The following information was true as of April 12, 2013. Please be aware that the site described and the links provided below may have been updated or edited since then.
Metadata Database of Japanese Old Photographs in Bakumatsu-Meiji Period
- English top page
- Japanese top page
The Nagasaki University Library began collecting old photographs in 1988 and ten years later made their collection available to the public as one of the first online collections of old photographs of Japan. Aware that the collection would be of interest both within Japan and around the world, the Nagasaki University Library created both Japanese and English versions and also made an effort to make the site and the images contained within it accessible to those with limited understanding of either Japanese or English.
The collection has grown and the database has been updated over the intervening years and now includes roughly 7,000 photographs from the late Edo and Meiji periods. Users can search by keyword or browse by photographer, location, or category/keyword. Note that the selection of multiple terms when browsing by category or keyword results in an “or search,” producing results matching any one of the terms selected. Search results include both a thumbnail of the image as well as the title and photographer (if known). Individual image pages contain a varying amount of information about the photograph as well as a link to thumbnails of all other photographs in the database with the same or similar titles.
Unfortunately, some of the photographs are lacking in detailed information with the date and or photographer listed as unknown. Despite this limitation, however, the ease and range of searchability of the site make it interesting and useful for both general users and specialist researchers alike. Particularly useful is the fact that while all pages are unilingual, a button on the upper right (English Version / Japanese Version) allows users to jump easily from English to Japanese (or vice versa) without having to redo a search or find the corresponding page themselves.
In a related project, the Nagasaki University Library has also made roughly 500 photographs available as high quality images on a separate site. Users can search these images by keyword or browse by photographer, era, or location. Individual image pages include explanations of the contents of the photograph and available background information such as the set to which it belongs or the circumstances surrounding the taking of the image as well as a link to a high-quality image with zooming and panning capabilities.
- High-Quality Image Collection (English)
- High-Quality Image Collection (Japanese)
The Nagasaki University Library's digital database is no longer the only collection of old photographs of Japan available on the internet as other academic collections such as Harvard College Library's “Early Photography of Japan” (English only) and commercial collections such as the “Old Photos of Japan” photo blog (English version, Japanese version) have been developed recently, but no other digital collection seems to have yet challenged the Nagasaki University Library's in terms of bilingual searchability or number of photographs.