Since the previous fiscal year, the Institute has been conducting a joint investigation and research of the national treasure Hikone Byobu with the Hikone Castle Museum. For over 100 years, this painting had been disassembled and mounted as six separate panels. Moreover, there were stains and the pigment layer was progressively flaking. Due to these reasons, two years were spent in conducting full-scale restoration as a part of the System for Protecting Cultural Properties and under the guidance of the Agency for Cultural Affairs. As a result, the painting was remounted as a folding screen. Since the restoration has been completed successfully, an exhibition of the restored folding screen was held as a part of the memorial project for the 400th anniversary of the construction of Hikone Castle. Part of the results of optical investigation conducted on this painting was also introduced in large panels during the exhibition, which was held from September 28 to October 26. Detailed images that allow one to observe the delicate and microscopic expressions brought about by extremely outstanding painting skills as well as directions for colors and under-drawings invisible to the naked eye attracted many visitors and were well-received by them. Presently, a report on the results of the investigation is being prepared for publication by the end of this fiscal year.
There were not many researchers like Pelliot who investigated the documents in the caves where they were actually discovered.
Preparations are being made now at the Department of Research Programming for the International Symposium on the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Property that the Department will hold next fiscal year. After repeated discussions among members of the Department concerning the theme for this Symposium, it has been decided to look at cultural properties again with “the original” as the key word. For instance, although in the world of cultural properties “the original” is always an object of admiration, as is evident in activities related with reproduction, people’s understanding of what “the original” means varies from time to time and region to region. In such circumstances, we hope to tackle the question of how we are to transmit cultural properties to others, especially from the point of view of cultural archives with which the Department is concerned.
As a result of five discussions held before establishing the theme, it was decided to hold workshops on matters associated with “the original.” The first meeting was held on September 26 and Nakano Teruo (Department of Research Programming) presented a case study on the authenticity of documents on Dunhuang. These documents were found stacked in big piles at the Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes in 1900 but were later taken out of China repeatedly by adventurers and researchers from abroad. For this reason there are confusions concerning these documents, including the question of their authenticity. The group then held discussions on Dunhuang studies with Kato Masato of the Center for Conservation Science and Restoration Techniques serving as a commentator. On October 3, the group discussed the differences in the concept of “the original” between tangible and intangible cultural properties, focusing on bunraku and other classic performing arts, with Ijima Mitsuru of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage. In this discussion it was confirmed that in the case of intangible cultural properties the “original” is a matter that cannot be ignored in transmitting cultural properties for there is always the question of what is “the original” – is the way of the first performance in past history “the original” or is each performance considered “the original”? We hope to hold workshops on this theme from time to time and to develop them into the International Symposium next year.
This fiscal year the Department plans to publish a report on the results of multi-faceted research on Kuroda Seiki’s Lakeside (Important Cultural Property, 1897, oil on canvas) as part of the Department’s research project “Research on Materials for the Study of East Asian Art.” With this purpose in view, 6 experts from outside the Institute were invited on October 12 to a conference that was held to present an interim report. Presentations were made on topics related to this widely known painting, such as the background for its creation, history of its evaluation, history of the actual creation of the painting and the present condition of the painting, followed by active discussions. Much is expected of such in-depth and multi-faceted research on one work.
Investigation was made of the 49th Kinki, Tokai, Hokuriku District Folk Performing Arts Festival that was held on October 28 at the Kamitonda Cultural Hall in Kamitonda-cho, Wakayama prefecture. This was one of the many investigations of folk performing arts festivals that are held every year in various parts of the country that the Intangible Folk Cultural Properties Section of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage conducts from time to time. This year the operation of this festival had been reviewed and it was decided that the district would be divided into two and the prefectures in each sub-block would participate in the festival in alternating years. This year 8 groups from 6 prefectures participated. Since this was the first year in the new way, people were interested in how the festival would be operated. Fortunately, there was full-house attendance and comparatively sufficient performance time was secured in comparison with last year. Thus, the festival was confirmed to have been a success.
The Post-Seminar Course for Museum Curators is held once a year to curators who have completed the Seminar Course for Museum Curators that is held for two weeks every July in order to give them information about the most recent conservation techniques. This year, it was held on October 29 and 62 of the approximately 540 people who completed the past 24 Seminar Courses participated. During the Post-Seminar Course, 3 participants were asked to speak on the results of their respective museum’s work to improve the museum environment that was conducted in cooperation with the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties. Two researchers of the Institute provided supplemental comments and explanations. For the participants this was one of the few opportunities to learn about the actual situation at other museums. They listened with much interest, overlapping what they heard with their own work, and actively took part in discussions and exchange of opinions. For us, too, it was a joy to realize that the Seminar Course for Museum Curators and other activities of the Institute have born fruit. We hope to continue to communicate information related to the conservation environment.
The Center for Conservation Science and Restoration Technique of the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties holds a joint research on the effect of environmental pollution on cultural properties and development of conservation techniques with the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, Korea. In this research, investigation is made of stone cultural properties, particularly on the conservation of stone Buddhas. As a part of the project, a workshop is held once every year in alternating locations so that researchers may be able to discuss their investigation more closely.
This year, the workshop was held on Thursday, October 13 in the conference room on the basement floor of the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo. Researchers were invited from Korea and gave lectures on such topics as the diagnosis of deterioration and conservation environment of stone cultural properties and case studies on the removal of graffiti. Meaningful discussions were held by everyone on the conservation of stone cultural properties.
Following the workshop, all the participants visited the Kansai district to investigate the conservation condition of stone cultural properties and their surrounding environment. In spite of the bad weather, we were able to investigate and discuss many stone cultural properties within the limited time allowed. We hope to continue this type of joint research in the future and that we may be able to hold deeper exchange of research between Japan and Korea.
The four Iraq experts who arrived on 19 September, 2007 received several basic lectures on conservation science and practical training on conservation of wooden objects at the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo. They stayed in Tokyo from the end of September to the end of October and joined the practical training of conservation for waterlogged wooden objects from 29 October to 9 November at Shizuoka Research Institute for Buried Cultural Heritage.
At Shizuoka, the Iraqi experts experienced lifting fragile wooden objects during archaeological excavations at Sumpu site. They also studied conservation methods such as stabilization using PEG and vacuum freeze-dry method, cleaning, adhesion, and filling at the Shimizu Office of the Shizuoka Research Institute for Buried Cultural Heritage.
They will receive practical training on using various conservation equipments at the Institute in Nara. At the end of this training program, they will conduct a presentation of their works on 10 December, 2007 in Tokyo.
The third mission of Japan-Indonesia Cooperation Safeguarding Project of Prambanan World Heritage Site, a part of the“Networking Core Centers for International Cooperation on Conservation of Cultural Heritage” of the Agency for Cultural Affairs
The Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation cooperates in the project to support the rehabilitation of the Prambanan Temple Compounds, a World Heritage Site, that was damaged in the earthquake which struck central Java on May 27, 2006. With the completion of the construction of the scaffolding for Garuda Temple, undertaken by Grant Assistance for Cultural Grassroots Projects fund of Japan, the third mission was dispatched from October 22 to November 4, 2007. In this mission investigation centered on Garuda Temple, whose partial dismantlement has begun. In addition to checking the condition of damage of the upper part of the temple and the inner structure, documents related to past restorations were collected and studied, and interviews were held. Hangsa Temple, which is similar in structure to Garuda Temple, was chosen and monitoring by seismometer was started to elucidate the dynamic characteristics of the structure. These investigations were undertaken with the cooperation of the Archaeological Heritage Preservation Office Yogyakarta and Gadjah Mada University.
Now geometrically modified images of each of the sides of the temple are used to indicate the condition of damage of each stone, the method of restoration and areas of dismantlement in order to prepare a detailed plan for restoration that is within a standard which will make the estimation of the cost possible. Methods for structural reinforcement based on the results of analysis of the structural characteristics of the temple will be examined and a plan for restoration will be made during this fiscal year.
“Paper Cultural Properties,” a training course in the program for capacity building along the Silk Road project, begins
The joint program to train Chinese personnel engaged in the protection of cultural properties along the Silk Road was held from October 8 to December 27 at the China National Institute of Cultural Property in Beijing. In the “Paper Cultural Properties” course, the training course for the second half of 2007, experts on paper cultural properties from China and Japan gave lectures. From Japan 12 experts went to China for 10 weeks to give lectures on various topics related to paper cultural properties and guidance on practical work. There were lectures not only on the traditional materials and techniques of paper cultural properties as have been clarified by modern science but also on new western methods of conservation. Efforts were made so that the 12 participants from areas along the Silk Road might acquire much knowledge and experience.
In the conservation project for the stone statues of the tombs of Tang dynasty, which has been conducted jointly with the Xi’an Centre for the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage since 2004, a workshop is held once a year to which Chinese and Japanese experts come. This year, the fourth workshop was held at Xian from October 11 to 13. From China, researchers in charge of stone cultural properties from the Longmen Academy, with whom the Center also holds joint study on the protection of cultural heritage, participated. With the termination of projects with the institutes at Xi’an and Longmen next fiscal year close by and the restoration work entering its final stage, case studies were presented and discussions were held on the theme of “conservation techniques for stone cultural properties: methods for the conservation and exhibition of stone cultural properties – cosmetic treatment for the joints and the surface in the process of conservation” Mr. Ebisawa Takao (The Ethos), who is well experienced in the restoration of stone cultural properties, was asked to join from Japan.
Six students from Taito Junior High School, Okachimachi, Taito-ku visited the Institute on September 21. This visit was a part of their social studies program to learn about various types of work being undertaken in society. They toured the special exhibit on the first floor, the Library, a restoration studio and the Analytical Science Section of the Center for Conservation Science and Restoration Techniques, and the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation. Staff in charge of each section explained the work being done in their respective sections and answered questions from the students.
Twelve members of a study group on state-of-the-art technology from the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, Inc. composed of people from private enterprises, universities and organizations visited the Institute to see the portable x-ray fluorescence apparatus and to study about the conservation of the mural painting of Kitora Tumulus (Genbu). They toured the Analytical Science Section and the special exhibit on the first floor, received explanations from the staff in charge, exchanged opinions and asked questions.
Cooperative Program for the Conservation of Japanese Art Objects Overseas – On-site investigation by the painting team
The Department of Research Programming cooperates with the Center for Conservation Science and Restoration Techniques in its Cooperative Program for the Conservation of Japanese Art Objects Overseas, particularly from the art historical point of view concerning the restoration of Japanese paintings. Following the investigation held in Europe this spring, an investigation team composed of specialists in art history and conservation was organized with cooperation from the Department of Restoration Programming, Center for Conservation Science and Restoration Techniques and a conservator from outside the Institute. They visited museums on the East coast of the United States to select candidate works for restoration. On September 11 they visited the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut and on September 16 the Brooklyn Museum in New York. They were surprised that both museums have collections of Japanese art of high quality. Although they were able to see only a part of those collections in this visit, it was found that several outstanding works from the Nambokucho period to the late Muromachi period (mid 14th century – late 16th century) were in urgent need of urgent, full-scale restoration. Discussions will now be held between the museums and the Institute, and a few of the works will be restored as part of the program for the fiscal year 2009. Following this investigation, the restoration team visited the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and the Vancouver Museum in Canada to conduct additional investigation for candidate works to be restored during the fiscal year 2008.
This year’s regional exhibition, ”Kuroda Seiki: Master of Western-style Paintings of Modern Japan,” was held at The Hiratsuka Museum of Art from July 21 to September 2. A total of 12,746 people visited the museum during this period. The Shonan district where the museum is located was a place familiar to Kuroda Seiki from the time he returned to Japan from his study in France, and he has drawn many works on its ocean scenery. Since the exhibition was held at a place thus related to the artist, this year’s exhibition was well received by the public. On July 28 questionnaires were passed out to the visitors with the cooperation of the museum. Of the 279 visitors on that day, 161 persons (57 males, 95 females, 9 children; rate of response – 57.7%) responded. Individual comments like “There were many good works on display” and “It was good that we could see this exhibition at Hiratsuka” were given. In addition, the rate of satisfaction with the content of the exhibition in general was close to 100%, visitors choosing either “satisfying” and “rather satisfying.” Exhibition of works by Kuroda has been reopened at the Kuroda Memorial Hall from September 9. During the next year, exhibition is scheduled to be held at the Kobe City Koiso Memorial Museum of Art in Hyogo prefecture. We hope to do our best to make this regional exhibition more substantial than it was this year.
Data that can be retrieved from the database on traditional Japanese instruments (accessible from the website of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage since May) has been doubled and renewed. The database is based on information obtained through questionnaire survey on traditional Japanese instruments conducted since 2001. In addition to replies from the boards of education of the prefectures and municipalities, responses from museums throughout Japan have been included. Until now the data centered on instruments designated as cultural properties, but with this addition of data from museums, it has become possible to retrieve information about outstanding instruments and unusual instruments held by museums in various parts of Japan. Items and method for retrieval have not changed, but there are more data on instruments like shamisen, koto and tsuzumi., making formation retrieval more interesting.
2nd Ordinary Session of the Intergovernmental Committee on the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage
The 2nd Ordinary Session of Intergovernmental Committee on the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was held from September 3 to 7 at Plaza Heisei of the Tokyo International Exchange Center. At this meeting discussions were held on the Operational Directives related to the implementation of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which was started during the 1st Extraordinary Session of the Intergovernmental Committee held in May at Chengdu, China. Concrete results were obtained on many issues including, for example, the concrete schedule toward the first inscription of the Representative List of the Intangible cultural Heritage of Humanity and the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding in 2009. At this meeting, the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo acquired qualification as an official observer, and Inaba from the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation and Miyata from the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage attended the entire meeting.
Consultation with the Agency for Cultural Affairs is necessary whenever someone other than the owners wish to move national treasures and important cultural properties from places where they are kept to other prefectures and to exhibit them. When museums borrow cultural properties for the first time for exhibitions, the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo is commissioned by the Fine Arts Division, Cultural Properties Department of the Agency for Cultural Affairs to inspect the museum environment, including its temperature, humidity and indoor environment, and to submit a report. Each year about 20 to 30 environmental inspections are made, but the number is especially large during autumn when many special exhibitions are held. This year, 14 cases of environmental inspections have been conducted at museums in preparation for special exhibitions which are held mainly from September to November, and reports have been submitted. Museum environment thus inspected, materials of cultural properties to be borrowed, duration of the loan and exhibition are examined comprehensively and the suitability of the environment within the museum is judged.
Evaluation Seminar, 2007 of the International Course on the Conservation of Japanese Lacquer was held for a week from September 10. This international course on conservation is a joint project with ICCROM, whose headquarter is in Rome. Courses on urushi (Japanese lacquer) and Japanese paper are held in alternating years. Since this year was the fifth year of the course on urushi, the format was changed; instead of the regular course, past participants met to hold an evaluation seminar. On the first two days, 11 participants made presentations concerning how they are utilizing what they learned in the course in their current work while on the last 3 days, the participants went on a study tour to deepen understanding about urushi. Presentations by participants revealed cases in which the experience and knowledge obtained during the three-weeks’ course in the past are being put to use in the conservation of cultural properties made of urushi in various nations. This and the exchange of diverse information concerning urushi were extremely meaningful not only for the participants but also for us in conducting future courses.
An earthquake of magnitude 6.8, maximum JMA seismic intensity 6+ hit the Chuetsu district of Niigata prefecture at 10:13am, July 16, 2007. In addition to large scale damage including total or partial destruction of houses and the severing of infrastructure that occurred in Kashiwazaki city and its vicinity near the epicenter, many cultural properties were also damaged. The Center for Conservation Science and Restoration Techniques held an on-site investigation concerning the damage caused by the earthquake to cultural properties in order to obtain information about the condition of and factors for damage and to provide advice on emergency measures and future restoration plans. Investigation was conducted on September 4 and 5 at museums and built heritage in Nagaoka and Kashiwazaki cities.
A museum in Nagaoka was first investigated. Fortunately, much damage was not observed on the exhibited and stored objects including flame-style earthenware. An interview with a curator revealed that a reconsideration of methods of exhibition and storage based on the experience of the earthquake in 2004 had produced good results even though large quake was experienced in the city.
On the following day, investigation was conducted in Kashiwazaki, closest to the epicenter. The condition of overall damage was quite tragic, beyond comparison from that in Nagaoka, and the same was true of cultural properties, For example, the main hall of a temple had been totally destroyed.
Large earthquakes have occurred frequently in 2007, beginning with the 2007 Noto Peninsula Earthquake. The National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo will continue to conduct research on protecting cultural properties from disasters and to make efforts, through actively publicizing information, so that many more people would be aware of disaster prevention.
Cooperative Program for the Conservation of Japanese Art Objects Overseas – On-site investigation of craftwork
Based on the results of investigation conducted in July, Japanese art objects nominated as candidates for restoration during the next fiscal year were investigated at 2 museums in England (Victoria & Albert, Ashmolean Museum) and 1 museum in Germany (Museum fur Ostasiatische Kunst in Cologne ). The present condition of one object at the Victoria & Albert and 3 objects at the Ashmolean Museum were investigated in detail and discussions were held with the museums on problems that may arise in transporting the objects to Japan. We asked that sufficient care be taken when packing those objects that are significantly damaged even now with detached coating film and raden pieces and that have the possibility of becoming more damaged in the process of transport. At Cologne we received the objects to be restored there and handed them to the conservators whom we had dispatched. During this fiscal year an ornamental coffer in the collection of Museum fur Ostasiatische Kunst and a musical instrument (gekkin) from Museum fur Vokerkunde in Vienna are planned to be restored.
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)
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.