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During the period between the French Revolution and WWI, commonly known as the long 19th century, the old world order was demolished and replaced. Ideas and progressions made during this period established the foundation of the modern world today. Japan was among one of the nations that had undergone the most dramatic changes.

This installation explored the impact of western influence on Japan's transformation that lasted well into the 21st century. 

Exhibit Panel

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Christian Missions in Japan Panel 1

Exhibit Panel

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Christian Missions in Japan Panel 2

Japan as a nation is inherently very serious about social hierarchy. Positions like preacher and teacher are naturally honored and respected. The fact that Hepburn and Oltmans were Americans definitely reinforced that fact. 

Exhibit Panel

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Christian Missions in Japan Panel 3

Historical forces pushed and pulled people towards different places. Power dynamics sometimes were more explicit, such as between nations in terms of financial and military power. Sometimes they were more implicit and imbedded in living conditions and daily interactions. The Meiji Restoration ushered in an era that equated westernization** to betterment, and this impression has lasted to this day. Foreigners in Japan sometimes have more leeway in social acceptance than Asian Americans in the US.

**Although it should be noted that in this sense "westernization" is mostly associated with white people. 

Exhibit panel

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Christian Missions in Japan Panel 4

I was amazed when I visited PHS for the first time. Before I went there, the operative word in Presbyterian Historical Society was Presbyterian. I expected to visit a religious organization but was pleasantly surprised to find out it's not that different from other archives. As I continued my research, it became clear that religious and historical forces were intertwined and inseparable. That gave me the initial idea for my exhibit where the Christian faith crossed over to the secular side and influenced the Japanese society beyond religion. 

Collection Materials on Display at PHS

  1. Hepburn’s plaque

  2. Japanese-English dictionary (editor: Hepburn)

  3. Invitation to the Emperor’s garden party

  4. Meiji Gakuin Employment certificate

  5. Newspaper clippings on Hepburn and Oltmans’ awards for their contributions to Japan’s education

  6. 1993 Meiji Gakuin U. chapel holiday card

  7. Voices from Japan recording disk

Other Research Materials

Guide to the Sarah Clarke Oltmans Papers

Japanese American Internment During WWII: Pearl collection

I think schools should develop more projects that encourage students to visit archives and museums. These places can often seem intimidating to someone unfamiliar with the environment….As people grow comfortable, they can see how useful and accessible these establishments actually are. -- Celia Shao

Building Knowledge and Breaking Barriers, a PHS and CCP collaboration