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

Collaboration with European experts for the conservation and restoration of stone cultural heritage

Seven-story stone pagoda at Kandani Shrine
Survey of similar cases for the conservation and restoration of stone cultural properties in Europe

 Stone is a material that mankind has utilised for cultural life since ancient times. It has a wide range of uses, including as tools, building materials, and sculptures, many of which are classified as stone cultural heritage and have been handed down through conservation efforts. Although the definition of stone as cultural heritage differs between Japan and the rest of the world, various efforts have been made to conserve and restore stone materials around the world. In particular, Europe, known as having had ‘stone culture’ as opposed to Japan’s ‘wood culture,’ has been leading the world in advanced research and studies, and the results of these studies can be used for the conservation of stone cultural heritage in Japan.

 Many stone cultural heritage objects are conserved outdoors, as they are more durable than timber in terms of hardness and stability. Therefore, they are often subject to deterioration and loss due to external factors such as weather, natural disasters, and the surrounding environment, and it is necessary to take measures from a variety of perspectives when considering their conservation. This is why it is important to look at many examples, share the problems with experts in each field, and carry out research to find solutions.

 On February 16, 2024, we visited Kandani Shrine in Sakaide City, Kagawa Prefecture, to conduct a survey for the conservation of the seven-storey stone pagoda standing on the shrine grounds. The stone pagoda, built of lapilli tuff, is in a very poor state, with the base eroded by rainwater, and cracks and losses are visible. The situation was shared with European experts, and on March 1, 2024, we held meeting in Florence with Italian national conservators of cultural properties regarding a survey of similar examples and a research plan.

 In the future, we will engage in research that will lead to improvements in the current state of conservation and restoration of stone cultural properties in Japan.

A Research Survey into Stucco Decorations and Clay Statues (Part 3)

Hall of the Five Hundred in Palazzo Vecchio
Comparative study of marble sculpture and clay statues using 3D

 The Japan Centre for International Cooperation in Conservation is involved in a research survey on stucco decoration and clay statues under the research project “Technology for the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage” program.

 As part of this project, we visited Florence from February 26 to March 2 and from March 10 to March 12, 2024, to carry out a survey of a statue by the late Renaissance and Mannerist sculptor Giambologna, ‘Florence triumphant over Pisa,’ in collaboration with the Superintendency of Archaeology, Fine Arts and Landscape for the metropolitan city of Florence.

 This work, which is currently on display in the Hall of the Five Hundred in Palazzo Vecchio facing Piazza della Signoria, was originally created as a prototype for a work in marble, and a marble work based on it is on display at the National Museum of the Bargello. In this study, the shapes of the two pieces were compared using 3D scanning as part of the verification of the production technique. In the future, the research will move on to focus on the internal structure, which is important for the production of the clay statues.

 There are many clay statues existing in Japan and overseas, but surprisingly, methods for their conservation and restoration have not yet been established. We will continue our activities with the notion that relevant research surveys will lead to the development of conservation and restoration methods.

Joint Research for the Conservation of Mural Paintings in Istria, Croatia

Investigation of the condition of mural paintings in a church using a checklist
Discussions with local experts

 In Istria, located in the northwestern part of Croatia, numerous mural paintings were painted in churches from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. Although there are as many as 150 such paintings in Istria, there are serious problems with their maintenance and management. To improve this situation, the Japan Centre for International Cooperation in Conservation is conducting a research project to establish a method for documenting the state of conservation in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Croatia, the Historic and Naval Museum of Istria, and the University of Zagreb.

 From March 4 to 8, 2024, we visited the site, prepared a checklist for the conservation status of the mural paintings, and conducted an implementation test on two churches located in the center of the Istrian Peninsula, with the aim of ensuring that experts engaged in the conservation and maintenance of the mural paintings would be able to efficiently utilize the information. As a result, we were able to obtain accurate information in a short period of time and confirmed that the information could be used to develop a policy for the future conservation of the murals paintings.

 In the future, we will discuss the content of the checklist items to make it more complete and aim to build a digital archive through repeated implementation tests.

Research study on the conservation and restoration of trowel paintings on the earthen storehouse of the former Kina-Saffron-shu-Honpo

Cleaning of adhering materials
Treatment of detached finish layers

 The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has been conducting research and surveys investigating stucco decorations since fiscal year 2021 as part of the “International Research on Technology for the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage” program.
 From October 25 to November 16, 2023, a research survey on the conservation and restoration of trowel paintings on doors and under eaves of the earthen storehouse of the former Kina-Saffron-Shu-Honpo in Nagaoka City, Niigata Prefecture was conducted. This work was carried out as part of the “Conservation and restoration research of trowel paintings in the earthen storehouse of the former Kina-Saffron-Shu-Honpo” commissioned by Nagaoka City, with the aim of establishing conservation and restoration methods for trowel paintings in Japan from the perspective of cultural property conservation studies.
 In recent years, the value of trowel painting in Japan as a cultural asset has been increasing, and the importance of an intervention method called “conservation and restoration” that can be advanced with clear evidence that it is compatible with existing materials is therefore also increasing. In this research study, conservation and restoration experts on stucco decoration were invited from Europe to discuss how to deal with the various types of damage found on trowel paintings. As a result, we were able to establish appropriate conservation and restoration methods for the removal of dust and other adherents and for damaged areas such as peeling and flaking, and achieved a certain level of success.
 In the future, the state of the wall paintings after conservation and restoration will be monitored, and methods for reinforcing the plaster, which has deteriorated over time, will be studied further.

Survey for the development of a conservation and restoration research plan at St. Michael’s Church (Keşlik Monastery)

Exterior view of St Michael's Church
Cleaning tests for soot stains

 Cappadocia, located in Central Anatolia, Republic of Turkey, was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1985 as Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia, as a result of long-term erosion of the tuff plateau. More than 1,000 rock churches and monasteries had been built, and mural paintings were painted on the inner walls of these churches and monasteries.

 Last year, a preliminary survey was conducted with Ankara Haji Bayram Veli University to establish a joint research project on the conservation and restoration of cultural properties, and as a result, it was decided to target the mural paintings in St, Michael’s Church (in the Keslik Monastery). In response, we visited the site from June 15 to 22, 2023 and conducted a survey aimed to establish a research plan. Research issues were then identified, such as the removal of soot stains covering the mural paintings surfaces and the conservation treatment of plaster layers that had detached from the bedrock support.

 In the future, while sharing research issues with local experts, we will continue our activities to contribute to the conservation and restoration activities of cultural heritage in the Republic of Turkey.

Preliminary investigation on joint research for the conservation of wall paintings in Istria

St.Nicholas Church
The Church of St. Mary on skriljinah

 Istria is a peninsula that is largely located in northwestern Croatia, with some parts governed by Slovenia and Italy. Istria has a history of frequent changes in rulers: the Roman Empire in ancient times, the Venetian Republic in the Middle Ages, and the Habsburg Empire in modern times.
 In this region, the practice of beautifying churches with wall paintings flourished from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, giving birth to numerous remarkable works. Unfortunately, the need to preserve this heritage was recognized only in the late 19th century in the wake of the activities of the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s Commission for Research and Conservation of Art and Historical Monuments. Later on, in the 20th century, after several wars and conflicts, the political situation finally calmed down after 1995 and the Croatian government established the Croatian Conservation Institute for cultural heritage. This led to a joint investigation by the Institute and the Archaeological Museum of Istria, and the term “Istrian-style wall painting” was coined as a general term for murals unique to this region.
 From March 1-7, 2023, with the assistance of Dr. Sunčica Mustač of the Historic and Naval Museum of Istria and Associate Professor Neva Pološki of the University of Zagreb, we visited about 20 major churches in Istria to conduct field research on the wall paintings. In the process, technical cooperation was sought for the creation of a data archive on production techniques and conservation conditions, as well as for the study of conservation and restoration methods for the future. In the Istria region, there are approximately 150 surviving church wall paintings have been confirmed to exist. With the desire to pass on this irreplaceable cultural heritage to future generations, we will work to establish international collaboration while building networks with experts in related fields.

Conclusion of the Cooperation Agreement with the Department of Pure and Applied Sciences of University of Urbino Carlo Bo

Courtesy visit to Rector Calcagnini
Campus Facilities

 Italy is home to numerous cultural heritage sites and has been at the forefront of the conservation and restoration efforts undertaken to maintain these sites. The Department of Pure and Applied Sciences of the University of Urbino Carlo Bo is one the educational institutions in Italy that has made many contributions in the field of conservation science.
 Recently, the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties concluded an agreement with this department to enter into research cooperation for the conservation and restoration of cultural heritages. The content of the agreement is comprehensive, targeting cultural properties around the world. The agreement aims to foster cooperation in scientific investigation and in development of techniques and materials for the formulation of conservation and restoration plans. Furthermore, a mutual exchange of researchers through events such as workshops is envisioned.
 On February 17, 2023, I visited the University and exchanged opinions with Rector Giorgio Calcagnini regarding the future cooperation.
 Also, under the guidance of Prof. Maria Letizia Amadori, Department of Pure and Applied Sciences, I toured the university facilities and had the pleasure of learning about an analytical study on cultural heritage preservation that is currently being undertaken.
 In the future, through research cooperation that utilizes the expertise of both institutions, we hope to go beyond simply collecting analytical data, and develop activities that will lead to concrete preservation of cultural heritages.

Research on Earthquake Reconstruction Activities in Italy

Damaged cultural properties in the collection
First aid treatment

 Since 2017, the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has been carrying out a cooperative project to improve the conservation management system for cultural properties in the Republic of Turkey. On February 6, 2023, an earthquake centered in southeastern Turkey occurred, causing extensive damage mainly in Turkey and the Syrian Arab Republic, and affecting the state of preservation of cultural heritage. Obviously, for the time being, humanitarian aid should be prioritized. However, in the near future, it is anticipated that international support will also be needed for conservation and restoration of cultural properties.
 Meanwhile, Central Italy suffered a series of major earthquakes in 1997, 2009, and 2016, and recovery efforts for damaged cultural heritage are still ongoing. The investigation was conducted from February 13 to 16, 2023, in the regions of Marche and Umbria, with the aim of learning how to respond to possible future contingencies, as well as to consider future support for Turkey and Syria, which have similar cultural heritages. Located in the city of Spoleto, the Sainte Quiord Art Collection was built following the 1997 earthquake as a shelter for cultural properties in the event of a natural disaster and as a place to provide first aid.
The facility still houses approximately 7000 pieces of damaged cultural properties, and emergency measures are being taken by nationally certified conservators.
 Through repeated experience, Italy has developed an organizational structure and procedures for rescue operations immediately after a disaster and for subsequent handling of the situation. There are many things to be learned from countries that continue to make advanced efforts in disaster recovery and reconstruction activities related to cultural properties. We would like to continue our research and use the learnings in our future activities.

Preliminary Survey for Joint Research on the Conservation of Wall Paintings and Archaeological Objects in Luxor, Egypt

Survey at the conservation and restoration site of the rock-cut tomb wall paintings
Survey of a case for conservation and restoration at the site (Temple of Hathor)

 Luxor is where the old capital Thebes was located during the New Kingdom period within the chronological division of ancient Egyptian history. Within Luxor, in the Valley of the Kings, Egyptian pharaohs such as Thutmose I and Tutankhamun were buried. Luxor also has many surviving mortuary temples, including the Karnak Temple Complex. These archaeological sites were inscribed on the World Heritage List as the “Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis” in 1979. They were evaluated as important archaeological ruins that demonstrate a lost civilization. Egyptology, research regarding Egyptian Civilization, stemmed from Napoleon Bonaparte’s 1798 French Campaign in Egypt. Since then, research has been actively conducted on an international scale. Interesting outcomes and reports have been made available annually, and will continue to be published. Luxor is one of the targets of these studies. Excavation surveys are actively conducted at various sites in Luxor, where archaeological complexes and objects are continuously discovered.

 The challenges associated with continuous discoveries are the conservation and utilization after archaeological surveys. In recent years, it has become mandatory that the sites and archaeological objects discovered by excavation surveys must be conserved and maintained as cultural properties for local tourism promotions. However, there are many cases in which inadequate emergency treatments are made under time and budget constraints, often damaging the sites and archaeological objects.

 We conducted an on-site survey, targeting the Luxor Museum and West Bank rock-cut tomb sites from December 12th to 24th, 2022, to explore the possibilities of supporting the improvement of these situations. As a result, we were asked for cooperation by local experts to discuss maintenance methods regarding the conservation and management of archaeological objects housed in the museum, and on conservation and restoration methods of the wall paintings of rock-cut tombs in the principle that they would be conserved at the original sites. We will continue the survey to narrow down the research theme of urgent needs and targets to bring it to the international team co-working on this project.

Investigation of Coloring Materials Used for Kina-Saffron-Shu-Honpo Kote-e Kura (Warehouse Decorated with Trowel Paintings)

Kina-Saffron-Shu-Honpo Kote-e Kura
Flaking and chipping

 Kina-Saffron-Shu-Honpo Kote-e Kura in Nagaoka City, Niigata Prefecture was completed in 1926 by the plasterer KAWAKAMI Ikichi. The artwork was commissioned by YOSHIZAWA Nitarō, the founder of Kina-Saffron-Shu-Honpo (i.e., Kina Saffron Winery). The kote-e* (plaster reliefs) are mainly positioned around eaves and doors of the warehouse structured of lumber and with mud wall. The kote-e reliefs are three-dimensional representations of Daikokuten (Japanese deity of fortune and wealth) and animals and plants, and were created with the impasto technique mainly using plaster. The use of red and blue colors in the reliefs creates a contrast that enhances the three-dimensional visual effect.

 Although these kote-e are placed in a harsh environment with exposure to rainfall and wind, they have remained in a relatively good condition considering that they were created almost 100 years ago. This can be attributed to the efforts made by people to protect the artwork and hand down it to generations as well as to the characteristics of the plaster and the ingenious plastering techniques.

 Nonetheless, some damage such as flaking and chipping of plaster and color can be seen in every kote-e on careful observation. Hence, responding to the request by Nagaoka City, the owner of the warehouse, Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) visited the site on November 11th, 2022 and conducted sampling investigation of color and plaster as a part of pre-investigation for conservation and restoration, which has been deemed necessary for the near future. Sampling investigation is conducted by extracting small samples from the target materials; this practice is also described as “destructive investigation.” Although the word “destructive” may indicate something “bad,” it is not so. Sampling investigation enables us to obtain reliable information that cannot be obtained by simply checking the surface. Therefore, destructive investigation, in fact, enables safer and superior conservation and restoration.

 We will effectively utilize the outcome analysis of this investigation for planning the conservation and restoration project so that the Kote-e Kura, which has been maintained by prior generations, can be passed down to future generations and it remains well-preserved for at least another 100 years.

*Kote-e: colorful Japanese plaster reliefs created using a trowel

Investigation and Research on the Conservation of the Plaster Remaining in Stone Chambers and Sarcophagus in Tumuli

Plaster remaining in the stone sarcophagus

 The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) visited the Oichi No.1 Kofun (tumulus) in Fukuyama City, Hiroshima Prefecture and investigated the conservation status of the plaster remaining in the stone sarcophagus, in cooperation with the Culture Development Section, Economic Environment Division of Fukuyama City, on October 20th, 2022. Plaster, a type of construction material used for tumulus construction, requires specific knowledge and techniques regarding all processes from manufacturing to application. Therefore, it is a precious archaeological material which shows how technology was transferred when those tumuli were constructed. Hence, regardless of the coloring and/or decorations on it, plaster conservation is considered important and implemented in many cases outside Japan. Though there are more than 40 tumuli where plaster usage is confirmed in Japan, they are not widely known like Takamatsuzuka and Kitora Tumuli. While most of these tumuli were designated as cultural properties, plaster conservation measures are rarely taken up; the plaster is left to erode due to weathering and flaking every day.

 The Oichi No.1 Kofun keeps the highest percentage of plaster in Japan. We wonder why it is not designated as a cultural property. Furthermore, it does not just keep the plaster, but we can even identify plaster application traces, which were considered to be made when the plaster was applied during the tumulus construction in the area, where the conservation status is good enough. It can be a precious clue to identify the tools used during the construction. In this investigation we discussed sustainable measures for plaster conservation based on the confirmation of its conservation status and environment, by considering the sense of morality on the cultural property conservation and restoration including material adaptability and aesthetic appearance.

 Utilization of the cultural properties is required now more than ever. It is time to revise the methods of passing down the cultural properties to future generations in the given situation. The plaster remaining in tumuli is one of these cultural properties. We will discuss further the appropriate measures for conservation and methods to maintain and manage it for its future utilization by revising the current situation where the plaster has been decaying and lost, while also referring to the similar advanced cases in and outside Japan.

Preliminary Survey of Cultural Property Restoration in the Republic of Türkiye

Wall paintings of Keslik Monastery
Wall paintings of the Ephesus ruins

 The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) conducted a preliminary survey to establish a joint research project related to the restoration of cultural properties in the Republic of Türkiye. This joint research project aimed to make sustainable improvements in the operational methods and techniques of conservation and restoration plans. These issues were raised through the “Human Resource Development Project toward the Improvement of the Conservation and Management System for Mural Paintings in the Republic of Türkiye,” conducted by TOBUNKEN from 2017 to 2019. In Türkiye, emergency treatment has been prioritized for cultural property conservation. However, the country recently started focusing on the development of conservation and restoration experts specializing in various materials.

 We visited several regions of Trabzon, Şanlıurfa, and Cappadocia and some cities including Selçuk, and discussed with local experts conservation status and methods for conservation and restoration of cultural heritage. At Keslik Monastery, a Christian monastery located in the southern part of Cappadocia, the wall paintings on the inner walls are covered with thick soot layers from candles used in liturgical services over 1,000 years. The restoration of these wall paintings to their original condition was desired from the perspectives of both their protection and their touristic value. At the Ephesus ancient Roman ruins, members of the Austrian Archaeological Institute, who have been excavating there for a long time, explained to us that it is necessary to revise the current inconsistent conservation and restoration methods and to conduct research for the sake of establishing a basic policy.

 Researchers from Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli University, who cooperated with us on the Human Resource Development Project previously mentioned, accompanied us on this survey. We will identify what challenges shall be tackled based on the survey outcomes and build an implementable joint research framework with each cooperating institute. We target the next fiscal year to start this joint research to lead to the further development of cultural heritage protection and conservation and restoration activities in the Republic of Türkiye.

Cooperation to Set Up and Display for the Special Exhibition: POMPEII

Displaying a wall painting “Macedonian prince with a philosopher”

 The Tokyo National Museum is currently holding the Special Exhibition: POMPEII from January 14th to April 3rd, 2022. The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) cooperated on the condition survey of the artifacts for the exhibition (wall paintings, mosaics and marble statues) at the display setting prior to the opening of this exhibition.

 Pompeii is a city built in the Roman period, located about 23 km southeast of Naples, a city in the south of Italy. In 79 AD, a major eruption of Mount Vesuvius, located between Naples and Pompeii, buried the city with volcanic ash and pumice in a twinkle. Time has passed; the city of Pompeii was rediscovered in 1748. Full-scale excavation was started then. Many buildings, wall paintings, and artifacts of that time have been unearthed. About 150 pieces came to Japan from the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, which holds a vast collection of artifacts excavated from Pompeii. These attract many museum visitors.

 We had a chance to watch the set-up process at the exhibition venues, which we rarely experience during our usual work. In usual cases, experts from the museums owning these artifacts accompany them. However, they could not come to Japan due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thereafter, the entire exhibition set-up was left to the staff members of the Tokyo National Museum, and the experts in fine art transportation and display. The operation is far from easy, since special attention has to be paid, not to damage the pieces while simultaneously considering exhibit conditions best tailored to audiences. There is a wall painting weighing several hundreds of kilograms amongst the pieces listed for the exhibition. It was a very good opportunity for us to realize that the exhibitions we usually visit without giving them special attention can only be accomplished due to the sincere efforts of many people.

Understanding the Progress in the Technical Support Provided to the Bagan Archaeological Site in Myanmar

Conserved and restored parts are maintained in good condition (middle and upper parts), and plants have grown in the parts that remain unrestored.

 Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has been working on a technical support and skill development project for the conservation and restoration of wall paintings and exterior walls of the temples composed of bricks, targeting the staff in the Bagan branch of the Department of Archaeology and National Museums of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture of Myanmar. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and deterioration of Myanmar’s general situation have hindered our onsite work for some time. In such circumstances, we are conducting online meetings every two months to understand the status of the Me-taw-ya and Lokahteikpan temples, which are the target sites for the conservation and restoration project. We continue to provide advice for their maintenance and management by referring to the site photographs sent to us by the local staff.

 The current status of the Me-taw-ya temple was reported at the meeting held on December 19th, 2021, informing that its restored parts have remained in good condition since our onsite activities were halted, which was two years ago. In the Bagan Archaeological Site, other organizations (prior to the involvement of TOBUNKEN) had repeatedly restored the joint plaster and adopted countermeasures against rain leakage. However, in most of the cases, the restoration materials were damaged within a year. Additionally, in 2021, the heavy rainfall caused disastrous damages to the structure.

 For this project, we have been closely working with the local experts by listening carefully to their concerns and conducting relevant research to address them. The restoration materials introduced by TOBUNKEN have remained in good condition for 5 years, showing no damage even at the oldest parts. Thus, it is important to carefully monitor the progress after the restoration and to work on the restoration. Despite the frustration at being unable to work onsite because of the current situation, the proven effectiveness of the conservation and restoration to sustain over multiple years is a source of constant motivation for us.

 Thus, while we continue to extend our full cooperation to the local staff, we remain hopeful about resuming our onsite work shortly.

A Research Survey into Stucco Decorations and Clay Statues (Part 2)

“Dio Fluviale”, a clay statue by Michelangelo Buonarroti, the restoration of which was completed in 2017
Stucco Decorations in the 17th century (Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta)

 The Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation has been conducting research and surveys investigating stucco decorations in fiscal year 2021 as part of the “International Research on Technology for the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage” program, which offers grants for research expenses. On September 11th, 2021, we held a second discussion with experts from Europe involved in the conservation of stucco decorations.
 In this discussion, the use of glue made of seaweed and “Kami Susa” (binder made of “Washi” – Japanese paper – and used as part of plaster) attracted participants’ interest. These materials began to be made in order to control the plaster thickness and prevent plaster from cracking in the Edo era, when the demand for plaster walls increased. While many creative techniques and materials have been developed in Europe, where there is a long history of stucco decorations, their materials are different from those in Japan. Thus, we agreed to add the data of additives, which have been used in each country and region, as well as in different periods, as the comparative target items in our ongoing research and create a database of them.
 In relation to these findings, we plan to pursue our research on how the constituents included in various additives chemically affect stucco decorations. Different materials, their natures, and the techniques used to create stucco decorations, have different impacts on the deterioration due to aging as well as how the decoration is damaged over a long period. These studies are extremely important for determining the most suitable methods for their conservation and restoration.
 This research and survey began with the focus on stucco decorations. However, our deep analysis of their history enabled us to recognize the close relationship with clay statues. We plan to expand our research on the clay statues that share many common materials and creation techniques and pursue research on how to conserve them and preserve their heritage in the most suitable ways.

A Research Survey into Stucco Decorations

A Kote-e by Chohachi Irie (Zenpuku-ji Temple, Tokyo)
Stucco decoration in the Ticino style

 Stucco decorations are distinct in their form and purpose, and they can be found in various parts of the world. The Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation began research and surveys investigating stucco decorations in fiscal 2021 as part of a the “International Research on Technology for the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage” program, which offers grants for research expenses. The purpose of this program is to track how stucco decorations have been propagated to different regions as they repeatedly evolve and deteriorate in quality, and to understand and verify how efforts are being made to conserve and restore these decorations in different countries today. On May 29, experts involved in the conservation of stucco decorations, mainly in Europe, participated in an online discussion.
 In an exchange of opinions, the topic of stucco decorations in the Ticino region of Switzerland were introduced, which laid the foundation for stucco decoration in Europe from the Mediterranean coastal regions and from the 16th to 18th centuries. From Japan, we introduced what we have learned from our research so far, including kote-e (plaster relief paintings) made using traditional plaster, the stucco techniques and materials that were popularized alongside pseudo-Western-style architecture, which imitated Western architecture from the end of the Edo period to the Meiji period, and also the current maintenance status of these works.
 Participating experts expressed surprise that many common points can be found in techniques and materials across different countries and time periods. They also agreed to jointly study methods for conservation and restoration aimed at improving the current situation, as there are many similarities regarding maintenance and management issues.
 In the future, while continuing with our research surveys in Japan, we will recruit overseas research collaborators, and expand the scope of our research domains. In addition, we would like to accumulate information through exchanges of opinions and the sharing of research results, deepen understanding of stucco decorations, and opening a forum for the consideration of how to both conserve them and pass them down to future generations.

Meeting for Technical Support at the Bagan Archaeological Site in Myanmar

Research on the folklore pertaining to wall painting iconography
Investigation to evaluate the state of wall paintings damaged by pests

 Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties is providing technical support and human resource training to restore wall paintings and the exterior walls of brick temples at the Bagan Archaeological Site in Myanmar. The decision to register Bagan as a world cultural heritage site was made at the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee in 2019. In response to this decision, the “Bagan International Coordinating Committee (BICC)” was set up to work on improving the conservation system. The Committee is making arrangements for holding an international conference annually for information sharing and mutual adjustment so as to better utilize the initiatives taken in each support-providing country.
 To collect information on such changes in local situations, we visited the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture of Myanmar (Naypyidaw) and the Bagan branch of the Department of Archaeology and National Museums from January 15th through 31st, 2020, and exchanged opinions on the direction of the future cooperative project. Responding to expectations of further technical assistance to local experts, we agreed to continue with our support activities.
 In addition, research on the folklore pertaining to wall painting iconography was conducted following the previous one in July 2019. On-site investigation was also carried out to evaluate the state of wall paintings damaged by pests and to discuss countermeasures. With respect to the iconographic research, we gathered information showing the relation between the acceptance of Buddhism and an indigenous belief specific to Myanmar from local intellectuals. Also, to find the influence of the indigenous belief on wall paintings, we collected detailed examples primarily from Bagan. We now plan to expand the scope of this research beyond Bagan. Furthermore, the investigation of wall paintings damaged by pests revealed their destruction by termites and potter wasps. Therefore, we plan to conduct detailed research to establish countermeasures suitable to the local environment.
 The Institute will continue providing technical support and undertaking research activities based on the opinions of local experts for comprehensive conservation of cultural properties at the Bagan Archaeological Site.

Surveys on Post-Quake Reconstruction Activities and Conservation of the Ruins in Italy

Church of Santa Maria Paganica (La chiesa di Santa Maria Paganica) in L’Aquila
Well-Maintained Street at Pompeii

 Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has been providing technical assistance to Myanmar for its restoration project covering the areas devastated by the earthquake in 2016, as well as the conservation and restoration work for the wall painting at the Bagan Ruins. During our visit to Italy on October 9th-27th, 2019, we conducted surveys in L’Aquila City and Pompeii Ruins, where post-quake reconstruction activities and conservation efforts have been in progress, so as to emulate the model in the improvement plan for Bagan.
 Reconstruction activities have been continuing in L’Aquila even 10 years after an earthquake struck the Abruzzo Region in 2009. According to the experts engaged in the project there, around 50% of the affected areas have just been reconstructed. Since many of the devastated building structures have murals and decorative stucco, the restoration planning requires multiple points of view. As a result, the complicated project delayed the progress of the restoration work. However, since the reconstruction activities took these aspects into consideration, the conservation of the historical landscape has been remarkable.
 On the other hand, the maintenance project covering a vast area at the Pompeii Ruins has been underway for more than 100 years. We exchanged opinions with the Archaeological Superintendency of Pompeii on how we should deal with conservation and restoration policies as times change, as well as the difficulties in the comprehensive maintenance of the entire site.
 In this survey, we reconfirmed the importance of planning from a comprehensive viewpoint for the conservation and restoration of cultural property consisting of multiple elements. To pass down the vast site to the coming generation, maintenance effort, which is the best way to minimize the burden on the cultural heritage, is important. In the field survey planned for Bagan in January 2020, we will report the outcomes of these surveys, while also repeatedly consulting with local experts about protection activities suitable for the ruins.

Technical Support to Restore Wall Paintings and Exterior Walls of Brick Temples at the Bagan Archaeological Site in Myanmar

Hands-on training at the site to restore the wall paintings
Surveying the wall paintings

 The Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation is providing technical support and human resource training to restore wall paintings and the exterior walls of brick temples at the Bagan Archaeological Site in Myanmar. On-site training session for staff members of the Bagan Branch, Department of Archaeology and National Museums, Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture of Myanmar was conducted at two different temples from July 11th to July 27th, 2019.
 At Me-taw-ya Temple, a training session on how to repair exterior wall joint material, replace deteriorated bricks, and mix repair materials was carried out. Drainage measures were discussed as accumulated rainwater dissolved the existing wall joint material and resulted in water seeping into the temple.
 At Loka-hteik-pan Temple (project name: Conservation and Restoration of Temples Mural Paintings in the Bagan Ruins in Myanmar), where restoration activities were conducted in association with the Sumitomo Foundation, problems created by past repairs—commonly noticed in temple wall paintings of the Bagan Ruins—were explained, and training sessions on reinforcing colored layers using inorganic repair materials and repairing colors were organized.
 Research on the folklore pertaining to wall painting iconography began alongside this training program. To explain the non-Buddhist elements and characteristics specific to Myanmar found on wall paintings, detailed examples were collected primarily from Bagan. Information on the historical background of each of these wall paintings was also gathered from the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture of Myanmar employees and related people from these temples. Hereafter, we plan to expand the scope of this research beyond Bagan.
 The decision to register Bagan as a world cultural heritage site was made at the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee. As tourists are expected to increase in the future, efforts to maintain the relics must be improved. This issue was raised at the expert committee session convened by the Bagan Branch during the support period. Requests were also made to increase participants for the training program sponsored by Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, and for technical instruction at the archaeological sites. Hereafter, the Institute will continue to exchange opinions with local experts and provide technical support and human resource development programs.

Training for “Examination and Implementation of Emergency Procedures for Wall Painting Conservation” Held in the Republic of Turkey

Group photo of training course participants
Fieldwork at Ala Church

 The Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation conducted the training for “Examination and Implementation of Emergency Procedures for Wall Painting Conservation” last June 11th–15th, 2019. The training targeted conservators and restorers from national conservation and restoration centers in the Republic of Turkey.
 Following the inspection of the result of the workshop for experiments with restoration materials conducted in the previous training program, teachers from a wide range of specialty fields such as geology, structural design engineering, and art history were invited to the final training program (4th training program). The teachers were requested to consider comprehensive emergency procedures from the perspective of the various elements comprising the rock-hewn church, including the wall paintings, as forming a complex of cultural heritage. To verify what participants learned, fieldwork involving the creation of a hypothetical project plan to make emergency procedures on the wall paintings found at Ala Church in the Ihlara Valley was included in the training activity. On the last day, the training course came up with three themes arrived at based on the information gathered on the site: “environmental conservation,” “wall painting techniques and materials,” and “wall painting damage and emergency measure.” A discussion on the content of the presentations on these themes ensued. Following the training course, a questionnaire passed among the participants revealed a common sentiment: ”we reaffirm the importance of ’maintenance,‘ which we have largely ignored during the performance of our daily work duties.“
 Over the course of three years, this project that has sought to improve the conservation and management system for wall paintings in the Republic of Turkey has today reached a milestone. While nurturing the network created between Japan and the Republic of Turkey in the course of this project, we hope to continue our endeavors aimed at contributing to the conservation of cultural heritage.

to page top