Thursday, 14 April 2016

Two sets of picture postcards from Formosa

This consists of two sets  of picture postcards depicting Formosa under Japanese rule, in the forms of albums. They are currently stored in the Material Culture Room in the Anthropology Department, UCL. 

The first set, accession number Z0001a, is a concertina folded album, with hard, decorated, black fabric covers and grey, wood-ground paper leaves. It mesures 23.5cm long, 19cm wide and 4.8cm high, and consists of 45 leaves (90 pages) and 107 postcards. The postcards were mounted on both sides of the leaves  (two on each side). The album is in good condition except of some  abrasion on the surface and the yellowing of the postcards. 

The second set, accession number Z0001b, measures 24cm×18cm×4.5cm. It consists of 50 leaves (100 pages) and 163 postcards. Z0001b has blue fabric covers with Japanese-themed figures and the words ‘绘枼書’ (postcard) painted on the surface. The inner leaves are brown, probably acidic, suggesting that the paper is in a marked deterioration process.  The paper turned so fragile and brittle that the leaves exhibit large amount of tears, losses and detachments caused by creasing or handling. The postcards from this set are also mounted on both sides of the leaves, with two on each side. The major damage of the postcards is yellowing due to the deterioration of the paper bases. Some of the postcards in this volume have written inscriptions, stamps and seals.

These postcards were printed in Japan in the early 20th century. They were probably transported to Taiwan and collected by the family of Dr. James Laidlaw Maxwell, Jr., who worked in Sin-Lau Hospital in Taiwan from 1900 to 1923. After that, the albums are assumed to have been donated to the Presbyterian Church of England, in which the father of Dr. Maxwell, Jr. served. In 1972, they became part of the United Reform Church collections when the Presbyterian Church of England was merged. And then the branch of URC in Marchmont Street gave them to the Library of Anthropology Department of UCL. The two volumes are of great historic and research value, especially for individuals or organizations interested in Formosan history and Presbyterian history. The picture postcards depicting the historic scenes of Taiwan are important visual documentations for ethnographic research. The association between the objects and the Maxwell family, who are important for Presbyterian and medical development in Taiwan, increases the objects’ significance to Formosan history.
The front cover of object Z0001a

The leaves and postcards of object Z0001a

The front cover of object Z0001b

The leaves and postcards of object Z0001b

The written inscriptions on the back of a postcard

The hand-coloured postcard 

This post refers to coursework done for ARCLG142 (2015-16), one of the core courses of the UCL MA  Principles of Conservation. As part of their assessed work for this course, students were asked to investigate objects from the UCL Ethnography Collections at the UCL Department of Anthropology. Here they present a summary of their main conclusions. We hope you enjoy our work! Comments are most welcome.

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