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In MOA’s Drawers: Shinpan Neko No Tenarai

MOA’s Multiversity Galleries bring over 9,000 objects from around the world to public view. In most museums, collections of this magnitude are stored behind-the-scenes—so how exactly does MOA display so many objects within 14,500 square feet?

Stacked beneath an arrangement of towering glass display cases are a series of specially designed, state-of-the-art drawers. With a gentle tug on the long metal handles the drawers roll open, revealing cultural belongings from past and present to explore.

While the Multiversity Galleries’ drawers are designed to display thousands of objects, it is easy to feel overwhelmed when trying to see them all in one visit. If you’re not sure where to begin in exploring the myriad of objects on display, try finding this “amewsing” Japanese woodblock print.

Shinpan Neko No Tenarai, published by Masdaya Heikichi

MOA collection: N2.1181. Photo by Kyla Bailey.

This print, made between 1868 and 1875, depicting a calligraphy class run by kitties belongs to a genre known as omocha-e—literally, “toy prints or pictures.” Created primarily for children, these cheerful images will oftentimes depict animals doing people activities and are used for both entertainment and education.

In examining the playful chaos of this complex scene, notice the attention to detail paid by the artist to create different textures, colour blocks and pockets of activity. From the patterns on their robes to their facial expressions, each cat is animated with a unique personality—much like the characters one might find in a human classroom.

Find me: Case 076, Drawer 1