150 years ago this year Japan underwent one of the most significant revolutions in its and global history. At that time a Horsham resident, Robert Henderson whose family had business interests in Malaysia (mainly rubber) was visiting Japan and buying up photographs taken by Felice Beato an Italian British photographer showing the people and the countryside of a land on the cusp of monumental change. Beato had arrived in Japan in 1863, but in 1865, a fire destroyed his studio and many of his negatives, so he started over again producing by 1868 two albums of 100 photographs of “Native Types”, portraits etc and 98 photographs of “Views of Japan”. It is probably from these albums that Henderson selected his images to send back home to be mounted. The photographs were hand coloured.
In 1931, Horsham Museum was given four albums of photographs, taken in 1874-75 illustrating the travels of Robert and Emma Henderson family. The albums include images from India, Singapore, Borneo, Siam, China, Japan and America. Initially they were somewhat neglected.It was only in the mid -1980s that then curator Elizabeth Bridges contacts experts on the work of Beato and another photogrpaher, Samuel Bourne and their importance was reliased.
The Hendersons also donated other items from their travels to the museum, including a large Satsuma earthenware vase adn a Chinese bronze incence container in the form of a temple dog.
The albums are now seen to contain some fo the finest examples of mid-Victorian photography by both men, but the condition of the albums had deterioriated. In the early 1990s, the museum was contatced by a donor who was willing to fund the cost of conservation. Thank to this generosity, the album bindings were conservecd with the photographs carefully conserved. With people continaully intrigued by east Asia, the pictures remaining a fascinating instihe into a largely lost world.