.

ReEnvisioning Japan: Japan as destination in 20th century visual and material culture

University of Rochester

“This website … uses travel, education, and the production and exchange of images and objects as a lens to investigate changing representations of Japan and its place in the world in the first half of the twentieth century. A multimedia resource that makes available a wide range of objects, it allows users to expand their research of Japan beyond the limitations of conventional sources….[The items in this collection] fall into the general categories of travel, tourism and education [and include] amateur travel films; educational films; postcards; photographs; stereographs; glass slides; tourist brochures; guidebooks; promotional trade publications; books; and teaching guides.”

Visualizing Cultures

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

A teaching resource.  Images are selected by authors to illustrate particular episodes and themes in East Asian History.  The images include photographs, paintings, periodical covers, postcards, lithographs, and other kinds of ephemera.  Two seminal essays on Russo-Japanese War postcards by John Dower, a founding member of the project, are on this site.  The material is organized into units with texts by leading scholars in East Asian history.

実業史錦絵・絵引 Business History Woodblock Prints and Picture Dictionary

Shibusawa Eiichi Memorial Foundation

Woodblock prints that are organized around merchants and artisans’ activities, tools, and social milieu. The site breaks each print into sub-sections, which are tagged with the names of objects that belong to the larger print. The objects within the prints are sorted into “people” “tools/objects” and “attire.”

The British Library Photostream on Flickr

The British Library

“The British Library’s collections on Flickr Commons offer access to millions of public domain images, which we encourage you to explore… more than a million images from within our digitised collection of over 65,000 books from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.”


日本絵葉書会 (Japan Picture Postcard Society)

Lists the back issues of the society’s bulletins, which are printed in color and contain specialist articles on the history of Japanese Postcards.  This site also has the meeting times and places of society meetings.



中国历史影像数据库 (Chinese History Image Database)


National Museum of Korea Collection Database


東京大学総合研究博物館画像アーカイヴス 日本の新聞広告3000 (明治24年-昭和20年)(Image Archive of Tokyo University Museum: 3000 Japanese Newspaper Advertisements (1891-1945)


Digital Taiwan: Taiwan E-Learning and Digital Archives Program



1 Comment

  1. OB

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    (from what I’ve read) Is that what you’re using on your blog?

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