Digital Resources for Studying the History of the Ashio Copper Mine

I am currently working on a research project on the Ashio Copper Mine Pollution Incident (J. Ashio kōdoku jiken 足尾鉱毒事件) funded by a small grant from the Mining History Association. As part of the project, I have been scouring both libraries and the internet for resources to use within my research. Whilst there are a plethora of library-based resources very few materials have been digitized and those which have mostly belong to thematically broad digital repositories. Today I will introduce readers to a few locations where they can find digitized materials on the history of Ashio Copper Mine (J. Ashio dōzan 足尾銅山).

Finding Digitized Texts and Manuscripts

Digitized texts and manuscripts pertaining to the Ashio Copper Mine can be found within the usual databases and repositories that scholars of early modern and modern Japanese history turn to. Aozora Bunko 青空文庫, for instance, includes 62 results when one searches for the keyword Ashio 足尾 and 36 results when one searches for the keyword kōdoku 鉱毒. Since the texts in Aozora Bunko are transcriptions rather than original manuscripts, we can easily gather the data and analyse it with digital tools.

Section from Ōshika’s Watarasegawa 渡良瀬川 in Aozora Bunko.

The National Diet Library Digital Collections returns 3256 results for the keyword Ashio. Of these, 1602 can be viewed via the internet from your home or office. There are a fairly large number of primary sources and early 20th Century texts in the database, but the majority (1026) were published after the year 2000. Despite this, due to its size and the thematic diversity of the digitized books and manuscripts that it contains, I believe that the database is the most useful for exploring the history of the Ashio Copper Mine.

Screenshot of Kinoshita’s Ashio kōdoku mondai 足尾鑛毒問題 from the National Diet Library.

Waseda University’s Kotenseki Sōgō Database returns 5 results for the keyword Ashio and 6 for the term kōdoku. All of the manuscripts date from the late 1890s.

The Ashio dōzan kōdoku jiken seigansho 足尾銅山鉱毒事件請願書 in the Kotenseki Sōgō Database.

Visual Sources

One of the only databases devoted to the Ashio Copper Mine that I have been able to locate is the Ashio dōzan shashin dētabēsu 足尾銅山写真データベス (E. Ashio Copper Mine Photograph Database). It is a modestly sized database which users can search by typing in a photograph’s name, the period in which it was taken, the place it was taken, some part of its explanatory text, or a keyword. Following a search the database returns a list of results which can be sorted according to name, sorting number, period in which it was taken, the place it was taken, and the date it was uploaded to the database. The user can then click on individual results to view the photograph and read historical information on it.

A list of results.

The database seems to have been created in 2009 and updated in 2012 and 2013, but does not appear to have been updated since. It is easy to use, but it would be nice if photographs could be previewed within the list of results. Due to its age the quality of the scans also leaves something to be desired, but it may be useful for those interested in locating visual sources related to the history of Ashio and the copper mining industry there. Nevertheless, I rarely use visual sources in my research and I have, therefore, not yet found much of a reason to interact with the database.

Conclusions

Relatively few materials pertaining to the history of the Ashio Copper Mine have been digitized, although there are a small handful of texts and photographs available online. Those beginning to research the mine and its history will likely find useful materials in National Diet Library’s Digital Collections which contains a greater number of texts and manuscripts than other databases and repositories. In my next piece on the topic, I will explore some of the physical holdings at different libraries alongside available methods for their digitization and duplication for personal use.

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