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

Cooperation to safeguard cultural heritage in Myanmar(3)

Materials analysis using X-ray fluorescence (Bagaya Monastery)

 A survey of lacquer materials and techniques
 From January 15 to 23, surveys on lacquerware in Myanmar were conducted in Mandalay, Monywa, and Bagan. In Mandalay, a portable X-ray fluorescence analyzer was used to ascertain the traditional materials in and techniques used to produce lacquer materials and glass mosaics found in wooden buildings such as the Shwe Nan Daw Monastery. In the suburbs of Monywa, interviews were conducted regarding collection of lacquer ingredients. Results of that survey furthered understanding of the characteristics of lacquer produced in Myanmar, which differs from that produced in Japan. In Bagan, the collection of the Lacquerware Museum was surveyed and lectures on materials analysis were provided to personnel from the Lacquerware Technology College and the Lacquerware Museum. The fact that trainees have a greater understanding of the need to and ways to preserve lacquerware is evident in ongoing cooperation between Japan and Myanmar.

On-site training on and a survey of the safeguarding of cultural heritage in Myanmar

On-site training at Bagaya Monastery
Practice preparing materials to conserve murals
Damage to glass mosaic decorations on a Buddhist alter at Shwe Nan Daw Monastery

 As part of the “Networking Core Centers for International Cooperation in the Conservation of Cultural Heritage Project” commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, on-site training and surveys were conducted from early to mid-June in cooperation with the Department of Archaeology and National Museum (DoA), Ministry of Culture of Myanmar;

 1) A second on-site training course on the conservation of historical wooden buildings was conducted
 The course took place from June 2 to 13. Trainees were 8 staff members with specialties in architecture or archaeology from the main and branch offices of the DoA together with 1 associate professor and 3 students from the Technological University (Mandalay). The course consisted of classroom lectures at the DoA Mandalay branch office and on-site practice at Bagaya Monastery in the suburbs of Mandalay. The trainees learned techniques such as drafting schematic drawings of floor plans, measuring floor unevenness and the tilting of columns, and checking and recording what types of deterioration have occurred and their extent. Training concluded with each group announcing the results of its research. In addition, termite damage (a problem common to wooden buildings in Myanmar) was surveyed by an expert and a preliminary course on termite damage was conducted. Termite damage at Bagaya Monastery has spread to the upper part of the building, and monitoring of this damage commenced with the assistance of the trainees in order to examine effective countermeasures.

 2) Survey of and training on the conservation of murals at brick temple ruins
From June 11 to 17, a survey of the state of murals and conditions indoors at pagoda No.1205 was conducted to continue previous efforts. Damage to murals was mapped during the current survey. The murals are quite sturdy, but the survey revealed damage that must be dealt with in the future, such as the weakening and collapse of murals due to rain leakage and termite nests. In addition, training on the conservation of murals and pest control was conducted at the Bagan Archeological Museum. This training was attended by 6 conservators from the DoA Bagan branch. The trainees were especially interested in practice using restoration materials like adhesives and fillers as well as lectures on pest control and practice controlling pests. Plans are to continue conducting training sessions with more practical content.

 3) Survey on traditional lacquerware techniques
 Surveys were conducted in Bagan and Mandalay from June 11 to 19. The survey in Bagan was conducted in cooperation with the Lacquerware Technical University and Lacquerware Museum under the auspices of the Ministry of Cooperatives. The survey examined insect damage and it studied techniques that were used to produce lacquerware and damage to lacquerware in the museum’s collection. The survey revealed the need for urgent cleaning and the need to improve conditions for exhibition and storage of the pieces. In Mandalay, interviews on lacquer materials produced in Myanmar were conducted. In addition, techniques to produce glass mosaics in conjunction with lacquer decoration were studied at monasteries and shops selling those materials. Lacquer techniques that were used on the outside of the Shwe Nan Daw Monastery were visually inspected along with insect damage. Most of the interior and exterior of this building features lacquer decoration. This inspection revealed that ultraviolet rays and rain had extensively damaged the lacquer decorations.

Field survey on safeguarding Myanmar’s cultural heritage

Pagoda No. 1205
Setup of meteorological equipment

 As part of the Networking Core Centers for International Cooperation in the Conservation of Cultural Heritage Project commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan, the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo conducted a survey on safeguarding Myanmar’s cultural heritage in the Republic of the Union of Myanmar from October 23rd to November 1st. Among the art and craft works in Myanmar, the mission surveyed temple mural paintings and lacquerware. Institute personnel were accompanied and assisted by personnel from the Department of Archaeology, National Museum, and Library of Myanmar’s Ministry of Culture and university staff.
 During a survey of temple mural paintings in Bagan, mural paintings in a hall in pagoda No.1205, a Buddhist monument scheduled for surveying and conservation by Japan and Myanmar, were imaged and the state of damage to those paintings was surveyed. In addition, humidity and temperature recorders were set up inside and outside the hall at pagoda No. 1205 for environmental monitoring to ascertain meteorological conditions that might cause the mural paintings to deteriorate.
 Meteorological equipment was also set up at the site of the Bagan Branch of the Department of Archaeology, National Museum, and Library of Myanmar’s Ministry of Culture. In the future, plans are to collect and analyze data and devise policies for conservation of mural paintings in concert with personnel from the Bagan Branch of the Department of Archaeology, National Museum, and Library.
 During a survey of lacquerware in Mandalay, studios making items such as kamawaza (religious texts drew on lacquer) , glass mosaics, dry lacquerware, and begging bowls (used by priests to collect alms) were visited to observe the techniques and materials currently used to produce lacquerware in Myanmar and interview craftsmen. In Bagan, raw materials for bamboo crafts were studied and all of the ancient lacquerware in the museum of the Bagan College of Lacquerware Technology was surveyed. Plans are to continue conducting similar surveys in the future.

Workshops on the Conservation and Restoration of Japanese Lacquer Works in the framework of the Cooperative Program for the Conservation of Japanese Art Objects Overseas

Introduction to traditional Japanese lacquer materials and techniques (workshop I )
Practicum on pressing using a wooden box (workshop III)

 The Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation conducted workshops on the Conservation and Restoration of Japanese Lacquer Works at Museum of the East Asian Art, Cologne, Germany from November 2 to 16. The workshops were held as part of the Cooperative Program for the Conservation of Japanese Art Objects Overseas with cooperation of the museum.
 The workshops targeted students, researchers, curators, conservators, and restorers and were attended by a total of 19 people from 11 different countries including the U.S. and Australia as well as European countries such as Sweden, Portugal, and the Czech Republic.
 The lectures covered concepts of restoration, materials, damage, survey techniques, and case studies of restoration of lacquer works, while practica consisted of exercises related to various types of conservation and restoration techniques, such as facing, cleaning, consolidation, and pressing of urushi lacquered films. Both the lectures and the practica were very well-received.
 Based on an idea of Dr. Schlombs, the director of the Museum of the East Asian Art, the museum enhanced exchanges with workshop participants through a tour guided by Dr. Rosch, the vice director.
 Japanese lacquer works have been exported since the 16th century and have been stored in museums, art museums and palaces all over the world. Workshops should help participants gain knowledge and learn techniques to keep these lacquer works safe and pass them down to future generations.

to page top