MA, Japanese Studies, May 2011
International Institute Individual Fellowship
Joshua Schlachet conducted research at the Museum Volkenkunde in Leiden, The Netherlands. His research focused on styles used by three Dutch collectors to gather Japanese ethnographic objects in the early nineteenth century.
My research focuses on styles used by Dutch collectors to gather Japanese ethnographic objects related to food preparation and consumption in the early nineteenth century. My project covers three collectors—Jan Cock Blomhoff, Johannes van Overmeer Fischer, and Philipp Franz von Siebold. All three were residents of the Dutch trading post of Dejima in Nagasaki during the 1820s.
The objects from this time period now belong to the National Museum of Ethnology (Museum Volkenkunde) in Leiden, The Netherlands, home to one of the most thorough collections of nineteenth-century Japanese ethnographic objects. This research opportunity was my first experience in Europe. I felt even more strongly upon my arrival that spending time in Japan-related collections outside Japan itself can be a fruitful and worthwhile endeavor. The collection in Leiden was even more impressive than I expected. I would like to thank Professor Matthi Forrer, Japan Curator of the Museum Volkenkunde. None of my research would have been possible without him.
According to the museum’s literature, these collectors brought back miniatures, models, and paintings of two categories of objects:
- Those too large to transport on a boat, such as buildings, landscapes, and copper mines
- Those without a tangible quality, such as craft processes
Based on my preliminary research, I hope to challenge this formulation and suggest that there are particular ideological and historical processes that contribute to the resizing of ethnographic objects. These shifts in scale and material inform the way in which history is remembered, recorded, and contextualized.
My research experience especially taught me that we must always understand international history as deeply interconnected and never be satisfied to look solely within the borders of our country or area of study. I hope to contribute to the field by helping other likeminded academics engage in research beyond the places that may seem obvious for our respective areas of study and use our findings to broaden the scope of historical studies to accommodate the international nature of a complex, interconnected world.
I recently accepted an offer to join the History--East Asia PhD program at Columbia University and hope to one day publish and teach at the university level. I deeply appreciate the support of the International Institute in allowing me to conduct research and work toward my future goals.