Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties Center for Conservation Science
Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation
Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage


Japan-Indo Cooperative Research Project for Painting Techniques, Constituent Materials and Conservation of the Mural Paintings of the Ajanta Caves in the framework of the “Networking Core Centres for International Cooperation on Conservation of Cultural Heritage” (funded by the Agency for Cultural Affairs)

Indian conservation specialist explains the blackened mural paintings due to darkened shellac varnish.
Members of the preliminary mission of the Institute and ASI Ajanta Field Office.

 The National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo plans to start a cooperative project with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) aiming to share and exchange knowledge, expertise and experience on materials and techniques of conservation at Ajanta site. Prior to the project, a preliminary mission was sent to India between 25 September and 3 October 2007 in order to establish a project working plan at Ajanta and to create a common basis with ASI as a counterpart.
 The Ajanta Caves are located in a great arc cut by the curving course of the Waghora River. Approximately 30 caves were cut in the basalt cliff as Buddhist monasteries and decorated with exclusive paintings and sculptures. Most of the paintings show yellowish tint colour due to past restoration works, thick shellac varnish coatings, by Italian and Indian conservators. Various severe biological causes such as bat excrements and microbiological growth make the paintings invisible.
 This cooperative project aims to provide information concerning the manufacturing techniques and technologies as well as to challenge the establishment of suitable conservation methods and materials to these particular conservation problems at the Ajanta site.

Conservation training program for Iraqi experts

Invited Iraqi experts

 Since 2004, the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation has been conducting a training program for Iraqi experts to rehabilitate the conservation laboratories of the Iraq National Museum (INM). This program is a part of the Cooperation Project for the Conservation of Cultural Heritage in West Asia and the UNESCO/Japanese Funds-in-Trust project, Restoration of the Laboratories of the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad.
 In 2007, the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation has invited four experts between 19 September and 12 December 2007: Ms Faeza M. Jumaah (INM), Ms Taghreed H. Khudhair (INM), Mr Sinan A. Yunis (Nineveh Museum), and Mr Jamal A. A. Ismael (Nasiriyah Museum). The program focuses on the conservation of wooden objects and is conducted at the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo, the Institute in Nara and Shizuoka Research Institute for Buried Cultural Heritage.

Research for the “Expert Meeting on Cultural Heritage” in Central Asia

Interview on the public system for the protection of cultural heritage in Tashkent

 As a part of the study on the public system for the protection of cultural heritage, the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation is conducting research on the Central Asia region this year. From 9th to 16th September, a mission was dispatched to Tashkent (Uzbekistan) and Almaty (Kazakhstan) to conduct survey of the current situation of the public system purposing for the protection of cultural heritages in Central Asia and to prepare for the expert meeting on cultural heritage which is planned to be held in Central Asia next March. During the mission, meetings with representatives from local authorities and UNESCO were held in order to collect relevant information and conduct needs assessment.
 After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, independent Central Asian countries have been facing a wide range of issues, from public system to field work, on conservation of cultural heritage. Through this research, common concerns on cultural heritage preservation within the area have been disclosed, such as conservation and management of archaeological sites, conservation environment of artifacts and human capacity development. Moreover, it was agreed that, under cooperation with those countries, an international workshop with experts from Japan and Central Asian countries would be held in order to share information and to transfer technology.

On-site investigation in Thailand and Cambodia

Assessment on the effect of conservation treatment of a brick structure (Ayutthaya site, Thailand)

 The Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation conducted joint research in Thailand and Cambodia with the Fine Arts Department of the Ministry of Culture of Thailand and the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap (APSARA) respectively.
 In Thailand, on-site investigations were conducted at Sukhothai and Ayutthaya sites. At Sukhothai site, measures against moss and algae growing on the great Buddha of Wat Sri Chum were studied and experimented; at Ayutthaya, investigation was made to assess conservation treatment executed three years ago on a brick structure.
 In Cambodia, investigation of vegetation growing on the surface of stone cultural heritage was conducted at Ta Nei site. Sandstone in the vicinity of Mt. Kulen, the quarry from where the stones of Angkor site were obtained, is also being investigated.

Completion of the four-month dispatch of trainees to Dunhuang

The trainees speaking about their training, at Dunhuang Academy

 In the 5th phase of the joint research and project between the Dunhuang Academy and the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo, the dispatch of Japanese personnel to Dunhuang to receive training was realized for the first time. The aim of this program is to provide training at the Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes in order to develop personnel who will actively participate in the conservation of mural paintings overseas in response to increasing demands for international cooperation in this field. In the program, which officially started this fiscal year, three graduate students spent 4 months from May 13 receiving training at Dunhuang: Sato Yuki, a doctoral student at the Graduate School of the Tokyo University of the Arts (painting conservation); Fujisawa Akira, also a doctorate student at the same university (conservation science); and Suemori Kaoru, a doctorate student at the Graduate School of the University of Tsukuba (cultural heritage management, art history). For four long months, they stayed at a housing facility at Dunhuang and received comprehensive training related to the conservation of mural paintings including such matters as analytical studies, investigation of the conditions of deterioration, practical work in conservation treatment, reproduction of mural structures and paintings, while making the most of each one’s knowledge in his/her field and filling in where others lacked. The valuable experience at the site is a sign of the success of the training program itself, but at the same time it is hoped that for each of the three trainees the experience will bring great influence on their future studies and work. The three trainees were also able to nurture deep friendship with many of their peer researchers and specialists at the Dunhuang Academy. This training program is scheduled to be held for three more years.

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Director Arak SUNGHITAKUN of the Fine Arts Department, Ministry of Culture of the Kingdom of Thailand visits the Institute

Director Arak SUNGHITAKUN visits the Institute (fourth person from the right)

 Director Arak SUNGHITAKUN of the Fine Arts Department, Ministry of Culture of the Kingdom of Thailand visited the Institute on August 21. He was in Japan from August 20 to 26 upon invitation from the Japan Foundation. He visited the Institute as part of his tour of inspection on activities related to the conservation of cultural properties in Japan.
 At the Institute, he met with the Director General and then continued to visit the various facilities of the Institute. At the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation, he consulted with researchers on such matters as the way for continuing the joint research between Thailand and Japan, which is currently being undertaken, in the future and the preparation for the international conference that is scheduled to be held in Thailand during the next fiscal year.

Publication of the inaugural issue of TOBUNKENNEWS DIGEST

The inaugural issue of TOBUNKENNEWS DIGEST

 The inaugural issue of TOBUNKENNEWS DIGEST has been published. TOBUNKENNEWS DIGEST is the English version of TOBUNKENNEWS. However, rather than being a simple translation of TOBUNKENNEWS (Japanese version), we will make a careful selection of articles to be included so that it may serve as an official bulletin published twice a year by the Institute for overseas readers.
 Just as the purpose of TOBUNKENNEWS is to communicate to the public the various activities of the Institute in a way that is easy for everyone to understand, in TOBUNKENNEWS DIGEST we will endeavor to communicate to readers overseas, in a similar way, various activities of international cooperation that the Institute promotes.
 The activities of the Institute in 2006 are summarized in the inaugural issue. From now on, two issues will be published each year in order to communicate the activities of the Institute as promptly as possible. We sincerely hope that TOBUNKENNEWS DIGEST will play a role in communicating a part of the work of international cooperation promoted by the Institute.

Publication of the Annual Report and Profile

Annual Report 2006
Profile 2007

 The Annual Report for the fiscal year 2006 and the Profile for 2007 have been published. The Annual Report is published each year to introduce comprehensively the various activities executed by the Institute during the previous year. The Profile, on the other hand, introduces in English and Japanese the various activities that the Institute plans to execute during the present fiscal year. Materials are presented visually to make it easier to understand these activities.
 The Annual Report and Profile are distributed to national and prefectural museums, galleries and libraries of universities that offer studies in fields related to cultural properties. They are also available in PDF file from the Institute’s website.
 The Profile, in particular, is also distributed to the public along with TOBUNKENNEWS at Kuroda Memorial Hall and the Institute.

Toward the publication of A Study of Art Exhibitions of the Showa Era (Pre-World War II)

Exhibition of Japanese Art held at Rome in 1930 Many works by such leading Japanese painters as Yokoyama Taikan were exhibited in tokonoma (alcoves) constructed at the exhibition site.

 As a part of its research project “Comprehensive Research on Modern and Contemporary Art,” the Department of Research Programming is making preparations toward the publication of A Study of Art Exhibitions of the Showa Era (Pre-World War II) in 2008. This publication is a collection of articles on major art exhibitions held during the pre- World War Showa era, the data of whose exhibits have been published in 2006 in the Catalogue of Exhibits from Art Exhibitions of the Showa Era (Pre-World War II volume). Editorial meetings were held twice, in September 2006 and May 2007, and arrangements were made with prospective authors. Consequently, a total of 29 authors, most of whom are young researchers, have been asked to contribute articles from the point of view of their respective disciplines. At the core are the trends of exhibitions and art groups. But various genres such as paintings and sculpture, prints, photographs, craft art as well as themes particular to pre-World War II Showa era, such as proletariat art and war art, will be covered. Thanks to significant development in research in recent years, it appears that this publication will be a substantial study both quantitatively and qualitatively. We plan to hold workshops by the authors in order to exchange opinions so that the publication may be of high quality.

Lectures at the International Seminar for Traditional and Ritual Theatre (Tehran)

Lecture at Beethoven Hall during the Iranian Artist’s Forum (Aug. 22)
Performance at the City Theatre Café (City Theatre of Tehran BF1) (Aug. 25)

 Researchers of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage were asked by the Dramatic Arts Center of Iran to give lectures at the International Seminar for Traditional and Ritual Theatre during the Iranian Artist’s Forum (August 20-22, Tehran). Ijima Mitsuru spoke on “Bunraku: Traditional Japanese Puppet Theatre” and Hyoki Satoru on “Folk Performing Arts and Traditional Festivals in Japan.” They also attended an informal discussion at the Iranian Academy of the Arts and exchanged opinions on such matters as future cooperation in research.
 The Seminar was held prior to the 13th Tehran International Ritual-Traditional Theatre Festival (August 23-28). During the festival, various performing arts were presented at many places in Tehran by players from different places, mainly from Iran and neighboring countries. Various performing arts of the Middle East that cannot be seen by foreigners were presented. In this sense, too, it was very meaningful.

Liaison meeting of the Center for Conservation Science and Restoration Techniques

Liaison meeting of the Center for Conservation Science and Restoration Techniques

 With the integration of the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties and the National Museum in April of this year, the former Departments of Conservation Science and Restoration Techniques were integrated to form the Center for Conservation Science and Restoration Techniques. At the same time, research staff in charge of conservation at four National Museums and the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Nara have been assigned concurrent positions at the Center. On August 3, the first liaison meeting was held at the Small Hall of the Institute in Nara and 28 people participated. At the meeting, staff of the National Museums and National Research Institutes for Cultural Properties were introduced, outline of this year’s projects were presented and information was exchanged. Diverse opinions, such as a request to the Institute for cooperation in conducting scientific investigation of objects stored at museums, were expressed. Prior to this meeting, an on-site study was conducted of the condition of excavation of the floor stones and of the insulated, air-conditioned conservation facility at Takamatsuzuka Tumulus. The participants also had the opportunity to see the wall paintings that had been taken out of the tumulus and moved to a facility for their conservation. All in all, it was a very meaningful liaison meeting.

Conservation of the wall paintings of Kitora Tumulus, a Special Historic Site

Detaching the painting from the ceiling

 The National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo is engaged in the conservation project for the wall paintings of the Kitora Tumulus, a Special Historic Site. This is a project that has been entrusted to the Institute from the Agency for Cultural Affairs. In this project, the inside of the stone chamber is inspected regularly to protect the wall paintings from microorganisms and the wall paintings on the plaster are being detached from the stone walls.
 At the Kitora Tumulus, paintings of the four guardian gods of directions and the twelve horary signs on the side walls have already been detached; only the ceiling and the painting of the constellations remain at the site. In July a part of the painting of the constellations had fallen and was found on the floor. Investigations that followed revealed that there are several tens of places where the risk of exfoliation is high. Thus, the painting is in a very serious condition. So the Institute has started to detach the paintings from places where there is great danger of its becoming falling.

Exhibition of the wall paintings of the Kitora Tumulus in the lobby of the Institute: on the detachment of the paintings and restoration work

Exhibition of tools used to detach the wall paintings

 An exhibition concerning the detachment and restoration of the wall paintings of the Kitora Tumulus, a Special Historic Site, is being held in the lobby of the Institute. There are panels with photographs and illustrations that provide information about the Kitora Tumulus itself and the conservation project. In particular, explanation is given, in order, of the entire process of the conservation of the wall paintings, from their detachment from the site to treatments given in preparation for a special exhibit. In addition, samples of plaster made in order to select tools for use in detaching the wall paintings and the tools themselves are exhibited.

Preservation of the Buddhist Monastery of Ajina Tepa, Tajikisitan

UNESCO International Steering Committee Meeting in Tajikistan

 The 3rd International Steering Committee Meeting of the “Preservation of the Buddhist Monastery of Ajina Tepa, Tajikisitan” funded by UNESCO/Japanese Funds -in-Trust was held on 28 August. The project aims at preserving the Buddhist Monastery of Ajina Tepa, a building complex of earthen structures constructed with pisé or bricks. The Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation has participated in this project since 2005 and conducted archaeological investigation, such as sounding for identification of the extent of the site, and cleaning of debris at the site.
 In several expert meetings and the International Steering Committee Meeting the future direction of the project was discussed, based on the working activities conducted so far and the present state of the site. Several points for improvement regarding the preservation of the earthen wall were pointed out and will be examined further. Installation of a shelter for the protection of a stupa was abandoned and covering the stupa with mud plaster was debated instead. Tajikistan authorities expressed their appreciation for activities conducted by Japanese experts and requested the continuation of the work. In response to this request, the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation hopes to cooperate in the archaeological work that should be carried out prior to the preservation of the site.

Condition survey of mural paintings in Tajikistan

Conditions of mural pieces which were detached during the USSR period; storage room of the National Museum of Antiquities, Tajikistan.
In situ condition survey of murals from Penjikent at the National Museum of Antiquities, Tajikistan.

 Preliminary condition survey of mural painting pieces which are currently stored at the National Museum of Antiquities, Tajikistan took place between 23rd and 30th August in a framework of the “Cooperation Project for the Conservation of Cultural Heritage in West Asia.” In Tajikistan, most of the conservation activities were initiated by Russian conservators until 1991. However, since the dissolution of USSR, major issues of Tajikistan’s conservation have been related to lack of human and monetary resources for research and conservation. Furthermore, since most of the conservation methods and techniques are based on those of the Russians, which are not up to the current methods in conservation, urgent technical support from foreign countries such as Japan and Europe is required.
 The National Museum of Antiquities, Tajikistan owns outstanding mural paintings from Penjikent, Shafristan and other sites depicted by Sogdians who are known as active merchants of the 6-8th centuries AD. In its storages, some hundreds of detached paintings from archaeological sites have been piled and left for over 40 years without any proper treatment. Especially after USSR’s dissolution, all excavated/detached pieces have been left untreated within Tajikistan. These detached paintings reflect an ethical issue, above all, against such thoughtless measure of ‘detachment’ from their original locations as well as technical issues such as the darkening of synthetic polymers that were used as consolidants in the past.
 In order to protect and preserve such important murals, urgent support is required in the training of local conservators with expertises in the field of conservation.

Progress report on the joint research of Cave 285 of the Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes

Analysis using portable x-ray fluorescence

 A great number of mural paintings remain at the Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes. However, those that can be observed today with the naked eye have deteriorated significantly due to the passage of time. Compared with their condition at the time of their creation more than one thousand years ago, these paintings have changed greatly – colors have changed or faded and pigments have become detached and lost. Conservation of these paintings involves the elucidation of the mechanism of their deterioration and the treatment of the paintings to prevent further deterioration. Determining the original methods and materials as well as the factors that led to their present condition is essential in considering the method of their conservation. At the same time, it is also quite important in reviving the value of the paintings. Only when both are fulfilled can it be said that cultural property is truly protected. In the Japan-China joint research project, comprehensive study of these paintings is conducted. This includes observation by normal light, raking light, infrared ray and ultraviolet fluorescence photography; detailed non-destructive analysis using digital microscope, portable x-ray fluorescence and Raman spectroscope; detailed analysis of the techniques and materials as well as the condition of deterioration by micro-sampling; and detailed observation of the condition of deterioration by conservation specialists. Through such a study, the use of a great amount of organic coloring materials and the special condition of the deterioration of the mural paintings of Cave 285 (first half of the 6th century), which were not known until now, are beginning to be clarified. Moreover, radioactive carbon (14C) dating of the stone chamber and provenance study of the lead-based pigment by lead isotope ratio analysis are conducted in an attempt to do research with a large area of the Silk Road in view.

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Study of Sotan

Research folders in the filing cabinet
Folder on Sotan taken out of the filing cabinet

 As part of its “Research on Materials for the Study of East Asian Art” project, the Art Research Materials Section of the Department of Research Programming is conducting basic study of Sotan (1413-1481), the official painter of the Ashikaga shogun family during the Muromachi period. Last fiscal year, we first made a comprehensive collection of materials related to Sotan which we compiled into an archive that will serve as the foundation for our study. In executing this work, we used the method of the pre-World War II ”Corps of East Asian Arts” project that produced comprehensive results concerning some painters of the Muromachi period as reference. In the process of this work we were able not only to confirm what may be called the “universal usefulness” of the method of ”Corps of East Asian Arts” for the purpose of forming a foundation for research but also to confirm the fact that the various kinds of archives related to art history which were formed intermittently from before the war and continue to be formed from time to time even now and which are found at the Institute are still effective today.
 This year by studying each material in detail and by making a general judgment of the collected materials, we are improving the quality of the materials so that we may achieve a closer and more accurate understanding of Sotan. The process of this phase of the project was presented at the 2nd In-House Research Seminar (July 10, “Study of Sotan” by Watada). Many parts of this presentation delved into more details when compared with the content of the public lecture given on October 28, 2006 (“Sesshu and Sotan” by Watada). We plan to publish the results of our study in The Bijutsu Kenkyu (The Journal of Art Studies).

“Kuroda Seiki: Master of Western-style Paintings of Modern Japan,” a regional exhibition for 2007

Pamphlet for “Kuroda Seiki: Master of Western-style Paintings of Modern Japan”

 “Kuroda Seiki: Master of Western-style Paintings of Modern Japan,” the regional exhibition for this fiscal year, began on July 21 at The Hiratsuka Museum of Art in Kanagawa prefecture and will continue until September 2. It is the Shonan district where this Museum is located that Kuroda frequently visited after his return from France and until his last years. It is also a place that played an important role in his creative activities. As is well known, after his return from his studies abroad, Kuroda influenced the art world by painting works that actively incorporated new plein air expressions. Some of such works were created at places near Hiratsuka, such as Oiso and Kamakura. For this reason also, this exhibition aims not only to introduce the art of Kuroda in general but also to provide an opportunity to allow many people to see the relationship between Kuroda and the Shonan district, by exhibiting “Rocks by the Water’s Edge” (1896) the subject of which is the Shonan district.

Study of the Kishu Tokugawa family collection of musical instruments owned by the National Museum of Japanese History

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage started a joint research with the National Museum of Japanese History on the Kishu Tokugawa family collection of musical instruments that the Museum owns. These instruments, mainly ones used in gagaku, were collected by Harutomi, 10th Lord of the Kishu Tokugawa family. The Museum owns more than 157 instruments, many scores and related documents, and published an illustrated catalogue of these materials in 2004. Based on this catalogue we plan to conduct a more detailed study with experts on traditional Japanese musical instruments. The study of wind instruments that began from July has revealed the possibility that the nokan, or the transverse flute used in noh, called “Gasho” is the “Kokyo no Nishiki” mentioned in Meikanroku, a list submitted to the Tokugawa shogunate in the late 18th century of famous transverse flutes.

Seminar Course for Museum Curators

Participants identifying pests

 The Seminar Course for Museum Curators that was started in 1984 is held annually to provide curators with basic knowledge of and techniques for conservation. This year, the 24th Seminar Course was held from July 9 to 20 with thirty-two curators from Japan participating.
 The Seminar Course consists of lectures and practical work. Lectures were given on such topics as the museum environment (including temperature and humidity as well as pest control), deterioration of various types of cultural properties and its prevention. In the practical work, the participants learned about various methods of analysis using apparatuses and applied what they learned in a practical case study held at the Yokohama History Museum. Also this year, the participants heard a lecture on the conservation of materials and visited exhibition rooms and restoration studios at the Tokyo National Museum.
 Because many of the lectures in this course are natural scientific in nature, some of the contents may have been confusing for the participants, many of whom specialize in the humanities. However, every year we try our best to make the content as easy to understand as possible. Moreover, the sense of unity that develops among the participants who spend two weeks together in the same room is strong, and they continue to exchange information even after the Seminar Course by using a mailing list that they form during the two weeks. In this way, they contribute greatly toward improving the conservation environment of their respective museums.

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