In order to participate in the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the signing of the first treaty of friendship and commerce between Switzerland and Japan, the Ethnography Museum of Neuchâtel (MEN) is launching a large scale project which aims to promote the status of the exceptional iconographic collection that was brought back from Japan by Aimé Humbert (1819-1900) – and which is part of the Museum’s collection today.
Aimé Humbert was a member in the government of the Canton of Neuchâtel and President of the Swiss Watchmakers’ Union before being sent to Japan on a diplomatic mission as Minister Plenipotentiary. He took part in the signing of the above-mentioned treaty (February 6, 1864). In the years that followed his return to Switzerland, Hachette published the diplomat’s Japan Illustrated (1870), a richly illustrated work about everyday life in Japan. Translated into several languages, the book aroused immediate enthusiasm, and even after more than a century, it is still a reference of the transition period that led to the Meiji era.
The preliminary phase of the research conducted by the MEN involves the digitalization, identification and study of some 2500 stored images. In order to undertake this task, the MEN has joined forces with the best possible partners, namely, the University of Tokyo, the History Institute of the University of Neuchâtel, the Department for East Asian Art of the University of Zurich and Mémoriav – the association for the preservation of Switzerland’s audio-visual cultural property.
The fruits of this research will be on show at an itinerant exhibition - in both Switzerland and Japan – which will include a large number of hitherto never seen originals. The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication aimed at a large public, with contributions by historians, museologists and image experts from both countries.