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Japan Through Western Eyes
Manuscript Records of Traders, Travellers, Missionaries and Diplomats, 1853-1941

Part 2: Journals and Student Essays
Part 3: Correspondence and Scrapbooks
Part 4: Collected Papers of Brown, Perry and others
Part 5: Writings by Griffis

Arrangement Note


A US Department of Education Title II-C Grant was awarded in late 1993 to support comprehensive processing of the Griffis Collection. At that time, the collection had been closed to researchers because of its deteriorating condition. The collection had come to Rutgers University in a series of accessions between 1928 and 1982: many of the most valuable parts of the collection had been processed and segregated from the body of the collection, but in several stages at different points in the collection's history. Research and arrangement of early accessions had been done by Frederick Welden (notably on the Brunton Manuscript), with the support of the American Council for Learned Societies, in the 1930s; many areas of the collection of personal interest (held by the family and presented to Rutgers in later accessions) had been researched by Griffis's granddaughter, Katherine G M Johnson. The arrangement of the collection had become cumbersome, reflecting the various organization schemes introduced by Weldon Johnson, and later archivists, placed over the last remaining vestiges of Griffis's original arrangement of his papers - which had itself been opportunistic and haphazard.

When the 1994-1995 project began, the first thirty-five or forty boxes contained the catalogued "William Elliot Griffis Far East Collection", a broad mix of materials, sorted into a subject arrangement and listed by box contents. Heavily used by researchers, the Far East Collection had been instituted in the early 1960s by Professor Ardath Burks with the assistance of Jerome Cooperman and the support of the Rutgers Research Council. It was only a portion of the entire collection, however, which continued to be added to, with new accessions eventually amounting to nearly 250 manuscript boxes in all. Burks' and Cooperman's arrangement was later supplemented by collection curators Clark Beck and Ruth Simmons, who successively segregated correspondence and such important groupings as the Student Essays. Many boxes in the collection, containing voluminous research materials of less immediate interest (primarily Griffis's America and Europe researches, and yet the occasional undiscovered cache of Far East materials) remained unsorted and undocumented. In preparation for the grant applications that led to the 1994 grant, a collection survey, the first to be comprehensive, was conducted in 1993 by Ruth Simmons and Project Archivist Wendall Piez.

While the Burks-Cooperman arrangement was more than adequate for the purposes of researchers at that time, it was not all-inclusive, and although most important materials were accessible, documentation was not sufficient to prevent the necessity of researchers' combing through materials in an attempt to locate specific items. This practice was having a deleterious effect on many of these fragile, acidic materials. The 1994-1995 Title II-C Grant, which supported the employment of a project archivist and the application of electronic text technologies for producing and searching finding aids, enabled comprehensive processing of the collection at a level hitherto impossible (in the case of many series, at the item level). The purpose of this comprehensive sorting was two fold: to allow preservation of the materials by rehousing them in a permanent arrangement reflecting provenance and media type, and to permit a thorough documentation of the collection contents, reducing the need for searching by hand and supporting the creation of a microfilm edition of the unique Japan/Far East materials. While this rearrangement ran the risk of obscuring Griffis's own arrangement even further than it had already been, it was judged to be necessary to address preservation concerns. Issues of original order are addressed, to some extent, in Series Descriptions (and in any case the researcher can refer to the 1993 survey to discern the collection arrangement when this project began). Throughout this finding aid, box numbers in old arrangement are referred to with codes such as <8/1> (designating Box 8, folder 1 of the old arrangement).

Although the full two-year Title II-C Griffis Project had to be curtailed to one year (owing to the termination of the Federal program in 1994) these objectives of arrangement and description have been largely achieved. The current group and series arrangement was decided, all boxes systematically reviewed, and Japan and Far East-related materials removed to this arrangement. The project was reduced in size and scope by relegating, again, the America-Europe boxes to a less highly processed group. Full listings were created in the process of sorting and rehousing.

The present arrangement of the collection gives comprehensive access to the Japan/Far East materials. They are divided into four groups. The main group, William Elliot Griffis materials, comprises the greatest bulk of the collection: it contains Griffis's own writings as they survive in print and manuscript (with the exception of the bound volumes catalogued in the X-GRIF section of the Rare Books Collection, which fell outside the purview of this project), notebooks, diaries, research notes, as well as extensive materials collected by him in the course of his researches or as memorabilia. (The specific series may be seen in the Finding Aid Table of Contents and are described in detail in the Finding Aid at Rutgers University Library). Group II, Margaret Clark Griffis Materials, contains the extant diaries of Griffis's sister, significant because of her work in the earliest period of the formal education of Japanese women (a copy of her Tokyo contract also appears in the group). Group III contains papers pertaining to other members of the Griffis family, notably the war journals of Montgomery Patterson Griffis (brother of William Elliot Griffis) and diaries and account books of Griffis's two wives, Katherine Lyra Stanton Griffis and Sarah Frances King Griffis; as well as family correspondence. Group IV is a highly important group: it contains manuscript materials collected by Griffis, not as part of his own researches (some materials of this kind appear in Group I), but rather in the course of his work as an editor or intermediary. The Richard Henry Brunton manuscript appears in this series, as do significant works such as memoirs and journals by missionaries James Ballagh and Samuel Robbins Brown; manuscripts in English by Japanese literary figures; scrapbooks on polar exploration by Captain Silas Bent (a member of the Perry Expedition to Japan of 1853-54); and others. Letters from Griffis to Harada Tasuku (President of Doshisha University), which were accessioned into the Griffis Collection in 1970, are also included in this group.

Also held in the Griffis Collection, but not strictly belonging to it, are materials relegated to the category Griffis-Related and Griffis Research Materials. This is a very open category, of which only a portion of such items presently in Special Collections and Archives been listed, namely those materials routinely useful to new researchers (such as Griffis Collection-related materials from the University Archives), plus those materials stemming from researchers' work on the collection which were actually sorted from the collection in the process of arrangement. A larger quantity of such material, of minimal value to present researchers, remains undescribed. The America/Europe boxes of this collection remain for the most part unsorted. A survey of these boxes, updated from the 1993 Collection Survey, is available to researchers for consultation as an appendix to this Finding Aid.

The 1994-1995 Griffis Project certainly leaves the collection in far better condition, with more thorough access, than ever before. A few loose ends remain. Listings of some smaller series are not complete at the date of writing. Japanese Language Materials await an archivist with strong skills in Meiji-era Japanese. The photo collection, replete with valuable and revealing photographs of Japan, the Far East, and significant figures in modern Japanese history, awaits more comprehensive sorting, preservation treatment and documentation. The America/Europe boxes may be considered a low priority, representative of Griffis's work in American history and European-American culture (and because of their lesser interest to researchers, still that part of the collection which most accurately represents any original order of Griffis).

One final note is called for in describing the process of documenting this collection arrangement. Newly applied electronic technologies make it practical, for the first time, to consider this Finding Aid something of a 'work in progress', since text files could presumably be accessed and updated at whatever point future archivists might feel the need. The composition of the files comprising the Finding Aid has been designed from the outset to make this process as practicable as possible. The WordPerfect 5.1 files which comprise this finding aid, or unformatted ASCII files derived from them, may easily be converted, it is hoped, into any more current application. This should facilitate updates and amendments in the Finding Aid. Any of this text, therefore, should be considered by future archivists of the Griffis Collection to be theirs to modify or dispose of at will.

(Note: Not all of these materials appear in Parts 2-5 of this project. However, it was felt useful that scholars should have an outline of the organisation and content of the original archive. For further details they should consult the Finding Aid to the Archive available at Rutgers University Library and on the web).

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