“Introductory Guide to Photographing of Cultural Properties—Practical Course of Photographing for Documentation of Cultural Properties” a Seminar at Hokkaido Museum of Northern Peoples

Explanation on how the focal distance of lens make differences
Photographing practice: lighting to a target object using an umbrella

 The documentation of cultural properties is fundamental to obtain the necessary information for research, conservation, and utilization. Photography, a type of documentation method, is mandatory to record visual information, including colors and shapes. Meanwhile, many factors need to be considered for photographing to record accurate information.

 With this background, the Cultural Properties Information Section of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information System held the seminar mentioned in the title targeting local government officers and museum staff involved in cultural property protection in Hokkaido, at Hokkaido Museum of Northern Peoples (Abashiri City) co-sponsored of the Museum and the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) on June 2nd, 2022. Protection measures were taken against COVID-19 including face masks, social distancing, and air ventilation.

 In the morning, lectures were delivered about the purposes of documenting cultural properties and the photographing. In the afternoon, at first, the methods of inventorying cultural property and their photographs were introduced using case studies. Then, the appropriate ways to manage lighting and other photographing tips were explained. As a practical exercise, all participants made reflector boards by attaching wrinkled aluminum foil to recycled styrene boards which had been used for signboards for exhibitions. Then, the participants photographed a carved wooden bear kept in the Museum, using their own cameras by modulating lighting. At the end, a Q&A session was conducted on photographing and inventorying photos as well as cultural property items.

 Handling shadows is challenging for many people in photographing cultural properties. This seminar addressed the appropriate methods to include natural shadow in natural directions using one light only by reflecting light toward appropriate positions for the characteristics of cultural properties or art objects using hand-made reflection boards and inexpensive equipment. Furthermore, several ways to organize and list photographs using the basic functions of Windows and Excel were introduced as we received numerous questions about this matter. We strived our best to make this seminar as practical as possible.

 This workshop was held this time after two years since it was originally planned due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We thank to the staff at the Hokkaido Museum of Northern Peoples and participants for their patience and precious opinions.

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