The 26th Study Meeting on the Conservation of Modern Cultural Heritage, “Conservation and Restoration of Goryosha, Japanese Imperial Carriages”
“Goryosha,” Imperial carriages, refers to special railway cars and automobiles used by Japanese Emperors and other members of the Imperial family. Since railways were introduced in Japan in the Meiji Period, the imperial carriages have been created. The first Imperial carriage is considered to have great cultural and artistic value, therefore, it has been designated as an Important Cultural Property. However, information on the object was not readily available. Thus, the Center for Conservation Science and Restoration Techniques held a study meeting entitled “Conservation and Restoration of Goryosha, Japanese Imperial Carriages” in the Institute’s basement seminar hall on November 30, 2012.
The imperial carriages are said to be “moving works of art and craft” or “distillations of the culture of the Meiji Period.” They were specifically made for the Imperial family to use by employing the latest technologies and techniques at that time, so their furnishings and other features are extraordinary and remarkable. The carriages currently on display are 6 at the Railway Museum and 2 at the Museum Meiji-Mura. However, visitors are only able to look at their furnishings and exquisite interior decoration details through glass. At the study meeting, firstly, a specialist of industrial heritage talked about the technical aspects of the Imperial carriages and the development of the railways in Japan. Secondly, curators of the 2 museums preserving and displaying the Imperial carriages presented the characteristic furnishings and interiors of the objects. They also revealed approaches to and difficulty with daily maintenance and the way to display. Then, 2 conservators who worked to restore the Imperial carriages on display at the Railway Museum talked about actual restoration work done on the objects. It was worthy of special mention that an expert of industrial cultural heritage from Taiwan reported the Imperial carriages that were produced and left in Taiwan under Japanese rule between 1895 and 1945.
The study meeting focused on not only the technical viewpoint of conserving railway cars, but also their cultural value in terms of the history of art and craft. The meeting had over 53 attendees and ended with a lively question and answer session with the presenters.