UC Merced Library Debuts Virtual Showcase for Japanese Art

A unique collaboration between the University of California, Merced Library and The Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture gives the entire world access to more than a millennium of Japanese art via the Internet. On Friday, June 22, the UC Merced Library will unveil the online collection, eventually to present over 1,000 original works of art, and will give a hands-on demonstration to explain the digitization process and showcase the digital images.

The cornerstone of the new virtual art gallery is the unique collection of Japanese art at The Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture in Hanford, California. The Center houses one of the more significant collections of Japanese art and the largest collection of Nanga (Southern-style) paintings, calligraphy and related research materials in the United States. The collection includes screen and scroll paintings, sculptures, prints, ceramics, textiles, metalwork and woven bamboo art, with works dating from the tenth century to the present day.

Since 1995, the Clark Center has provided a research facility for visiting scholars. Now, with high-quality digital images enhanced with searchable metadata produced by the UC Merced Library, the art collection is available to anyone with an Internet connection.

"It has always been one of my greatest pleasures to share the art that we have collected with others," said Bill Clark, the Center's founder. "Now, access to the Center's permanent collection will become available to everyone in the world. This is the kind of power that the collaboration between a museum and a cutting-edge institution such as UC Merced can wield."

An important part of the UC Merced Library's vision is the development of digital special collections with an emphasis on collections of importance to the Central Valley. The library was able to turn this vision into reality by using a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to digitize the Clark Center's collection.

Digital Assets Librarian Emily Lin and her team used the library's command of technology to create high resolution digital images of the collection. These digital images are organized into searchable collections and are available to the entire world via the Internet. Lin has created digital images for 1,100 objects over the course of the project, and 655 of these digital objects are now available online.

The University of California's California Digital Library, through Calisphere ( http://www.calisphere.org) and the Online Archive of California ( http://www.oac.cdlib.org), provides the technical backbone for hosting, preserving and providing access to the online art collection. Lin said this effort is unique because it represents the first collection that was created by collaboration between a UC library and an outside entity.

The goal of the online collection is to provide researchers, students and the public a broader understanding of Japanese art, culture and history from virtually anywhere and at any time.

"As a new model for research libraries, the UC Merced Library is focused on providing access to research materials regardless of their physical location," said University Librarian R. Bruce Miller. "The creation of this digital collection demonstrates our commitment to being a world-class research library."

Although the initial phase has been completed, the partnership between the two institutions will be ongoing, and they will continue to add to the digital collection.

"We look forward to continuing our partnership with UC Merced in the future, on similar projects that will be of benefit to students and researchers on a global scale," Clark said.

Anyone can access the collection from the Special Collections link on the UC Merced Library Web site ( http://ucmercedlibrary.info). For more information on the Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture, visit http://ccjac.orgor call (559) 582-4915.

UC Merced opened September 5, 2005, as the 10th campus in the University of California system and the first American research university of the 21st century. The campus significantly expands access to the UC system for students throughout the state, with a special mission to increase college-going rates among students in the San Joaquin Valley. It also serves as a major base of advanced research and as a stimulus to economic growth and diversification throughout the region. Situated near Yosemite National Park, the university is expected to grow rapidly, topping out at approximately 25,000 students within 30 years.

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