Currently viewing the tag: "Ainu"

Lantern Slide of an Ainu Woman

Prior to the advent of the internet, of the computer for that matter, teachers and scientists made use of 35mm slide projectors to provide visual evidence to supplement their lectures or discussions. These rotating, circular cartridges would hold numerous slides, each one diligently marching through the carousel like good little soldiers, patiently awaiting their time to shine, before being promptly dismissed and replaced by the next projected image. Well, let me introduce you to the forefather of the PowerPoint presentation – the lantern slide.

Lantern slides come either in their original black and white incarnation, or are delicately hand painted.

Going through the Library’s collection of lantern slides (of which there are over 40,000), I was able to pull five that showed the Ainu, two of which were the slide image, but tinted in different colors.

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Four Sakhalin Ainu Women circa mid-1950s

Ainu Women in Traditional Attire - Click image to view full.

A mere half-century separates the Ainu from the picture in the previous post to the ones featured here, yet on closer observation, it is easy to tell that things are starting to change as old traditions die out.

Of the four women, only the oldest, second from the right, is seen with the traditional facial tattoo, called anchi-piri (anchi, “obsidian”; piri, “cut”). Facial tattooing, or any tattoos for that matter, was strictly a rite of passage for Ainu women – one that commenced early in childhood, and once finished, signified that the young girl was now a woman ready to be married. In an attempt to force the Ainu into becoming fully immersed into Japanese society, the tradition of tattooing was banned in the late 1800s.

As for the picture seen here, not much is known about it except that was taken in Hokkaido sometime in the 1950s by German explorer Robert Austerlitz.

An ethnographic portrait of an unknown Ainu woman.

Unlike my previous post on the nine Ainu of the 1904 St. Louis Expo, I currently do not know the identity of this woman, or of the other unknown Ainu tossed together in a mixed box labeled, “Vintage prints: miscellaneous expedition and ethnographic portraits.”

It’s an intriguing mystery, none-the-less. The backs of the images are labeled individually from 12840 to 12849. Some are of individual Ainu, sometimes they’re in pairs. The views rotate from full-frontal, to three-quarter profile, to profile – quintessentially early 20th-century ethnographic portraits. Each are in their daily attire, the men sporting a full, bushy beard, while the women are seen with their traditional lip tattoo.

What is interesting about these images is that I believe they’re of the nine Ainu who were chosen to attend the 1904 St. Louis Purchase Exposition. The clothing certainly matches other photographs from the fair, but the hair styles are slightly different. I think the ones in the AMNH’s collection represent portraits of the nine Ainu prior to their display at the fair, and thus have not been “cleaned up” for benefit of the visitors.

I currently have an e-mail in to a reference librarian at the Field Museum of Chicago, where a number of images from the fair are in storage. If I can get a confirmation that the images are of the nine Ainu, then I will be able to move them from the “miscellaneous expedition & ethnographic portraits” box to one bearing their names and information.

Now it’s just a waiting game.

The Ainu

Currently lacking identification, but not for long.

Pictured above are nine members of the Ainu, the indigenous race of Japanese, primarily found in Hokkaido, Japan’s northern-most island. As part of the 1904 St. Louis World Fair, visitors were welcomed to tour the “Living Exhibits,”–collections of indigenous races from around the world, temporarily living in recreated villages. While on display, the Ainu, as well as many of the other people in the assorted villages, taught others their native tongue, arts, crafts, hunting skills, and gave daily demonstrations of their culture and heritage.

The image here, on file in the library of the AMNH, has spotty information on the back of the card. It misidentifies one of the Ainu as John Batchelor, a Christian Missionary who spent over 60 years administrating to health and needs of the Ainu, long before the Ainu were recognized as equals to the Japanese. With help from a report by James W. Vanstone titled, “The Ainu Group at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, 1904,” I’d like to finally change the image’s description from “husband,” “wife,” “child,” to their names–something that’s been missing for over 100 years.

From left to right:
Bete Goro, left behind a pregnant wife so that he could come to the United States. A servant in Rev. Batchelor’s house for years. From Sapporo, Hokkaido.

Santukno, wife of Sangyea. From Piratori, Hokkaido.

Yazo, 23 or 24 years old. Husband of Shirake. Lived with Rev. Batchelor for 10 years. From Sapporo, Hokkaido.

Shirake, 18 years old. Wife of Yazo. From Sapporo, Hokkaido.

Shutratek, wife of Kutoroge. From Piratori, Hokkaido.

Kiko, daughter of Kutoroge and Shutratek. From Piratori, Hokkaido.

Kutoroge. Husband of Shutratek. From Piratori, Hokkaido.

Kin, daughter of Sangyea and Santukno. From Piratori, Hokkaido.

Sangyea, husband of Santukno. From Piratori, Hokkaido.

This is only a start as I continue to pull together all the information, photographs, and items from the collections of the AMNH and its library. There’s always more to the story behind the image.

James Rodgers


Jinrikusha driver and passenger

This studio image is circa 1900.

Welcome archive browsers. My name is James Rodgers and I am a student at NYU in their Museum Studies program. I have a Master’s Degree in Asian Studies with a concentration in Japanese Culture, so expect a lot of Japanese-themed posts and pictures in the upcoming months. For the current internship, I will be going through the library’s archives and pulling out any images, letters, scrapbooks, and information on two particular topics: The Ainu of Japan and Bashford Dean, early AMNH contributor and curator. For each group, I will be creating finding aids to help other students and researchers and to make sure that whatever information they take away from the library is factual and correct.

Now about why I love the archives. As seen with the image above of a Japanese jinrikusha driver, there really is no telling what one will come across as you pour through the library’s diverse and eclectic collection of photographs, travelogues, correspondences, and other time-lost artifacts. I may not always know the full story behind the images I will post, so if anyone out there has a thing or two to add, feel free to leave behind a response or question.

So enjoy and please look forward to the web site that will contain all the Ainu information I pull together.

James Rodgers

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