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Pulverer intern turning a page

Pulverer Interns

The Freer and Sackler are participating in an ambitious project to rethink the collection catalogue and shepherd its move from a massive, expensive, and inevitably outdated book to a nimble, interactive web-based publication. Funded by the Getty Foundation, the project is focused on the Freer's Pulverer Collection, a stunning collection of more than 2,000 Japanese printed books acquired in 2007.

When the Pulverer online catalogue is completed, users will be able to view all of the books in the collection, complete with illustrations and accompanying text, information about the artists and publisher, and details on the wider world of Edo book publishing.

A great deal of work needs to be done to make this exciting vision a reality. Perhaps one of the most daunting tasks is creating digital images of every page of each book in the Pulverer collection.

internsThat was the work that an intrepid group of interns and consultants took on during summer 2011. It began with a workshop led by Professor Ryo Akama of Ritsumeikan University in Japan, who has developed an innovative method for digitally imaging early Japanese printed books. Five interns then spent six weeks taking digital photographs of the Pulverer collection, under the guidance of Dr. Ryoko Matsuba, a research fellow at Nazan University in Nagoya, Japan.

Selected through a competitive application process, the interns are all advanced students of Japanese or Chinese art history. Madeline Gent, Suzie Kim, and Rebecca Merritt are graduate students in the Art History Department of the University of Maryland, Travis Seifman is pursuing a graduate degree at the University of Hawai'i, and Vanessa Tothill recently received her MA from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

Working at two separate photography stations in Freer storage areas, the five interns and Dr. Matsuba spent long, cold days (the temperature in storage is kept low for the sake of the art) producing page after page of perfect digital images. In fact, the group made an astounding 38,118 images.

The summer photography team has now dispersed, with everyone on to their next projects. The 38,118 images are in post-production and will soon make their way into the forthcoming online catalogue.

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