Does anything invoke a sense of wonderment at traditional craftsmanship like the acquisition of a monumental print archive? As advances in technology allow archivists and collectors alike to digitise their assembled works, creating enormous online databases of stunning imagery, our visual worlds are becoming that much richer – a welcome antidote to selfie saturation.
This week it’s the turn of the Library of Congress, which is celebating its acquisition of more than 2,500 pre-1920 Japanese woodcut prints by sharing them with the world in digital form. Their intricate designs, printed onto traditional Japanese hosho paper, depict subjects ranging from pseudo-botanical renderings of sakura, or cherry blossom, and geisha serving tea at elaborate ceremonies, through to unknown musical instruments, stunning seascapes, and picturesque walks through the streets of Yokohama.
Here the work of masters from Hiroshige and Sadahide sit alongside images by unknown makers, combining to help us understand something of what the Land of the Rising Sun might have looked like before it became the Japan that we now recognise. With a visual feast like this at your fingertips, what could you want with Instagram?