The American Edward Sylvester Morse traveled to Japan in 1877 searching for biological specimens and was welcomed by the Japanese Meiji government, which allowed him to establish a marine laboratory at Enoshima and offered him a position at the recently established Imperial University of Tokyo. While in Japan Morse acquired an interest in Japanese pottery and developed a significant collection that was deposited in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. After returning to the United States in 1880, he became director of the Peabody Museum, a position that allowed him to spend additional time in Japan, where he produced ethnological works and assembled materials that documented the vanishing feudal Tokugawa civilization. His papers, deposited at the Phillips Library of the Peabody Museum have been digitized in Meiji Japan.
The collection of personal and professional papers includes diaries, correspondence, research files, drawings, lecture notes, publications, scrapbooks, and manuscripts, which document the numerous contributions made by Morse to the areas of malacology, zoology, ethnology, archeology, and art history. The digitized documents retain the same organizational structure as the original archive and there is a rudimentary search tool that allows for a search of finding aid labels and subject terms associated with the documents. Full-text searching is not available as the documents are primarily hand-written.