Who was Harry Packard?

In 1975, the Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired more than four hundred works of Japanese art from collector Harry G. C. Packard (1914-1991), by gift and purchase. The acquisition instantly transformed the Museum into an institution boasting one of the finest collections of its kind in the West, with encyclopedic holdings from the Neolithic period through the nineteenth century. Five Thousand Years of Japanese Art: Treasures from the Packard Collection celebrates the thirty-fifth anniversary of the acquisition of the Packard Collection, showcasing its archaeological artifacts, Buddhist iconographic scrolls, ceramics, screen paintings of the Momoyama and Edo periods, and sculptures of the Heian and Kamakura periods.

1975, says Julia Meech, "was the year of Japan at the Met"—in fact, to pay for the Packard acquisition, each of the other curatorial departments at the Museum had to be convinced to put their own acquisitions on hold for years. What was so incredibly important about these artworks? In Meech's description of Packard's sometimes-controversial creation of his collection, she tells the stories of his fascinating life and adventures at the nexus of two worlds.

Lecture by Julia Meech, independent scholar; curator, John C. Weber Collection of Japanese Art; editor, Impressions, Annual Journal of the Japanese Arts Society of America; introduced by Sinead Kehoe, assistant curator, Japanese Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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