The Ackland Art Museum is home to nearly 500 woodblock prints from the Meiji period in Japan, gifted by Gene and Susan Roberts. These prints demonstrate social, cultural and political changes that took place in Japan between 1868 and 1912.
Choosing a selection of prints to display out of such a vast collection is a hard task, made even harder for Dana Cowen, Sheldon Peck Curator for European and American Art before 1950, who was not well-versed in Japanese art. Cowen used resources from the Joseph Curtis Sloane Art Library to learn more about the prints. Now, Cowen has curated a four-part installation for the next year. Each rotation has its own theme: transportation, the Satsuma Revolution of 1877, fashion and identity, and amusements and entertainment.
Cowen said that the library system was one of the factors that drew her to Carolina. “I knew that UNC has this fabulous collection with multiple libraries and a lending program with area universities. So just the amount of material that I’d have access to was a huge selling point for me moving here.
“The more information you have, the better the final product of your research is,” Cowen continued. “It’s so important to understand past scholarship about certain topics or artworks to recognize how your viewpoint might differ from others’, to help frame your own evaluations, and to offer fresh perspectives.”