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UC Merced Library Wins Federal Grant for Japanese Art Project

October 30, 2002
Hanford's Lee Institute Collection to be Digitized

The University of California, Merced Library, in collaboration with the Hanford, California-based Ruth and Sherman Lee Institute for Japanese Art at the Clark Center, has been awarded a $229,276 grant to create digital copies of the Japanese art and research collection of the Lee Institute.

The grant was awarded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services, a federal agency that supports the nation's museums and libraries and funds the prestigious National Leadership Grants for Library-Museum Collaborations. This grant will fund the first in a series of digitization projects at UC Merced. The project will create digital objects for 454 hanging scrolls and 46 folding screens from the Lee Institute collection; staff from the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive will serve as consultants on the project.

The Lee Institute Collection is highly regarded by art experts. Professor Samuel Morse, Professor of Asian Art, Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts, said: “The Lee Institute Collection is easily within the top 15 public and private collections of Japanese art within the USA. Its special strengths lie in the broad scope of the collection, covering almost 1,000 years of Japanese art, and the high quality of many pieces as well as bringing together the largest amount of Nanga research material.”

Added Bruce Miller, founding librarian for the University: “This unique partnership will enable audiences far beyond California's San Joaquin Valley to experience the significant intellectual resources that are housed at the Lee Institute. Both scholars and the general public will be able to easily access this permanent digital archive.” Access to the online images will be provided by the University of California's Online Archive of California (OAC).

As part of the OAC, the Lee Institute Collection will add content to other digital California museum collections, including those from the Japanese American National Museum and the Japanese American Relocation Digital Archive. John Y. Tateishi, national executive director of the Japanese American Citizens League, said the online integration of these collections enriches each collection and will enable viewers to reach a broader understanding of Japanese art, culture, and history and its intersection with American society.

“We find ourselves searching for the markers of our culture that have given us such strong values,” said Tateishi. “The artworks at the Lee Institute help us understand more fully who we are by understanding from whence we came.”