Chester Beatty Library. Curator of the East Asian Collection
Telling tales : the Chester Beatty Library seen through its collections of Japanese art
One hundred years ago in 1917, Sir Alfred Chester Beatty visited Japan. An American mining magnate, Beatty was already known for his extensive collections of Western and Islamic manuscripts. During his trip Beatty was entranced by the glittering scenes captured in the painted scrolls and albums set out for his perusal, and he began to add Japanese narrative and religious works to his growing library. Gathered together as a personal collection, Beatty’s library was recast as a standalone institution in a Dublin suburb in the early 1950s. Bequeathed to the Irish nation upon his death in 1968, at the turn of the millennium the Library was relocated and expanded as a fully‐fledged museum. Following the trajectory of the Library’s evolution through the lens of its Japanese collections, it is possible to see how the role envisaged for these collections (and the scope of the collections themselves) has been reformulated over the past century. Today welcoming some 370,000 visitors per year, the Library that Beatty established is one of Ireland’s designated national cultural institutions, recognised as offering a unique resource and attraction for Ireland’s guests and residents. With collections of international significance, however, the digital domain is critical to future development. While the Library’s Japanese collection is relatively well published and documented on paper, much remains to be done to develop the digital records to best meet the needs of the wider public and researchers from across the world. As we stand on the verge of a major new digitisation project, we aim to further unlock the magnificent potential of this unique resource.