Martha Chaiklin

Martha Chaiklin is an independent curator and historian. She was the Curator of Asian History at the Milwaukee Public Museum from 2001-2005. As an independent curator her projects include Noh Theatre in the Woodblock Prints of Tsukioka Kogyo (1869–1927) (2014) and More on Less: The History of Burlesque in America from Lydia Thompson to Amber Ray (2015). She has authored Cultural Commerce and Dutch Commercial Culture: The Impact of European Material Culture on Japan (CNWS, 2003)  and Ivory and the Aesthetics of Modernity in Meiji Japan (Palgrave, 2014) as well as numerous book chapters and academic articles. She also translated and annotated the memoir of C.T. Assendelft de Coningh, A Pioneer in Yokohama- A Dutchman’s Adventures in the New Treaty Port (Hackett, 2012) and co-edited Asian Material Culture (University of Amsterdam, 2009).

Martha Chaiklin has a PhD in History from Leiden University in the Netherlands.

Current research

  • Tusks to Treasure: This monograph examines ivory trade in Asia to connect ivory acquisition with ivory production and elucidate the interrelationships between diverse regions of world: Asia Africa and Europe.
  • Shoe production in 19th century Japan: This yet as untitled project will examine the motives to build shoe production, the process of technology acquisition and the social history these events illustrate to provide a window into modernization in later 19th century Japan.
  • For the MCRI project: A comparison of archive results with climate and other data in the MCRI data bank to determine external factors affecting ivory supply and use GSI to map relationships.



2014 Ivory and the Aesthetics of Modernity in Meiji Japan. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 112 pp.

2012 C.T. Assendelft de Coningh. A Pioneer in Yokohama – A Dutchman’s Adventures in the New Treaty Port. Cambridge, MA: Hackett Publishing, 216 pp. Translated, introduced and annotated.

2009 Co-editor (with Marianne Hulsbosch and Elizabeth Bedford). Asian Material Culture in Context. Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam, 232 pp.

2003 Cultural Commerce and Dutch Commercial Culture, The Influence of European Material Culture on Japan, 1700-1850. Leiden: CNWS, 276 pp.

Book chapters

Forthcoming Edoki nihon no shohi seikatsu ni okeru nihon boeki no juyosei” in Frederick Cryns and Matsukata Fuyuko, ed. Nichiran boeki to Nihon, Rinsei Shobo.

Forthcoming “Imports and Aurtarky: Tortoiseshell in Early Modern Japan” in Luxury in Global Perspective, edited by Karin Hofmeister and Bernde Grewe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

2014 “Zori and Flip-flop Sandal”. In Iconic Designs: 50 Stories about 50 Things, edited by Grace Lees-Maffi, pp. 198-201. London: Bloomsbury Press.

2010 “Simian Amphibians. The Mermaid Trade in Early Modern Japan.” In Large and Broad. The Wake of the Dutch in Early Modern Asia, Essays in Honor of Leonard Blussé. Tokyo: Toyo Bunko.

2009 “Up in the Hair. Strands of Meaning in Ornamental Hair Accessories in Early Modern Japan” In Asian Material Culture in Context, in Asian Material Culture, edited by Marianne Hulsbosch Elizabeth Bedford, and Martha Chaiklin. Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam.

2007 “Ivory in Ceylon” in Contingent Lives-Social Identity and Material Culture in the VOC World, edited by Nigel Worden. Cape Town: University of Cape Town.

2006 “Traditional Japanese Footwear: purity and pollution” in Shoes: A History from Sandals to Sneakers, edited by Peter McNeil and Giorgio Riello. Oxford and New York: Berg Press.

2007 Translated into Italian as “Puro e impuro: il posto delle calzature nella tradizione giapponese” in Scarpe: Dal sandalo antico alla calzatura d’alta moda, edited Giorgio Riello and Peter McNeil. Costabissara, Vicenza: Angelo Colla Editore.

2005 “A Miracle of Industry-The Struggle to Produce Sheet Glass in Modernizing Japan,” in Building a Modern Nation:Science, Technology and Medicinein Japan, edited by Morris Low. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

2005 “Exotic Bird Collecting in Early Modern Japan,” chapter in JAPANimals, edited by Greg Pflugfelder and Brett Walker. Ann Arbor: Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan Press.

2005 “The Art of Nagasaki Prints” in The Hotei Encyclopedia of Japanese Prints, edited by Amy Reigle Newland. Leiden: Hotei Press.

Peer-reviewed articles

Forthcoming “Politicking Art: Ishikawa Kōmei and the Development of Meiji Sculpture” forthcoming in East Asian History, no. 39 (October 2014): 53-74.

2012 “The Merchants Ark – Live Animal Gifts in Early Modern Dutch-Japanese Relations”. World History Connected Vol.9 No. 1 (February 2012).

2010 “From Monopolist to Middleman-Dutch Liberalism and American Imperialism in the Opening of Japan” in Journal of World History in Vol 21 No. 2 (June 2010): 249-269.

2010 ‘Ivory in World History – Early Modern Trade in Context’in History Compass, (June 8, 2010): 530-542.

2009  “Ivory in Early Modern Ceylon- A Case Study in What Documents Don’t Reveal” by the International Journal of Asian Studies. Vol.6 no. 1 (January 2009): 37-63.

2008 “The Fine Art of Imperialism: Japan’s Participation in International Expositions of the Nineteenth Century.” Japan Studies Review (Spring 2008), p. 71-80.

2000 “Off the Block – A New Look at the Origins of Nagasaki Prints.Andon 66 (spring 2000), p. 13-17.

1998 Igirisu ni yoru garasu seihin ni kansuru-kosatsu(1614-1814) (English Imports of Glass in the Edo Period – 1614-1814). Glass 42 (Nihon Garasu Kogei Gakkai) (1998), p. 23-30.

1994 Nagasaki no mo hitotsu no biidoro-Taka to Garasu(Another Kind of Nagasaki Glass-Kite Glass). THE GLASS 33 (Japan Glass Manufacturer’s Association) (Autumn 1994), p. 40-42.

1994 Edo jidai no haka ni fukusosareta garasu seihin ni tsuite(Glass Reliquary Objects in Edo Period Tombs). Glass 36 (Nihon Garasu Kogei Gakkai) (October 1994), p. 7-13.

Encyclopedia Articles

2013 Four encyclopedia articles for Japan at War, edited by Louis Perez. ABC-CLIO 2013.

2010 Ten encyclopedia articles on Japan for the Encyclopedia of World History ABC-CLIO, April 2010.

2007 “Spices.” Fifteen hundred word entry for the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern World, London and New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

2006 “Silk.” Fifteen hundred word entry for The Encyclopedia of Western Colonialism since 1450. Macmillan Reference, 2006.

2005 Twenty-five short entriesin The Hotei Encyclopedia of Japanese Prints, edited by Amy Reigle Newland. Leiden: Hotei Press, 2005.

Academic Translations

2000 Chapters by Torii Yumiko (Oita University) and Yokoyama Yoshinori (Tokyo University) and 14 columns by other Japanese academics for Bewogen Betrekkening (Bridging the Divide)- book commemorating the quadricentennial of Dutch-Japanese relations (Amsterdam: Teleac, 2000).

1997  “Japanese Sketch of the Incineration of Deshima” inThe Deshima Dagregisters Vol. X 1790-1800 ed. by Cynthia Viallé & Leonard Blussé (Institute for the History of the European Expansion, 1997), p. 189.

Book Reviews

Forthcoming Julie E. Hughes. Animal Kingdoms: Hunting, the Environment and Power in the Indian Princely States. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012) in Itinerario.

Forthcoming Adam Clulow, The Company and the Shogun: The Dutch Encounter with Tokugawa Japan (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014) in American Historical Review.

2014 Robert Hellyer. Defining Engagement: Japan and Global Contexts, 1610-1868. (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2009.) In Japan Studies Review, 2014: 173-175.

2014 Sujit Sivasundaram. Islanded: Britain, Sri Lanka & the Bounds of an Indian Ocean Colony. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013. Itinerario 38, no. 1 (2014): 152-153.

2014 Sarah Longair and John McAleer, ed. Curating Empire-Museums and the British (Imperial Experience. Manchester and New York: University of Manchester Press, 2012) in Itinerario 38 no. 1 (2014): 162-163.

2013 Captain Samuel Samuels, From Forecastle to Cabin. Edited by Vincent McInerney (Seaforth Publishing: Barnsley, UK, 2012) in Terrae Incognitae 45/2 (2013): 148-149.

2012 Markus Vink, Mission to Madurai: Dutch Embassies to the Nayaka Court of Madurai in the Seventeenth Century c. 1600-1825. New Delhi: Manohar, 2012 in Itinerario. Vol. XXXVII No. 3 (2012): 144-145.

2012 Sousa, Lúcio. The Early European Presence in China, Japan, The Philippines and Southeast Asia (1555-1590)—The Life of Bartolomeu Landeiro. Macao: Macao Foundation, 2010 in Journal of Early Modern History 16 (2012): 4-5.

2012 James R. Fichter, So Great A Proffit-How the East Indies Trade Transformed Anglo-American Capitalism. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2010 in Journal of World History 23:2 (June 2012): 438-440.

2012 Siegfried Huigen, Jan L. de Jong, and Elmer Koldfin, eds. The Dutch Trading Companies as Knowledge Networks. Leiden: Brill, 2010. In Sixteenth Century Studies Vol, XLIII No. 1 (Spring 2012): 184-185.

2011 Robert Findlay The Pilgrim Art: Cultures of Porcelain in World History (Berkeley: University of California Press) in Journal of Economic and Social History of the Orient 45 (2011): 429-431.

2011 Pius Malekandathil. Maritime India- Trade, Religion, and Polity in the Indian Ocean. Delhi: Primus Books, 2010 and Chandra R. de Silva, ed. Portuguese Encounters with Sri Lanka and the Maldives-Translated Texts from the Age of the Discoveries. Ashgate: Surrey, UK and Burlington VT, 2009. In Itinerario Vol. XXXV No. 2 (2011): 102-104.

2009 David Wittner, Technology and the Culture of Progress in Meiji Japan (London: Routledge Press, 2007) in the Journal of Asian Studies. Vol. 68 No. 2 (May 2009): 644-646.

2006 Ryuto Shimada, The Intra-Asian Trade in Japanese Copper by the Dutch East India Company During the Eighteenth Century(Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2005) in Itinerario vol.XXIX no.3 (2006): 158-160.

2005 Louis van Gasteren, ed. Die eeuwige rijst met Japansche thee (Amsterdam: Bas Lubberhuizen, 2003) In Itinerario vol.l XXV no. 1 (January 2005): 146-148.

1999 Luke S. Roberts, Mercantilism in a Japanese Domain: The Merchant Origins of Economic Nationalism, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998) in Itinerario vol. XXIII No. 3 (1999): 215-216.

1998 Timon Screech, The Western Scientific Gaze and Popular Imagery in Later Edo Japan. The Lens within the Heart (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) in Andon 60 (1998) p. 33-34.

1998 Kerrie MacPherson, ed. Asian Department Stores (Honolulu: University of Hawaii, 1998) in Itinerario Vol. XXII no 3 (1998) 123-124.

1998 Gijsbert Hemmy. De Testimoniis, translated by Margaret Hewett (Capetown: Rustica Press, 1998) in Itinerario, Vol. XXII no. 3, (1998): 124-125..

1998 Daniel Chirot and Anthony Reid eds, Essential Outsiders: Chinese and Jews in the Modern Transformation of Southeast Asia and Central Europe, (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1997) in Itinerario Vol XXII no. 2 (1998): 136-138.


2009 “The Other Side of the World – Dutch Presence in Japan” in Seaport –New York’s History Magazine Sept/Oct/Nov 2009 VOL XLIV No. 4, 24-29.

2005 “Do We Really Want to Gut Our Museum? Gutting the Museum Will Have Long-Term Implications,” Op-Ed in MILWAUKEE JOURNAL-SENTINEL, May 21, 2005.

2003 “Return of the Ainu” in Lore VOL 51, No. 1 (Fall 2003), 12-19.

Selected Presentations 

2014 Keynote address: “Trade in Animals and Animal Products in the Indian Ocean World from early times to c.1900, Indian Ocean World Center”, McGill University, October 23-24, 2014.

2014 Ivory and Ivory Trade in Early Modern JapanMidwest Japan Seminar October 4, 2014, Lawrence Kansas.

2014 Imitation Pearls in the Jazz Age, European Congress on World and Global History Paris, September 4-7, 2014.

2014 Indigenizing the Foreign: How Imports Changed the Material Landscape of Early Modern Japan. Berkshire Conference on Women’s History, May 22-25, 2014.

2014 Imitation Pearls in the Jazz Age. Association of Asian Studies Annual Conference. Philadelphia, March 27-30, 2014.

2013 Devils Work In the Celestial Kingdom, Lanka Decorative Arts Society, November 26-28, 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

2013 Reconsidering the Yokohama Gold Rush of 1858-1859with Simon J. Bytheway Association of Asian Studies, San Diego, March 21-24 2013.

2013 Feet of the World, Japanese Shoe Manufacturers and the World’s Fairs of the Long 19th Century. World at Your Feet Conference Northampton, UK, March, 20-21, 2013.

2013 Turning Japanese. The Impact of Dutch Trade on the Early Modern Japanese Consumer. American Historical Association Annual Conference, New Orleans, January 3-6 2013. Also organized and acted as discussant for panel, Knowledge Production and European Expansion in Modern South and South East Asia.

2012 Pioneer in Old Yokohama: Insights through the Adventures of C.T. Assendelft de Coningh, Asian Studies Conference Japan, June 30 –July 1, 2012.

2012 The March Forward: Company and Entrepreneurship in Meiji Shoe ManufacturingAssociation of Asian Studies, Toronto, March 15-18, 2012.

2011 The March Forward: The Mechanization of Shoe Production in Meiji Japan inScience, Technology, and Medicine in East Asia: 
Policy, Practice, and Implications in a Global Context, Ohio State University, October 7-9 2011.

2011 Ayutthaya:  The Ivory Kingdom. Encompass Conference, Colombo Sri Lanka, August 15-17, 2011.

2011 The Corners of the Empire: The Sri Lankan Impact on Early Modern Japanese Decorative Art, Sri Lankan Decorative Arts Society, Colombo, Sri Lanka August 21-28, 2011.

2011 Chair of panel Early Modernity, Empire, and Cultural Difference: Insights from Sri Lanka, American Historical Association, Boston, January 6-9, 2011.

2010 International Ivory Trade and Local Craft Production in invited conference Local History, From the Outside: Using Foreign Sources in Asian History. Tokyo University, December 11-12, 2010.

2010 Organized Panel: Networks of Knowledge: The Dissemination of Western Science in Early Modern Japan for Early Modern Japan Network panel at the Association of Asian Studies March 23-27. 2010. Presenting paper The Cutting Edge: Western Medical Instruments in the Rangaku Community.

2010 Cultural Implications of Maritime Networks. Dutch Ivory Trade in Early Modern Japan, Forum for European Expansion and Global Interaction, Durham North Carolina, February 19-20, 2010.

2010 Elephants and Ivory in Early Modern Japan, American Historical Association, San Diego January 3-6, 2010.

2009 Keynote Roundtable: Global Asias in Historical Perspectives, invited conference at Penn State, October 24, 25, 2009.

2009 Ivory Trade in India, World Economic Congress. Utrecht August 3-6 2009.

2009 The Merchants Ark: Live Animals in Early Modern Dutch-Japanese Diplomacy. Invited seminar, Visualizing Animals, Penn State April 30-May 2 2009.

2008 Simian Amphibians. The Mermaid Trade in Early Modern Japanat the World History Conference London, June 25-28 2008.

2008 Going Under the Knife. Government Involvement in the Meiji Ivory Industryat the International Conference on Science in East Asia, Baltimore, July 14-18, 2008.

2007 Imports and Artistry: Ivory in Early Modern Japan, ICAS 5, Kuala Lumpur, August 2-5. 2007.

2007 Tools of the Trade-Import of Medical Instruments to Early Modern Japan, Japan Studies of Australia, Canberra July 1-4, 2007.

2006 The Ivory Trade in Early Modern Ceylon, Tepc Conference, Cape Town, South Africa, December 17-21, 2006.

2006 Unnecessary Goods: The Import of Foreign Ceramics into Closed Japan.San Francisco, Association of Asian Studies Annual Conference, April 6 -9, 2006.

2005 Unseasonal Winds of Love: Prostitution and the Foreign Community in Early Modern Nagasaki. Santa Fe, American Society for Ethnohistory Annual Conference, November 16-20, 2005.

2004 Monopolists to Middlemen: Dutch Reaction to the Matthew C. Perry Expedition. Southern Japan Conference, Atlanta, November 5-7, 2004.

2004 A Sharp Eye and a Fluid Pen –C. T. Assendelft de Coningh and Travel Writing in Japan. International Society of Travel Writing, Milwaukee, October 21-24, 2004.

2004 The Forgotten Commodity: Ivory as a part of Dutch East India Trade to Japan. Western Conference of Asian Studies, Seattle, September 30-October 2, 2004.

2004 The Fine Art of Imperialism-Japan’s Participation in International Expositions of the 19th Century.Nineteenth Century Studies Association Conference, St. Louis, March 13, 2004and Southern Japan Seminar, Miami February 25-26, 2004.

2004 Organized panel: Cementing Relationships, Confirming Allegiances: The Culture of Gift-Giving in Pre-modern Japan for Association of Asian Studies Annual Conference March, 3-5, 2004. Presenting The Merchants’ Ark: Live Animal Gifts in Early Modern Dutch-Japanese Relations.

2003 A World Without Windows: Glass Production in the Modernization of Meiji Japan, Association of Asian Studies Annual Conference, New York, March 27-30, 2003.

2002 Elephants Teeth Under a Rising Sun: The VOC and the Development of Ivory Carving in Early Modern Japan, International Conference on the VOC, Stellenbosch, South Africa, April 3-6, 2002 and the Midwest Conference on Art History, Milwaukee, April 17-18, 2002.

2002 Unseasonal Winds of Love: Prostitution and the Foreign Community in Early Modern Nagasaki, AHA San Francisco, January 3-6, 2002.

2000 Military Might and Foresight-Acquisition of Armaments in Tokugawa Japan. Association of Asian Studies, San Diego California, March 12, 2000.

1999/2001 Feathered Friends: The Japanese Demand for Exotic Birds.World Archeology Conference, Cape Town,South Africa. January 14, 1999; and Special Conference on Animals in Japan and Donald Keene Center, Columbia University April 22, 2001.

1998 Goods on Demand: Japanese requests for European Manufactured goods in the 18th Century. IIAS conference, Contacts and Conflicts panel in Noordwijkerhout, June 25, 1998.

1995 Taishono Jinzo Shinju no Sangyo (The Imitation Pearl Industry in Taisho Japan), Nihon Garasu Kogei Gakkai Research Conference, November 12, 1994. Abstract published in GLASS no. 37, June 1995, p. 27-28.

1994 Distribution Routes of Glass Products in the Edo Period. Ph.D. Kenkyukai Conference in Tokyo, July 4, 1994.


In preparation “American Burlesque” – Charles Allis Art Museum, Milwaukee WI.

2014 The Art of Noh –Takahashi Korekiyo from the Richard and Mae Smethurst Collection – Villa Terrace Milwaukee, July 18-October 12, 2014. With Annemarie Sawkins.

2005 Pearls – support and local component for traveling exhibit, March 5-June 24, 2005.

n.d. Japanese Religion- curatorial work completed. Never opened due to layoffs.

2005 Japanese Export Art – permanent exhibit, opened January 7, 2005.

2003 Japanese Ceramics – permanent exhibit, opened June 17, 2003.

2002 Japanese house renovation – opened August 12, 2002.

2001 Permanent Ainu Exhibit, opened December 27, 2001.

2001 Online exhibit Hikifuda (Japanese advertising handbills), opened November 15, 2001 (