|■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
Examining utilization strategies with local experts
Yuwakha village in Punakha, one of the surveyed settlements
Since 2012, Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP) has been conducting joint architectural research on rammed earth buildings in Bhutan with the Division for Conservation of Heritage Sites (DCHS), Department of Culture, Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs, the Royal Government of Bhutan. From this fiscal year, TNRICP has started the Networking Core Centers for International Cooperation in the Conservation of Cultural Heritage Project, which was commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, with the objective of providing technical support and capacity building for the conservation and utilization of historic buildings in Bhutan. As a part of this project, a team of 11 experts, including TNRICP staff and outside experts, conducted on-site fieldwork from 20th to 28th August, 2019.
The field survey was jointly conducted with DCHS staff and covered traditional houses in the dzongkhags (districts) of Thimphu, Punakha, and Haa. The three main objectives were establishing a methodology for their conservation and repair, studying alternatives for their sustainable utilization, and clarifying the criteria for their evaluation as cultural heritage. Regarding the methodology for conservation and utilization, three traditional houses, which had been previously identified on the basis of features that indicated an early construction date, were selected as case studies. The potential methodologies for the seismic retrofitting of their rammed earth walls and the repair of their wooden members were studied. Furthermore, their potential use, compatible both with the owner’s demands and with the conservation of their value as cultural heritage, was examined during a discussion that involved DCHS staff, local architects, and owners. Regarding the evaluation of traditional houses as cultural heritage, comprehensive surveys were conducted in several settlements, and a potential method for the classification of traditional houses as well as a set of criteria for their designation as cultural properties was studied.
In addition, a Memorandum of Understanding referring to this project was signed at the Department of Culture, and a meeting was organized with the DCHS to discuss the results of this survey as well as the future prospects and needs of the Bhutanese counterparts.
In the future, we expect to continue cooperating with Bhutanese experts through on-site surveys and workshops to establish a methodology for the conservation and utilization of historic buildings suited to the Bhutanese reality.
Deliberation on Mozu-Furuichi Kofun Group
The exterior of the venue
The 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee was convened in Baku, Republic of Azerbaijan from June 30th to July 10th, 2019.
Twenty nine heritage sites, including Mozu-Furuichi Kofun Group in Japan, were inscribed on the World Heritage List at the session. This was the highest number of sites to be listed since the limit was established on the number of new sites the committee would deliberate on each year. This may seem like a good situation at first sight; however, of the inscribed sites, seven sites that the Advisory Bodies had originally considered did not meet the inscription criteria, but the decision was overturned and their inscription as heritage sites was confirmed at the committee session. For the past few years, as the committee’s decisions have been deviated from the counsel of the Advisory Bodies, the inscription of sites whose value and boundary are unclear has come into question, and it seems that this situation has still not been rectified.
Considering this situation, the decision to establish an ad-hoc working group to review the nomination and assessment process was made in the 2018 committee meeting. The contents of the decision were discussed at this year’s meeting, and it was decided that the nomination process would be a two-stage system and that a “Preliminary Assessment” process would be implemented as an initial step in the nomination process. It is anticipated that this Preliminary Assessment will stimulate a dialogue between the Advisory Bodies and States Parties in the early stages, which will raise the quality of nomination dossiers. Presently, the Preliminary Assessment is being considered as a necessary process for all States Parties, and granting States Parties the right to decide whether or not to continue with the subsequent nomination process, irrespective of the Preliminary Assessment, is also under deliberation. Nevertheless, this discussion including on the subject of the commencing time has only just begun. Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties will continue to scrutinize discussions concerning world heritage in general, and collect and transmit diverse information pertaining to the implementation of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.
Deliberation of “Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region”
“Qal’at al-Bahrain – Ancient Harbour and Capital of Dilmun,” a World Heritage Site in Bahrain
From June 24th through July 4th, 2018, the 42nd session of the World Heritage Committee was held in Manama, the capital of Bahrain. Staff members of this institute attended the session, and collected information on a variety of discussions over the World Heritage Convention.
During the deliberation of inscription on the World Heritage List, the Committee often adopted decisions against recommendations by the Advisory Bodies as with the previous year. Among the nineteen sites inscribed on the World Heritage List, the Advisory Bodies had determined that seven sites were not sufficient as World Heritage Sites. This year in particular, some of the sites on which non-inscription had been recommended by the Advisory Bodies were decided to be inscribed on the List by the Committee. Several States Parties attending the session as observers criticized the attitude of the Committee members referring to it as disregard for expertise.
The States Parties will also suffer adverse effects from ignoring recommendations from the Advisory Bodies. Forceful inscription will obscure the value of the sites, prevent establishing proper boundaries and eventually cause trouble in the conservation and management of the inscribed sites. In response to such unfavorable circumstances, the Advisory Bodies and the World Heritage Centre have made efforts to achieve mutual understanding and improvement in nomination details through dialogues with States Parties during the evaluation process. However, that has not achieved satisfactory outcomes so far.
Under the circumstances, “Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region” nominated by Japan, whose registration had been recommended by the Advisory Bodies, were unanimously decided to be inscribed on the List. Although their nomination dossier was submitted once in 2015, it was withdrawn considering the Advisory Bodies’ opinion, followed by its refinement over two years. As Japan realized this inscription with a huge amount of efforts through re-nomination, its sincere approach to implement the World Heritage Convention is highly esteemed.
Seminar in session
Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties held the World Heritage Seminar with the theme of “Process of Evaluating Nominations and Roles of the Advisory Bodies for Inscription on the World Heritage List” at the Institute’s seminar room on January 18, 2018.
This Seminar, held for the first time, is designed for local government officials in charge of matters related to World Heritage, and aims to provide information about the system of World Heritage and the latest trends as well as an opportunity for exchange of ideas. Focusing on the process of how the Advisory Bodies evaluate nominations, this year’s Seminar featured various speakers who discussed the actual details of what International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), in particular, does, from different perspectives.
First, Ms. Asuka SAKAINO from the Institute presented a report on the 41st session of the World Heritage Committee held in Krakow, Poland, in July 2017. Ms. Yoko FUTAGAMI, also from the Institute, then provided an overview of the World Heritage Seminar, and also described the evaluation process for the World Heritage List and problems with the current situation. Another speaker featured in the Seminar was Ms. Miki OKADERA, Chief Engineer of the Fukuoka Prefectural Government, who played a critical role in the preparation of the nomination file for the Sacred Island of Okinoshima and Associated Sites in the Munakata Region and addressed the evaluation by the Advisory Bodies. She talked about her journey through the entire process related to the nomination of the sites, which was examined during the 41st session of the World Heritage Committee and inscribed on the list. In addition, Prof. Nobu KURODA of the University of Tsukuba shared her insights into the site mission from a professional viewpoint, based on her actual experience as one of the experts appointed by an Advisory Body to conduct a site mission in 2006. Finally, Prof. Toshiyuki KONO of Kyushu University, who was appointed president of ICOMOS in December 2017, delivered a presentation on the roles of the Advisory Bodies from the organization’s perspective.
A total of 74 people attended the event, including officials from 29 prefectural or local government in charge of matters related to World Heritage as well as officials from the Cabinet Secretariat, the Agency for Cultural Affairs, and the Subdivision on World’s Cultural Heritage of the Council for Cultural Affairs.
The Institute will continue to host such Seminars to communicate information obtained through the study of World Heritage and provide opportunities for people to share information.
Appearance of the site
Deliberation under way
The staff members of the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP) participated in the 30th General Assembly of the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Properties (ICCROM) held in Rome, Italy, from November 29th to December 1st, 2017. ICCROM was founded based upon the decision at the 9th Session of the UNESCO General Conference in 1956. It is an intergovernmental organization with its headquarters located in Rome since 1959, especially characterized by covering a wide range of cultural properties, regardless of whether they are movable or immovable. It is well known as one of the three Advisory Bodies for the World Heritage Committee and is in a cooperative relationship with TNRICP over many years especially through training activities for preservation and restoration of cultural properties made of paper and urushi lacquer.
The General Assembly of ICCROM is held biannually. During the latest General Assembly, Dr. Webber Ndoro nominated by the Council to be a candidate for Director-General was elected to serve as the new Director-General starting January 1st, 2019. As Dr. Ndoro is the first Director-General from Africa, it is expected that ICCROM’s projects in Africa will be further activated during his term of office for a period of 6 years.
Further, as has happened in the past, an election was also held due to the expiration of the term of office for about one-half of the Council members. As a result of the election, the Council members from Belgium, Egypt, Sudan, Switzerland, and Germany were reappointed, while new Council members were elected from China, Dominica, Lebanon, Poland, Swaziland, the U.S., Portugal, and Russia.
In the thematic discussion, various cases were introduced under the theme of “Post-conflict Reconstruction – Recovery and Community Involvement.” From Japan, Prof. Toshiyuki KONO of Kyushu University made a presentation on reconstruction efforts of buildings in Japan after World War II.
TNRICP intends to continue working on collecting information on the international trends regarding preservation of cultural properties and widely transmitting the activities carried out in Japan.