Artifacts of Diplomacy: Smithsonian Collections from Commodore Matthew Perry's Japan Expedition (1853-1854)

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  • Following a ten-page Chronicle recounting how what is known as the Perry Collection came into being, the bulk of this 155-page book consists of a Catalog containing collection item descriptions with accompanying black and white photographs. In her Chronicle, the author writes that U.S. Navy Commodore Matthew C. Perry led a successful diplomatic mission to Japan during 1853-1854. Prior to his departure, arrangements had most probably been made with Smithsonian officials for Perry to collect various ethnological specimens; this collection of Japanese ethnographic artifacts was enhanced by Perry and expedition members, who supplemented materials they were given by Japanese officials met during the visit with everyday handicrafts and personal objects purchased in local markets.
  • The resulting Smithsonian collection of Japanese ethnographic artifacts obtained by Perry's expedition was the first major accession of ethnological materials by the United States National Museum, and serves as a body of primary data on the material culture of traditional/preindustrial Japan. The author comments that the collection arrived in the U.S. in early 1855, and then traces its movement through various relocations within the Smithsonian, which ended with its final placement in 1911 at the National Museum of Natural History.


  • Perry, Matthew Calbraith 1794-1858
  • United States Naval Expedition to Japan, 1852-1854
  • National Museum of Natural History (U.S.) Dept. of Anthropology
  • United States National Museum
  • National Museum of Natural History (U.S.)


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography


The author is an Asian ethnology specialist in the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History.

Contained within

Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology 37 (Journal)

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,




  • Art
  • Antiquities
  • Diplomacy
  • Collectors and collecting
  • Ethnology
  • Anthropology
  • Museums
  • Perry Collection
  • National Collections
  • Material culture
  • Art objects
  • Anthropology--Asian
  • Museum exhibits


  • Japan
  • Japanese

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