Smithsonian - National Museum of Natural History

Image: book cover.

Artifacts of diplomacy: Smithsonian collections from commodore Matthew Perry's Japan expedition (1853-1854)

"The "artifacts of diplomacy" so admirably researched in this volume constitute the little-known incunabula of Japan-United States trade relations, i.e., the Japanese materials brought back from Commodore Matthew Perry's historic voyage to Japan. This study documents for the first time a group of artifacts whose individual origins and collective meaning often have been poorly understood. These "first offerings" of Japan, as Perry called them, were considered by Perry and his lieutenants to be a disappointing and mediocre lot, although some later scholars lavished praise on these presumed "Imperial" gifts that had been tranferred to the Smithsonian Institution. Until Chang-Su Houchins compiled this work, there was little to resolve such disparate opinions about the so-called "Perry Collection," for no one had undertaken the extraordinary detective work necessary to distinguish the collection's various components and to sort out the provenance of each item."

- From the Introduction by Paul Michael Taylor
Research Anthropologist (and) Director, Asian Cultural History Program
Department of Anthropology, Smithsonian Institution


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