Monday, November 2, 2015

Megan's Mystery Monday - Takaoka

Welcome back, mystery lovers! I’m back with another mystery very near and dear to our fair city of Fort Wayne. Some of you out there may be familiar with Fort Wayne’s sister city, Takaoka, Japan. I’ve been told there is a Japanese steakhouse named after it, so maybe that might be the extent of most people’s knowledge of it. 

For those who, like me, aren’t familiar with the Fort’s sister city, let’s bring in some background history. The sister city relationship between Fort Wayne and Takaoka has been in place since 1976 when a committee set out to join our two cities together during the American Bicentennial. Our two cities have remained strongly linked ever since. If you’ve ever gone to the annual Cherry Blossom Festival held at the Allen County Public Library every spring, you may have experienced some of this unity before. 

Buddhist Temple Bell
But where is the mystery, you ask? Well, back in the late 1970’s, Takaoka sent our city boxes and boxes of gifts as a symbol of our sisterhood. This collection included textiles, china, beautiful handmade metal works, cultural items, game boards, and even a long bow! It was a great gesture that we fully reciprocated and it strengthened the bonds between our two cities even more. But with such a large collection of gifts, the mayor and his sister city committee found they couldn’t feasibly store or preserve what they had been given. 

Bronze Vase and box

In steps the Allen County Fort Wayne Historical Society.

In 1981 the large collection of Japanese gifts was entrusted to us to preserve, store, and process into our system, and for the most part they were. All of the gifts were packaged up and sent to storage and then promptly forgotten about until the Botanical Conservatory asked us for help in making a sister city display for the upcoming Indiana Bicentennial.  It was then that we took stock of what we had and what would lend itself well to a display.

Japanese Wedding Treasure Ship
The majority of the collection hadn’t been touched or even seen for over thirty years. I was able to go over personally and help catalogue the artifacts as we uncovered them and let me tell you, it was amazing what all we found. Every single pot and vase had its own custom made wooden box, the wedding sets we found were all intricately embroidered silks, and there were even pieces of armor and war masks: the entire collection was a beautiful example of Japanese culture. 

Wedding Kimono
But as with most good things, there is usually a negative point that rears its ugly head. A lot of what we found had been processed and stored back in the eighties, a time when plastic wrap and scotch tape (gasp) were commonly used packing materials. This newfound attention was just what the Takaoka collection needed as we went through and repacked the artifacts using acid-free archival materials. Due to the size of the collection, this upkeep will be a long-term process, but its well on its way to breathing new life into the artifacts. 

Keep an eye out for the Botanical Conservatory’s display on our Japanese sister city and if you’d like to learn more about the history behind our relationship with Takaoka, check out this.

Until next time!

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