Early specimen exchange with Japan
Renewing an old relationship.
Scientists have always been interested in expanding both their knowledge and their collections, and Curator Edward Ramsay was no exception. Back in 1893 he proposed an exchange of specimens with Mr Sakan Takahashi, an official of the Imperial Japanese Government, when Mr Takahashi visited the Australian Museum.
Edward Ramsay promptly despatched two packages of bird’s skins, shells and fishes to Mr Takahashi via the S.S. Catterthun, and eagerly awaited his specimens from Japan.
The following year Edward Ramsay became seriously ill and Robert Etheridge Junior was appointed acting Curator. At that point no specimens had been received from Japan, so Mr Etheridge wrote to Mr Takahashi in July 1894 to remind him of the exchange.
Later that year the Museum received a box of shells, despatched by Professor C. Ishikawa of the Imperial Museum in Tokyo. When these specimens were unpacked at the Museum, Robert Etheridge Junior wrote ‘… the box itself came to hand on 19th December. The shells it contained were beautifully packed, and have proved a welcome addition to the collections in this Museum.’ They still form a part of the Malacology collection of the Museum today.
In 1895 Edward Ramsay’s illness forced him to resign from his position, and Robert Etheridge Junior was appointed Curator.
In 1906 Mr Ishikawa visited Australia, bringing with him two more boxes of specimens for the Museum. Robert Etheridge responded in June of that year, despatching two boxes of Australian specimens to Professor Ishikawa in Japan.
The relationship lapsed until recently when these letters were brought to our attention by Mr Katsuya Shirai, who is researching early exchanges between his Museum and foreign museums. Mr Shirai is an archaeologist at the Tokyo National Museum, which is the successor to the Imperial Museum in Tokyo.