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

Detaching the Mural Paintings of Kitora Tumulus

Detaching a mural painting with a wire-saw
Current state of the ceiling of Kitora Tumulus (The purple part shows the exposed stone.)

 The Center for Conservation Science and Restoration Techniques has been detaching the mural paintings of Kitora Tumulus as part of a project entrusted from the Agency for Cultural Affairs. Currently, there is concern about the spread of deterioration in the stone chamber due to microorganisms. Since there is an urgent need to detach the mural paintings, it has been decided to conduct detachment continuously for one month rather than to do the work for three days every month.
 The first stage of detachment started on May 11 and most of the painting on the south side of the ceiling was detached effectively. We were able to irradiate UV-C successfully to control microorganisms since all the areas where pigments had been applied had already been detached. Based on our success in this work, the next stage of detachment is planned for this autumn.

Investigation of Anti-mold Measures in Mezurashizuka Tomb

Investigating status of restoration

 We gave instruction and advice and participated in a survey to conserve and restore the Mezurashizuka Tomb, a special historical site. The Mezurashizuka Tomb is one of the decorated tombs in which patterns were drawn using red and gray pigments.
 In time, the tomb mound was lost, but the stones used for the chamber became exposed, with the surroundings protected by walls. A large amount of mold had formed on the surfaces of stones in these walls, and it was found that the pigments were unclear. Our preliminary survey for full-scale restoration work consisted of sampling the mold and using ultraviolet rays and brushes to try to remove it. We also measured the temperature on the surface of the stones and the amount of moisture using a near-infrared moisture meter, and examined the effects of disposal on the stones. As a result of this investigation, full-scale restoration work will be carried out in the next year.
 Both emergency treatment and middle and long-term conservation measures, including the environmental control within the walls, have been requested.

Finishing detachment of painting of constellations on ceiling at Kitora Tumulus

Detaching painting of constellations
Ceiling after painting of constellations was detached

 The National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo is now engaged in the detachment of wall paintings from the Kitora Tumulus, as part of the project Survey on Conservation of Kitora Tumulus, a Special Historic Site entrusted from the Agency for Cultural Affairs. In July 2007, we started to detach the painting of constellations from the ceiling, and we finished the operation at the end of November, 2008. The status of plaster over the painting of constellations varied in different positions, as did work on the ceiling, so we had difficulties detaching the work. However, we eventually detached it as a total of 113 pieces of plaster. The completion of this work means that all paintings confirmed in the stone chamber have now been detached, including the paintings of the four guardian gods of the directions and the twelve horary signs. Hereafter we plan to detach the unpainted plaster around the painting of constellations. We will then combine the detached plaster pieces to reform the painting of constellations with plans to exhibit in the future.

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