The Stephen S. Clark Library celebrated the opening of its new “Manga no Ryokou” exhibit, housed on the second floor of the Hatcher Graduate Library, Thursday evening. The exhibit highlights Japanese art and storytelling through maps, and centers around the Manga ryoko Nihon zenzu, or “manga map,” a large travel map of Japan from 1934 with detailed illustrations of local folklore, cuisine, visitor attractions and poetry. The exhibit was curated by Joel Liesenberg, who is pursuing a dual master’s degree in Japanese studies and digital curation.
The manga map will also soon be released on the digital crowdsourcing platform Zooniverse, which will allow students to research, translate and transcribe each part of the map. In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Liesenberg said the exhibit grew from efforts to digitize the map and make it more accessible.
“We only had (the map) in a deteriorating kind of physical state, and there was no way for people to access it … nobody knew it was here,” Liesenberg said. “We wanted it to be a group collaborative community project. So we digitized it first … (then) we realized we can make a whole exhibit out of this and show off the manga map to everybody.”
Caroline Kayko, map and geospatial librarian at the Clark Library, spoke with The Daily about the process of scanning and putting the map on Zooniverse. Kayko said the process was very time-consuming due to the large scale of the map, as each piece of text and drawing needed to be sectioned into high-resolution images. However, Kayko said the library’s mission to make their collection widely accessible made the hard work worthwhile.
“We’re one of the largest map collections in the country,” Kayko said. “You kind of just want to make stuff available and findable. This is out of copyright, why shouldn’t it be online? Sure, we paid some thousands of dollars for it, but how else would anyone see it, right?”
Keiko Yokota-Carter, Japanese studies librarian at the Asia Library, told The Daily the pictorial quality of the map allowed her to recognize a drawing of an apple in Yoichi, Japan, which she visited last April on a business trip.
“I went to a very small museum in Yoichi,” Yokota-Carter said. “It had a picture of the apple and I was reading and it says it’s from Michigan. So somebody brought Michigan apple seeds to Yoichi, introduced Michigan apples to Yoichi, and it became a big farm.”
Yokota-Carter, who first introduced Liesenberg to the manga map, said she appreciated the collage of Japanese art that made up the map’s background.
“He worked very hard to prepare for this presentation,” Yokota-Carter said. “I’m very excited about his digitized project. Joel did a great job making a collage, using so many different types of paintings and drawings from many eras.”
The exhibit features maps across different time periods that use a variety of storytelling and art methods. Liesenberg said the intersection of art, folklore and cartography is important to him.
“I have a deep love of folklore,” Liesenberg said. “I love pictorial maps like this, that incorporate folklore into a more scientific field of cartography. I think that folklore not only connects to our past and connects to our traditions, but also can form how we view the world.”
LSA sophomore Isabel Mon, who visited the exhibit to review it for her museums studies course, told The Daily she likes going to smaller exhibits that might be lesser-known on campus.
“I wanted to check out another exhibit that may not be as popular compared to the UMMA (or) the Natural History Museum,” Mon said. “Also, I’m taking an art history class right now and one of our recent subjects was about maps … I think people should go to more exhibits that aren’t just in museums, such as in the different department buildings and the libraries.”
Lisenberg said he hoped people would take advantage of resources so that they can be preserved, like what he hopes he has done with the manga map.
“I really want people to take advantage of the resources and talk to their librarians,” Liesenberg said. “Find these hidden gems that nobody knows about and really work on preserving and taking advantage of that, because I think a lot of these things get forgotten. I hope I’m giving the manga map a new life and I hope other things can have the same opportunity.”
Daily Staff Reporter Astrid Code can be reached at email@example.com.