|■Tokyo National Research
Institute for Cultural Properties
|■Center for Conservation
|■Department of Art Research,
Archives and Information Systems
|■Japan Center for
International Cooperation in Conservation
|■Department of Intangible
(Workshop for young local specialists)
Manuha Temple Group, No.1 Temple
The restoration work implemented from July to August, 2018, at Me-taw-ya (No. 1205) Temple, which is a brick temple at the Bagan Archaeological Site in Myanmar, was continued during the period from January 14th to February 3rd, 2019, and the outer wall of the brick temple was restored mainly to protect the mural paintings from rain leaks. The restoration of the damaged area caused by the 2016 earthquake is still ongoing in Bagan, and local specialists have asked us for advice on creating repair strategy in line with current conditions and on restoration methods. In response to this request for assistance, we conducted a workshop for five local conservators and five engineers and discussed solutions while listening to their issues.
Meanwhile, we conducted a study on mural painting techniques and iconography in Myanmar. We collected detailed information particularly on works from the heyday of Bagan in the 13th century. We also visited towns such as Amin and Anayn along the Chindwin River, where many mural paintings from the 17th–18th centuries can be found. Research on existing mural paintings in Myanmar has been largely completed and we will reflect the results of the study in the restoration methods.
This time, we heard from some of local specialists that quite a few of continuing international projects for cultural property protection conducted by foreign countries are difficult to actually establish and that few post-earthquake preservation activities lead to a solution of the fundamental problem. While we have implemented our work until now with such awareness, we will put further efforts into proposing more practical improvement measures and transmitting sustainable restoration techniques.
Dismantling and restoring of a damaged spire
Field study of art history and iconography
From January 23rd to February 13th, 2018, we carried out conservation and restoration work on the outer walls of Me-taw-ya Temple (No.1205), a brick temple at the Bagan Archaeological Site in Myanmar, aiming primarily at protecting mural paintings from rain leaks. Our work during this mission focused on restoring the pinnacle’s of the temple damaged by the earthquake on August 24th, 2016, as well as conserving and restoring the stucco decorations left on the dome of pagoda. While in Bagan, we also held a workshop for young conservators at the request of the Bagan Branch, Department of Archaeology and National Museums, the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture of Myanmar. In this workshop, we provided technical training on how to use restoration materials, with the aim of helping young conservators to better understand the characteristics and effects of each restoration material through actual restoration processes.
In addition, we conducted studies on art history, iconography and the evolution of mural painting techniques in Myanmar, Since we were finished, for the time being, with the studies on mural paintings from the 11th to 13th centuries, the prime of mural paintings, in our earlier missions, we left Bagan and headed to Phowintaung Cave and Kinmun Village near Monywa to study mural paintings from the 17th to 18th centuries, which can be described as the “revival period.” Through these field studies, we were able to gather a great deal of information.
On February 9th, we visited UNESCO Yangon Office, and explained what we, at Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, have achieved so far through our conservation and restoration work as well as our studies of Me-taw-ya Temple. The officials at the Yangon Office highly commended us for our consistent project that focuses on the conservation of mural paintings and for our processes of promptly starting the restoration of earthquake-damaged areas. We and the UNESCO Yangon Office agreed to share information and develop a cooperative relationship from this point forward.
We have now completed the restoration work in the areas severely damaged by the earthquake. From fiscal 2018 onwards, we will gradually shift our focus from the restoration of the damaged areas to the project’s original purpose, which is the conservation and restoration of the outer walls to protect mural paintings from rain leaks. We will continue to work on developing effective policies for conserving and restoring the Bagan Archaeological Site through extensive discussion with local experts.
Practical training on investigation of the lacquer objects
Practical training on observation of cross-section samples using a microscope
The Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation held a lacquerware workshop at the Lacquerware Technology College in Bagan, Myanmar, as part of the project ʻProtection and Conservation of Cultural Properties in Myanmarʼ Bagan is a major production area for lacquerware. The above-mentioned college is working hard to train young lacquerware specialists to pass down local traditions and techniques. A lacquerware museum is attached to the college, where many cultural properties are housed. On the other hand, they need knowledge and skills related to the conservation and restoration of their cultural properties and scientific research on materials.
Twelve college teachers and the museum curators participated in the workshop held from February 6th to 8th, 2017. The participants were provided with practical training and lectures on investigation and scientific analysis which are essential for the basis on conservation and restoration of lacquerware. In the practical training, each participant was required to visually examine and take notes on three pieces of Japanese lacquerware and one from the museum collection, followed by a discussion about their uses, materials, techniques and condition of damage. Finally, the comments and explanations were given by the instructor. In the scientific analysis part of the practical training, the participants prepared and observed by themselves cross-section samples. Fragments detached from actual lacquerware were embedded in synthetic resin, and the well-polished samples were then observed using a microscope to understand the structure of the lacquer coating. To cover the practical training, lectures were also provided to introduce a case study of conservation and restoration, along with prevalent methods of scientific analysis.
The aim of the workshop was to provide the college teachers and curators with experience that would help them to protect the cultural properties in Myanmar.
Waterproof sheet covering the damaged areas
Lashing belt reinforcing the structure
From February 5th to 28th, 2017, at Me-taw-ya (No. 1205) temple in the Bagan Archaeological Site in Myanmar, the experiments with restoration materials and techniques were carried out in order to establish restoration methods for outer wall of brick temples, mainly aiming at protecting mural paintings from rain leakage. The previous surveys raised the issues to be resolved: the selection of appropriate restoration materials and methods considering aesthetic appearance of the monuments. Repeated discussion with the staff members of the Bagan Branch, Department of Archaeology and National Museums, Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture of Myanmar, resulted in a meaningful exchange of ideas about concrete restoration methods. On the other hand, explained in detail by local experts, a study was conducted to get the information about the changes of techniques and iconography, related to mural paintings which are the principal subject of this project.
During the field work on site, a series of significant damage was detected to the temple structure, caused by the earthquake measuring M6.8 that struck central Myanmar on August 24th, 2016. Consequently, the remedial intervention was taken on the damaged areas, partially rescheduling the first planning. In the Bagan Archaeological Site, obviously rain leakage is the crucial cause of deterioration of the brick temples and mural paintings which decorate their inside. Lashing belts were employed to reinforce the structure, along with nets and waterproof sheets to prevent collapses and water penetration, taking into account the approaching rainy season.
The results of chemical analysis of various materials used during the construction period will provide the criteria for revising the restoration methods introduced in the past and for studying the compatibility between new and old materials. Also, a plan will be made with local experts for new restoration methods adapted to the current situation of the Bagan Archaeological Site.
Practical training on making a material sample book
Practical training on Ryukyu decoration techniques
The Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation holds these workshops every yearas part of the project ‘International Courses’. Urushi objects are an important part of collections inmuseums around the world, and a certain amount of knowledge and techniques are required in their handling. These workshops contribute to better conservation and restoration of cultural properties by enhancing theunderstanding of materials and techniques used for urushi objects.
Two advanced workshops, ‘Investigation, Storage and Exhibition Conditions of Urushi Objects’ from November 30th to December 3rd, and ‘Finishing and Decoration Techniques’ from December 6th to 10th, 2016, were held at the Museum of East Asian Art, Cologne. Both of the workshops had been renewed to cover more specialized contents, and the conservators attended the workshops from several countries around the world. The first workshop provided lectures on storage and exhibition conditions of urushi objects and a storage tour of the Museum of East Asian Art led by the Director of the museum. The practical training sessions covered investigation of the urushi objects which belong to the museum collection and allowed the participants to understand various materials such as wooden substrates, various types of urushi and ground layers by making a materials’ sample book. In the second workshop, a specialist in Ryukyu lacquerware from the Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts gave lectures about the history and the decoration techniques. In the practical training, the prevalent decoration techniques of Ryukyu lacquerware were presented. The participants also experienced roiro-age, which is one of the final step of urushi coating, to understand the finishing process of Japanese urushi objects.
A series of workshops will be planned and continued to be held in the future, taking into account the opinions and wishes of the participants and the related staff members to contribute to the conservation and restoration of urushi objects.