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Museum of Fine Arts Boston: Japanese Collections

General Information

Facility: Museum of Fine Arts Boston
465 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
Phone: (617) 267-9300
Email: N/A

About the Museum:

Opened in 1876, the Museum of Fine Arts now includes approximately 450,000 works of art, with a strong emphasis on Asian art, among others. Due to this emphasis, the MFA's Asian art collections are considered some of the finest in the Western world.

Significant renovations since 2010 are ongoing, including a brand new wing, and renovated spaces as well as other significant changes. One of the newly renovated spaces was designed specifically for exhibitions of the Japanese collections at the MFA.


Online Resources

Summary of Collections

The Japanese collections at the Museum of Fine Arts are among the finest and most varied of any museum in the world.  Their collection is also one of the most well documented and digitized and is an excellent resource for online research.  Its principal Japanese collections include:

  • Japanese Prints Collection: the best such collection outside Japan comprised of Ukiyo-e prints, as well as early Buddhist prints and works by modern and contemporary artists in this medium. Currently contains 58,645 images in thumbnail format. 
  • Japanese Postcard Highlights: comprised of over 20,000 postcards donated by Leonard A. Lauder, this collection dates primarily from 1900-1940.
  • Japanese Art in the 20th Century: a collection of paintings, lacquer works, baskets, prints, textiles, furniture, photography, and ceramics, this collection focuses on work by masters such as Yokoyama Taikan (横山大観) and Murakami Takashi (村上隆).
  • Meiji-era Photography: also called the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection, this collection is comprised of over 1,300 albumen print photographs taken between 1868 and 1912. They include images of contemporary landscapes, temples, gardens, people, and performances, some of which can be found onlin.
  • Japanese Paintings: comprised of over 4,370 works, this collection is known for select ink paintings dating to the fifteenth century, comprehensive holdings of the Kano-school, Ukiyo-e painting, and the narrative handscrolls "Minister Kibi's Trip to China" and "The Burning of the Sanj Palace." A portion of the images are found online. 
  • Japanese Arms and Armor: this collection is comprised of over 100 swords dated from the 11th through the 19th century, several thousand sword fittings, and a number of suits of armor. The total colleciton contains over 3900 items some of which are digitized online.  
  • Spaulding Collection: a collection of over 6,000 Japanese prints donated by William S. and John T. Spaulding in 1921. This donation was made with the condition that they never be exhibited, due to the fragility of the prints. This collection is therefore primarily available through digital imaging.
  • Edward Sylvester Morse Collection: comprised of over 5,000 ceramics collected in Japan, this collection was classified, cataloged, and donated by Edward Sylvester Morse, who was a zoologist by training and one of the first US scholars to teach in Japan. Highlights of images in the collection are available online.

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North American Coordinating Council on Japanese Library Resources
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