On July 3, the University of Nebraska State Museum in Morrill Hall will open an exhibit that honors the return to Nebraska of the historic Japanese friendship ambassador doll, Miss Mie, from her year-long journey overseas.
In July 2009, the 83-year-old friendship doll was escorted to her original home in Mie Prefecture, Japan, by museum collections assistant Susan Curtis to undergo expert conservation, followed by various homecoming celebrations and exhibitions in 10 cities across the region. More than 30,000 people attended the exhibitions before Miss Mie's return to Nebraska in late May. She will remain a part of the museum's permanent anthropology collections.
Members of the Japanese Miss Mie Homecoming Committee generously funded and arranged the various homecoming events, along with the doll's assessment and repairs. The committee used Miss Mie's return to Japan as a way to educate children about the history and purpose of the friendship doll exchange that took place between the children of the United States and Japan in 1927, as well as the craftsmanship that went into making the dolls. Miss Mie's visit to Japan and this new exhibit serve to enhance the State Museum's special relationship with the citizens of Mie, which began generations ago.
The exhibit, "Miss Mie: A Japanese Friendship Ambassador Doll Returns to Nebraska," celebrates the doll's return to the museum and pays tribute to the peace, goodwill, and friendship that she continues to symbolize between our two countries. Morrill Hall will host the exhibition through October.
A 20-person delegation from Japan, made up of members of the Miss Mie Homecoming Committee and other dignitaries, will visit the museum for the opening and other celebrations on campus.
The exhibit will feature the newly restored doll and her intricate travel accessories, including passport, mirror, parasol, chopsticks, kimono chest, sewing chest, tea ceremony objects and more. There will also be select artifacts from the museum's collection of traditional Japanese cultural objects, including three kimonos, fans, shoes, calligraphy tools and blowfish lantern. Additionally, there will be a Miss Mie-inspired painting by artist Missi Paul.
The exhibit was curated by anthropology division staff Susan Curtis and intern Karen DeCristoforo, with assistance from Alan Osborn, anthropology research associate professor and curator, and exhibit specialists Joel Nielsen and Ron Pike.
Miss Mie's visit to Japan and return to Nebraska are part of an ongoing commitment by the State Museum and the Miss Mie Homecoming Committee to continue an international friendship that began more than 80 years ago.
Miss Mie has been in the museum's anthropology collections since 1928. The doll first arrived in the United States in 1927 when 58 friendship dolls were sent to the United States as gifts to American children from the children of Japan, intended as a gesture of goodwill. Japanese children received American Blue Eyed Dolls in exchange. Small groups of these "goodwill ambassadors" traveled to 479 cities throughout the country that year. After the tour, some of the dolls found homes in museums and other institutions throughout the United States, including the NU State Museum.
In September 2008, the 80th anniversary of Miss Mie's arrival in Nebraska, Japanese members of the Miss Mie Homecoming Committee visited Lincoln to see the doll, examine the letters written by the schoolchildren that accompanied the doll, and make arrangements for her visit to Japan the following year.
In July 2009, Curtis transported Miss Mie, along with her collection of traveling accessories, to Mie Prefecture in south-central Japan. Masaru Aoki, expert doll conservator from the historic Yoshitoku Co. in Tokyo, performed much-needed conservation work on the doll's delicate complexion, which is made of a layer of crushed oyster shell. Her face and body had developed cracks over the years, making the doll too fragile to study or exhibit.
After the repairs were performed, Miss Mie was the center of several homecoming events in the region, including visits to the governor of Mie Prefecture and various schools, as well as exhibitions in Mikimoto Pearl Museum and Tsu Matsubishi department store. Curtis also coordinated the loan of more than 150 friendship letters written by the Japanese schoolchildren who participated in the friendship doll exchange. Over the past year, the committee translated many of the letters into English and located 12 of the original authors or their family members. Many of these honored guests were included in the homecoming celebrations.
During the delegation's visit, Miss Mie celebrations will be jointly hosted by the State Museum, the UNL Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, the Kawasaki Reading Room, and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development. Kawasaki Motors Manufacturing Corp., USA, has also provided support for the exhibit.
Priscilla Grew, director of the State Museum, expressed appreciation on behalf of the University of Nebraska for the generosity of the Miss Mie Homecoming Committee in making possible the expert conservation of the doll, and the related exhibitions in Japan.
"During today's time of economic turmoil and uncertainty, Miss Mie remains a symbol of enduring kindness and optimism in the hearts of our children," Grew said. "It is a pleasure to know that she has such a wonderful impact during her homecoming visit and that she continues to spread a message of peace and friendship among the children of Mie Prefecture and here in Nebraska. It is through the initiative and generosity of the committee that the doll has now been preserved for future generations to enjoy in our museum."
The University of Nebraska State Museum of Natural History in Morrill Hall is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday and Friday-Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursdays, and 1:30-4:30 p.m. Sundays. Admission is free for faculty, staff, students and immediate family (with a valid NCard) For more information, go to http://www.museum.unl.edu or call 472-3779.
By Dana Ludvik, University of Nebraska State Museum
More details at: http://go.unl.edu/77c