|■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
Kasuga Gongen Kenki-e is a voluminous work that was commissioned by SAIONJI Kinhira, the Minister of the Left, in the early 14th century. The work consists of a total of 20 scrolls painted by TAKASHINA Takakane, head of the official court atelier. Masterfully painted, the work is a treasured part of the history of Japanese paintings. The work is currently curated by the Imperial Household Agency. The Imperial Household Agency has been dismantling and completely restoring the scrolls in line with a 15-year plan that started in 2004. As part of joint research by the Institute and the Imperial Household Agency, optical studies of the work were done prior to its restoration.
On September 25th, the Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems held a seminar to report on the interim results of those studies. OTA Aya, a senior researcher from the Sannomaru Shozokan who is directing the restoration, described the restoration overall and findings yielded by the restoration. SHIRONO Seiji of the Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems delivered a report focusing on the characteristics of high-resolution images in visible light. The various optical studies done by SHIRONO include visible-spectrum images as well as near-infrared reflectance, near-infrared transmittance, and fluorescent images. As the current point in time, studies of 12 scrolls have resulted in image information consisting of close to 6,700 sections. KOBAYASHI Tatsuro of the Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems described some of that information in terms of its significance to art history. The optical studies also include a scientific study of pigments via X-ray fluorescence analysis done by HAYAKAWA Yasuhiro of the Center for Conservation Science and Restoration Techniques. The information that study is yielding is clearly quite valuable. Suitable ways of publishing that information will be explored in consultation with representatives from the Imperial Household Agency.
Survey of the Nissokan [door paintings] (from the rear corridor)
The Phoenix Hall of Byodoin Temple is a famed structure that was built around the first year of the Tengi Era (1053). Paintings on its doors and pillars are also a treasured part of the history of Japanese paintings. Behind the Seated Amida Nyorai (Amitabha Buddha) statue, the temple’s principal Buddhist image, are 2 doors to the entrance to the rear corridor from the west side of the main hall. The paintings on these doors depict Nissokan as described in the Kanmuryojukyo [“Sutra on the Contemplation of Buddha Amitayus”]. Although much of the paint has peeled off and the paintings were retouched a number of times in later centuries, the paintings are important because they have retained the major elements of their composition since they were originally created.
The foot of the left door has a flush bolt that locks when the bolt is dropped into a hole in the doorsill. The lock’s wooden support is shaped like an “エ,” obscuring part of the painting. In conjunction with work to restore the Phoenix Hall, this support was removed, revealing the part of the painting that had been obscured. At the behest of Byodoin Temple, an optical study primarily of this portion was conducted. The study took place over 3 days from Sept. 4–6 and was done by HAYAKAWA Yasuhiro of the Center for Conservation Science and Restoration Techniques and SHIRONO Seiji and KOBAYASHI Tatsuro of the Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems.
Little pigment remains in what is thought to be the original portion of the painting behind the flush bolt. However, traces do remain. HAYAKAWA submitted these traces to X-ray fluorescence analysis while SHIRONO took high-resolution images, near-infrared reflectance images, and fluorescent images of these traces. Plans are to soon analyze and examine the data obtained and then publish those findings.
Interview with Mr. KOBAYASHI Eiji
The 7th Public Lecture, organized annually by the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage will be held in December 2012, with the Kyogen of the Yamaguchi Sagi School as its theme. The Sagi School had been one of the Schools of Kyogen in central Japan until it was abolished under the confusion in the Meiji Restoration. In Yamaguchi prefecture, however, the tradition was maintained until present thanks to SYUNNICHI Syosaku, a Kyogen performer who taught his performing skills to the nonprofessionals. Now the preservation society for Yamaguchi Sagi School has formed and was designated as the intangible cultural properties of Yamaguchi prefecture. Department of Performing Arts, the predecessor of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage, conducted on-site recording of this Kyogen in 1958, which became the oldest record of the Kyogen of Yamaguchi Sagi School.
The Department conducted the on-site research on September 18th, and interviewed with Mr. KOBAYASHI Eiji, the eldest member of the preserving society, about the situation of the transmission of the Sagi School. Its result will be introduced in the coming Public Lecture.
Practice textiles cleaning
In the framework of the supporting project for the Conservation Center of the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM-CC) by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo conducted training in chemistry for conservation materials for 10 Egyptian personnel of the GEM-CC in conjunction with JICA Tokyo. Trainees consisted of 8 conservators and 2 chemists in charge of analyses using scientific techniques. Training took place over 3 weeks from Aug. 31–Sept. 21. Trainees learned about the chemical and physical properties of materials used in conservation and they actually used these materials, providing them with firsthand knowledge of the characteristics of individual materials. This training further emphasized to the Egyptian trainees the importance of sharing information and evaluating materials so that appropriate conservation materials can be chosen. Hopes are to establish systems at the GEM-CC so that trainees can share this information among the staff and coordinate with one another.
Photo of assembled personnel following the opening session
Practical training (lining for handscrolls)
Every year, the Institute conducts international training with ICCROM. In a typical year, there are around 70–80 applications. This year, that number was winnowed down to 10 trainees from the US, Italy, Egypt, Australia, Austria, Thailand, Colombia, Denmark, Poland, and Russia. The course lasted 3 weeks starting on Aug. 27th. The course focused particularly on Japanese paper and included classes from various perspectives such as materials science and history. During training, trainees mounted a paper-sheet cultural properties as handscrolls be steps such as infilling and lining, and they also prepared booklets with Japanese-style binding. Participants visited the Mino region in Gifu Prefecture, where a type of Japanese handmade paper that is used in restoration work is produced, and they also learned about the distribution of Japanese paper throughout history, from its manufacture to its transportation and sale. Participants also viewed the latest exhibits of cultural properties and conservation facilities at the Kyushu National Museum. Trainees visited a traditional mounting studio and stores selling traditional tools and materials in Kyoto, and they learned about circumstances involving the conservation and restoration of paper in Japan. The techniques and knowledge provided by this training will help encourage the conservation and exhibition of paper cultural properties from Japan in collections overseas and can also be used to conserve works abroad.
On-site excavation training
The Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation has been conducting a four-year training program in the Kyrgyz Republic since 2011 to protect Central Asian cultural heritage. This program was commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan, and plans are to hold a series of workshops covering documentation, excavations, conservation, and site management.
This year, the third workshop was held from September 1 to 17. The main topics of the workshop were “archaeological excavations” and “conservation of archaeological objects.” The workshop was organized jointly with the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties and the Institute of History and Cultural Heritage, National Academy of Sciences, Kyrgyz Republic. A total of 14 trainees participated in the workshop. They came from Kyrgyz, Armenia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan. Trainees excavated the site at Ak Beshim with trainers and studied the basic methods of excavations and conservation of archaeological objects on-site.
The Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation plans to organize training workshops next year as well.
Geophysical survey training
On-site training using a Total Station
Currently, five Central Asian countries and China are undertaking various activities to facilitate the serial nomination of historical sites along the Silk Road for inscription on the World Heritage List in 2014. The Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation (JCICC) participates in the UNESCO/Japanese Funds-in-Trust Project to support the World Heritage Serial and Transnational Nomination of the Silk Road. As part of the project, JCICC is undertaking various activities in Central Asian Countries. This year two training workshops were held in Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic.
In Kazakhstan, a second training workshop on geophysical surveys was held from September 19 to 24. The workshop was co-organized with Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties and the Kazakhstan Archeological Expertise Scientific Research Organization. A total of 12 trainees, including eight Kazakhs, 2 Kyrgyzs, one Tajik, and one Uzbek, participated in the training workshop. The training workshop was held at the Boraldai burial mounds. After last year’s workshop, Kazakhstan purchased geophysical survey equipment and Kazakh specialists actively included geophysical surveys in their archaeological research. Hopes are that this workshop will motivate other Central Asian countries to conduct geophysical surveys in their own countries.
In the Kyrgyz Republic, a training workshop on archaeological documentation was held from September 19 to 25. The workshop was organized jointly with the Institute of History and Cultural Heritage, National Academy of Sciences, Kyrgyz Republic. A total of eight young Kyrgyz archaeologists participated in the workshop. After three days of lectures on archaeological documentation at the National Academy of Sciences, trainees studied topographic mapping using Total Station, leveling, and photogrammetry at the site in Ak Beshim. The trainees gained a better understanding of archaeological documentation through the workshop.
The Japan Center for Cooperation in Conservation will continue to support the World Heritage Serial and Transnational Nomination of the Silk Road next year as well.
The 11th Seminar of the Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage was held on “Blue Shield and Cultural Property Emergency Rescue: The Role and Importance of the National Committee”
In this symposium, discussion focused on the Blue Shield as one approach to urgent efforts in the future to protect cultural properties in Japan based on experience rescuing cultural properties after the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake and the Great East Japan Earthquake.
The keynote speech was given by Corine Wegener, President of the US Committee of the Blue Shield. Ms. Wegener described her experiences founding a national committee of the Blue Shield in the US and emergency assistance efforts by the US Committee of the Blue Shield in Haiti. Other lectures described the current state of emergency responses to protect cultural properties in Japan, such as efforts to rescue both movable and immovable properties after the Great East Japan Earthquake and steps to prevent fires in libraries. These lectures also described related issues.
A panel discussion featured an extremely important discussion of future emergency assistance efforts in Japan. Questions raised were which types of emergency assistance were needed and what role the Blue Shield has to play in Japan in that regard. The point was made that Japan needs to capitalize on its experience and expertise both in terms of domestic emergency responses and in terms of international cooperation.
The seminar is the first to bring experts in a range of fields, such as museums, buildings, libraries, historical archives, and film, together in one place to discuss the purpose of the Blue Shield. This gathering represented an important step in terms of the future of emergency activities to preserve cultural properties in Japan.
The Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage has planned future symposia on a range of topics to facilitate sharing of the latest information.
Setting up an exposure testing stand
Workshop on Historical Studies
Discussion among archaeologists in an artifact sorting area
Resin impregnation at the NNRICP
A project to preserve the Thang Long Imperial Citadel site, a World Cultural Heritage located in the heart of Vietnam’s capital city, has been undertaken since 2010 with the close cooperation of Japanese and Vietnamese experts. The NRICPT has been commissioned by the UNESCO Office in Hanoi as the base for Japanese efforts During the first half of this year, the following efforts were undertaken.
a) Field Study on Preservation of Excavated Remains
From August 7 to 9, a field study was conducted at the excavation site next to the site where the new Parliament House is being constructed. Sensors to measure moisture migration in the soil where archaeological remains are located were replaced and added. An additional test area was established to measure inhibition of surface evaporation by a sand layer covering. An outdoor exposure test was also begun to examine the effectiveness of conservation techniques using brick specimens with physical characteristics similar to ancient bricks unearthed from the site. Automated monitoring of local meteorological conditions will continue. Analysis of the data obtained will lead to proposals for appropriate conservation approaches.
b) Workshop on Historical Studies
On August 21, a workshop was co-organized with the Thang Long—Hanoi Heritage Conservation Center (TL Centre) and the Institute of Vietnamese Studies and Development Sciences, Hanoi National University (IVIDES). The on-site workshop covered the layout of the central area of the Thang Long Imperial Citadel and its comparison to other ancient capitals in East Asia. The workshop featured presentations by Japanese and Vietnamese experts based on their studies of historical records and results of recent excavations as well as a discussion. The layout and history of the Thang Long Citadel, much of which are still unclear, was actively discussed. In addition, “Selected Japanese and Vietnamese Papers on the Thang Long Citadel” was published in conjunction with the workshop.
c) Workshop on Archaeological Artifacts
From September 10 to 12, the 1st workshop on archaeological artifacts excavated at the Thang Long site was held in Hanoi. The workshop was co-organized with the TL Centre and enjoyed the cooperation of the Institute of Archaeology, the Imperial City Research Center, and the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (NNRICP). Participating Japanese and Vietnamese experts shared their knowledge and exchanged opinions on ceramics and roof tiles with regard to classification of their styles, techniques used to produce them, and sites where they were produced. These discussions took place while experts directly viewing unearthed objects. The participants were again reminded of the importance of such a joint study.
d) Invitation of a Vietnamese Expert
From September 10 to 28, an expert on wood material from Vietnam Forestry University was invited to the NNRICP to carry out joint experiments on techniques to conserve excavated wooden objects. Different laboratory experiments were conducted, including identification of tree species and examination of the effectiveness of resin impregnation, using test pieces unearthed from the Thang Long site along with fresh specimens from Vietnam.