Freeman Foundation to Fund Digitization Project for Columbia's Adachi Japanese Puppet Theater Collection

NEW YORK, December 1, 2005 - The Freeman Foundation has granted Columbia’s C. V. Starr East Asian Library $126,000 to assist in the digitization and online publication of images from the Library’s distinctive Barbara C. Adachi Japanese Puppet Theater Collection.

The Freeman grant will be used to help make the holdings of the Adachi Collection available to a broad audience via the Internet. Donated in 2000, the collection features rare and original materials related to Bunraku, a 17th-century form of puppet theater that has undergone a significant revival in 20th-century Japan. The digitization project will culminate with the creation of a searchable digital resource for the study, research, and appreciation of this important form of traditional Japanese theater.

“The Freeman Foundation’s grant will help make the Adachi Collection a public resource as well as a library resource,” said Amy V. Heinrich, Director of the Starr Library. “The digitization project will not only provide scholars with access to the depth of the Adachi Bunraku holdings, but also honor Barbara Adachi’s intention to convey the warmth and beauty of Bunraku to a broad, nonspecialist audience.”

The Bunraku form developed early in Japan’s Edo period (1603-1868), when large, three-quarter life-size puppets, three-stringed musical instruments called samisen, and original dramas of contemporary or historical interest were combined to create a new type of theater. Designated by UNESCO as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity,” Bunraku is one of the world’s most complex and highly developed forms of puppet theater.

The Barbara C. Adachi Collection documents the significant post-World War II revival of popular interest in Bunraku, and consists of more than 12,500 slides and nearly 7,000 black-and-white photographs of rehearsals, performances, and workshops, as well as theater programs in Japanese and English, texts of the plays performed, and audio recordings of interviews with masters of the modern Japanese puppet theater. Assembled over a period of four decades, beginning in the 1960s, the collection’s significance for research and teaching spans a number of academic disciplines, including literature, drama, history, and cultural studies.

In 2005, Columbia was awarded a preservation and access grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), designated for organizing, rehousing and preserving the Adachi Collection and making it available to researchers on site. The NEH-supported work includes creating a detailed archival finding aid, making this research tool available online, and adding collection-level catalog records to national databases. The Freeman Foundation grant will help fund the Library’s digitization of the Adachi Collection’s slides and play texts and the publication of its images on a web site with historical context, modern interpretations, and links to the archival finding aid.

The library can provide users with limited access to the collection while it is being processed. Patrons should make an appointment by calling the Starr East Asian Library at 212-854-4319. A selection of images from the Adachi Collection can be viewed at:

Columbia University Libraries is one of the top ten academic library systems in the nation, with 9.2 million volumes, over 65,650 serials, as well as extensive collections of electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, and other nonprint formats. The collections and services are organized into 25 libraries, supporting specific academic or professional disciplines. Columbia Libraries employs more than 400 professional and support staff to assist faculty, students, and researchers in their academic endeavors. The Libraries’ website at is a gateway to its print and electronic collections and to its services.

The C.V. Starr East Asian Library is one of the major collections for the study of East Asia in the United States, with over 785,000 volumes of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tibetan, and Western language materials, as well as some holdings in Mongol and Manchu, and over 6,000 periodical titles. The collection, established in 1902, is particularly strong in Chinese history, literature, and social sciences; Japanese literature, history, and religion, particularly Buddhism; and Korean history. The Library’s Web site is located at:

The Freeman Foundation is a private philanthropic foundation, based in New York City and in Stowe, Vermont, established with the goal strengthening the bonds of friendship between the United States and the countries of the Far East. Through education and educational institutes, the Foundation hopes to develop a greater appreciation of Asian cultures, histories and economies in the United States and a better understanding of the American people and of American institutions and purposes by the peoples of East Asia.

12/01/05 ICL