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Nancy Casserley

MA work

Dissertation: Out of Order: the Parkes Collection of Nineteenth-Century Japanese Paper

The Parkes Collection of over four hundred types of Japanese paper and paper objects was assembled in Japan between 1869 and 1871 by Sir Harry Parkes at the request of Prime Minister Gladstone. Sent to Britain in 1871 and later divided between the South Kensington Museum and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the Parkes Collection has languished, largely unseen, since its arrival in Britain. It was created with the economic motive of providing information to the British paper industry; its decorative paper and paper objects could have served as inspiration for British designers, particularly against the backdrop of japonisme. Instead, the collection failed to be taken up by any constituency.

Out of Order argues that the Parkes Collection’s failure to thrive can be attributed to several factors. The collection’s taxonomic ambiguity left it without a logical audience or champion in an era that was driven by classification. In addition, Britain lacked a cultural framework for appreciating Japanese paper. Finally, imperial Britain lacked the ability to evaluate or even recognise paper-making technology from Japan, which occupied the role of ‘the other’ for Britain. This consideration of causation and context is joined by an analysis of the contents of the collection through a spreadsheet which assigns existing items from the collection to their original positions within the inventory of 1871. The analysis of the Parkes Collection is supplemented by information gathered on visits to four other European collections of Japanese paper that were assembled during the same period.

Info

  • MA Degree

    School

    School of Humanities

    Programme

    MA History of Design, 2010

  • Dissertation: Out of Order: the Parkes Collection of Nineteenth-Century Japanese Paper

    The Parkes Collection of over four hundred types of Japanese paper and paper objects was assembled in Japan between 1869 and 1871 by Sir Harry Parkes at the request of Prime Minister Gladstone. Sent to Britain in 1871 and later divided between the South Kensington Museum and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the Parkes Collection has languished, largely unseen, since its arrival in Britain. It was created with the economic motive of providing information to the British paper industry; its decorative paper and paper objects could have served as inspiration for British designers, particularly against the backdrop of japonisme. Instead, the collection failed to be taken up by any constituency.

    Out of Order argues that the Parkes Collection’s failure to thrive can be attributed to several factors. The collection’s taxonomic ambiguity left it without a logical audience or champion in an era that was driven by classification. In addition, Britain lacked a cultural framework for appreciating Japanese paper. Finally, imperial Britain lacked the ability to evaluate or even recognise paper-making technology from Japan, which occupied the role of ‘the other’ for Britain. This consideration of causation and context is joined by an analysis of the contents of the collection through a spreadsheet which assigns existing items from the collection to their original positions within the inventory of 1871. The analysis of the Parkes Collection is supplemented by information gathered on visits to four other European collections of Japanese paper that were assembled during the same period.

  • Degrees

  • Juris Doctor, Law, University of Virginia Law Schoo, USAl, 1982; AB, Art History, Princeton University, NJ, USA, 1977
  • Experience

  • Attorney, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, New York, NY, USA, 1982-1992
  • Awards

  • Art History, Frederick Barnard White Prize for the best senior thesis on the topic of Architecture, Art History Department, Princeton University, 1977