Resource: The Meiji at 150 Project

Today we introduce a wonderful, multifaceted and multi-year project spearheaded by the University of British Columbia that has been bringing great content to the Japanese Studies community in a number of forms: The Meiji at 150 Project.

In honor of the 150th anniversary of Japan’s Meiji Restoration in 1868, UBC launched a series of events, including a Meiji at 150 Lecture Series that brought numerous scholars to their campus (there are youtube videos of many of these lectures on the site!) and a Workshop Series that invited interdisciplinary students and faculty in Japanese Studies to consider different methods and topics in the study of modern Japanese history.

While the larger website provides tons of information on the entire project and these individual events on their page, for those that were not of UB or in the Vancouver area, they have also created two incredible online resources for the study of Meiji Japan and its global connections.

Image from Meiji at 150 Digital Resources page (click to access).

The first is the Meiji at 150 Digital Teaching Resource. This part of the site provides a series of “visual essays” that takes advantage of the collections of UBC’s library. Prints, maps, paintings, and photographs are paired with historical narratives and analyses to help contextualize these rare archival items. You can find topics that vary as widely as Canadian missionaries to Japan in the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries to “brocade pictures” that featured the apparel of Meiji women, pointing to how Japan was linked to global textile markets. These open-source teaching materials offer fresh and visually exciting ways to access this period of Japan’s past.

In this second one can also find a Digital Resources link that compiles much of these special collections into discrete categories alongside related projects, such as their collections of Tokugawa Period maps (linked to a distribution timeline!) or their Geomapping of Vancouver’s Japantown using archival photographs. There’s a lot of incredible materials to be found here that show how successfully the project has sought to connect the past to the present for a broad audience.

Also in that spirit, one of the highlights of the Meiji at 150 Project is their Podcast Series. From the website, the podcast is

hosted by Tristan Grunow [and highlights] the recent research and pedagogical approaches of specialists of Japanese history, literature, art, and culture. Topics covered will range from the position of the Meiji Restoration and Meiji Period in each scholar’s research, to how they view the significance of the Restoration in Japanese and global history, and finally to how they teach the Meiji Period in their classrooms. The companion Meiji at 150 Student Podcast, meanwhile, spotlights students studying Japanese history on the UBC campus.  Students discuss selected aspects of Japanese culture and share their research findings, thoughts, and passion for animemanga, food, music, literature, film, sports, and other facets of Japanese society and popular culture.

The podcast covers a wide array of topics, and their episode list breaks them down thematically, rather than by release, which is helpful for targeting specific topics for your own interest or in the classroom. You might be drawn to the Language & Literature theme, Gender,  Global Meiji, or something else—pick your favorite! Major props to the designers for also including a “how to cite” for the podcast episodes at the bottom so it’s very student-friendly.

Clicking on each episode will give you a brief synopsis, and you can either listen to the episode on the site, download it directly, or subscribe through your favorite provider.

The Meiji at 150 Project is a great example of how a huge variety of individuals can come together to create public-facing resources and make valuable contributions to our knowledge of the past and present. It’s been wonderful to watch this project unfold and continue to generate historical materials, resources, and conversations across institutions and even countries. Whether you plan on developing lessons for the classroom or just have a passing interest in Japanese history and culture, take a moment to see what the Meiji at 150 project has to offer! You can also keep up with them on their Twitter and Facebook accounts.

About Paula

Paula lives in the vortex of academic life. She studies medieval Japanese history.
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