|■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
During the lecture
To welcome Dr. Stanley Abe (professor, Duke University, USA), an expert in Chinese art history, as a visiting researcher to the Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems, the lecture by Dr. ABE was organized under the title of Imagining Chinese Sculpture from 2:00 to 5:30 PM on June 5 (Wed.) in a basement meeting room at the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo.
Dr. ABE’s lecture focused on the fact that the Western concept of “sculpture” did not exist in China until the 19th century. Instead, emphasis was placed on the text that accompanied three-dimensional objects. Tracing the history of this text, Dr. Abe noted that it was valued in different ways and was intended as a gift or treated as an art object. Since the dawn of the modern age, that text gained new value as a work of art when it was collected by Westerners and Japanese who visited China.
After the lecture, a discussion took place with comments by Dr. TANAKA Shuji (associate professor, Graduate School of Education, Faculty of Education and Welfare Science, Oita University) and OKADA Ken (Head of the Institute’s Center for Conservation Science and Restoration Techniques). The discussion revealed that China and Japan attached different value to three-dimensional objects prior to encountering the Western European concept of “sculpture,” and the social status of the individuals who produced those items also differed. In China, the term “sculpture” strongly connotes an object produced after the dawn of the modern age.
The discussion brought up topics such as variations not only in the acceptance of Western culture, but also in the modern shaping of the plastic arts, and the historical and economic contexts that led to those variations. The lecture had 48 attendees and was a success.
YUKI Somei’s manuscript for A Description of Graves of Artists
The Japanese-style painter YUKI Somei (1875–1957) is known as a figure who contributed to a revolution in modern Japanese-style painting. He did this by developing a style based on naturalism in the middle of the Meiji Period and by participating in the forming of Kinreisha (an organization encouraging Japanese-style painters) with painters such as HIRAFUKU Hyakusui and KABURAKI Kiyokata during the Taisho period. Many of YUKI’s written works about art survive today. Some of these works contain empirical information based on documentary research that is valued even today. These works include A Study of the Graves of Tokyo Artists (1931), A Description of the Graves of Tokyo Artists (1936), and A Description of the Graves of Artists (1953). These 3 works compile information on the graves of artists (with a focus on “artists” in the traditional sense), and they are valuable sources that provide clues to the past.
AOKI Shigeru, the head of the Association for the Study of Modern Japanese Art History and a visiting research at the Institute, donated YUKI’s rough draft of his series of descriptions of graves to the Institute. Like the printed edition, the rough draft features the date when different artists died, their age at death, and a biography. However, YUKI continued to revise the draft copy by adding information even after the printed edition came out. The assembled rough draft is more than 10 inches thick. The work conjures up YUKI’s devotion to compiling descriptions of graves. This work can be viewed in the Institute’s Library.
The instant that the decision was made to inscribe Fujisan, sacred place and source ofartistic inspiration (a property nominated by Japan), on the List of World Heritage
The 37th Session of the World Heritage Committee was held from June 16 to 27 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia (the closing ceremony on the 27th took place in Siem Reap-Angkor). Prior to the session, personnel at the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo analyzed data on the state of conservation of World Heritage properties and data regarding properties nominated for inscription on the World Heritage List. Five representatives from the Institute, including FUTAGAMI Yoko (Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems), attended the session to gather information on World Heritage issues.
This session of the World Heritage Committee decided to inscribe 19 properties on the World Heritage List. During discussion of Mt. Fuji, which Japan nominated for inscription, 19 of the 20 Committee Members (excluding Japan) expressed approval of the site for inscription, but many opposed a recommendation to exclude the Miho-no-Matsubara pine grove because of its distance from the mountain. Committee Members gained a full understanding of the value of Mt. Fuji and the Miho-no-Matsubara site thanks to materials such as letters of nomination and explanations from Japanese representatives, leading to inclusion of the Miho-no-Matsubara site.
In addition, 6 properties in Syria, such as the Site of Palmyra, were inscribed as World Heritage site of Syria properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger. This was a result of the country’s domestic instability, which has hampered efforts to conserve Syrian cultural properties. However, restoring peace is a complicated issue and will take time.
Additionally, the Committee explored reducing the number of properties to discuss and having Committee Members voluntarily withdraw nominations of properties in their own countries during their term of office. However, many Committee Members opposed these proposals, so no decision was reached. The World Heritage Committee does not merely discuss nomination of properties to the World Heritage List as it also plays an important role in dealing with any topic related to the conservation of World Heritage. Representatives from the Institute were involved in varied aspects of the session’s agenda and they gathered, analyzed, and presented relevant information at the session.
The Korea Bamboo Museum in Damyang County
As part of the second Research Exchange between Japan and South Korea in relation to the Safeguarding and Preservation of Intangible Cultural Heritage that took place last year, Migiwa IMAISHI of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage visited South Korea for a scheduled 2 weeks starting on June 12. In South Korea, the survey examined traditional Korean techniques and their preservation and conservation. The survey focused on techniques of bamboo work in the Damyang region of South Jeolla Province and techniques of sedge (“wangol”) handicrafts on Ganghwa Island, part of the City of Incheon.
Damyang is a major center for production of bamboo products, with almost all of its residents engaged in bamboo work. Five specialties, including the making of chaesang (bamboo boxes or baskets), the making of folding fans, and comb-making, have been designated as intangible cultural properties by the national or municipal government. The survey provided the opportunity to meet possessors (preservers) of cultural properties and ask about traditional techniques, changes in those techniques, and the current state of preservation of those techniques. The survey also helped to ascertain circumstances regarding cultural properties in the form of efforts by Damyang County to turn its “bamboo culture” into a tourist attraction and revitalize the local area (e.g. development of new bamboo products, the County’s own craftsmen support system, and management of bamboo-related facilities). The survey provided a glimpse into how cultural properties have been passed on in the past and how they may be passed on in the future. Preservation of traditional techniques differs in Japan and South Korea. In Japan, traditional techniques are preserved under two different systems: “intangible folk cultural properties” (folk techniques) and “intangible cultural properties” (craft techniques). In contrast, traditional techniques in South Korea are preserved under only one system: “intangible cultural properties” (craft techniques). Thus, techniques that fall under “intangible folk cultural properties,” i.e. techniques that are “indispensable to understanding changes in the Japanese people’s way of life” in Japan, are considered to be “intangible cultural properties” in South Korea, where they are valued as arts, skills, or techniques with “significant historical, artistic, or scholarly value.” These differences in the Japanese and Korean systems must have an impact on the perceptions of preservers of cultural properties and the general public and they might also impact techniques themselves. These varied impacts must be clearly discerned during future research exchanges.
A massive steel structure over 500 m in length that extracted coal via strip mining on one end and then transported the unneeded excavated material to dump it on the other end. (F60 overburden conveyor bridge)
Gas chambers and crematoria blown up by the German Army. Buildings have been preserved as they were when they were blown up. (Auschwitz/Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum)
From May 24 (Fri.) to June 4 (Tues.), the Modern Cultural Properties Section conducted a field survey of 7 world heritage sites and potential world heritage sites associated with modern cultural properties in Germany and Poland. The survey also examined the conservation and restoration of railroad and industrial heritage. In Germany, the survey examined the Berlin Modernism Housing Estates (which have been inscribed as a world heritage site), the Dresden Elbe Valley (which had its status as a world heritage site revoked), Electropolis Berlin (Berlin as a locus for the heavy electrical equipment industry) and mining and the cultural landscape in Freiberg in the Ore Mountains (both Electropolis Berlin and the Ore Mountains are nominated as world heritage sites). In addition, the survey examined a massive F60 overburden conveyor bridge (a machine used to strip-mine coal that is over 500 m long), paddle steamers that travel the Elbe River, and preserved railroads that operate steam locomotives. The sites and machinery have their own unique characteristics, and they have been conserved via ingenious techniques. The Berlin housing estates appear unremarkable, but the survey revealed that residents and managers have united to save these buildings, which are cultural properties. In Poland, the survey examined the historic center of Krakow (“Old Town”) and Auschwitz concentration camp (Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oświęcim), both of which are world heritage sites. There was debate over whether to preserve Auschwitz as a museum because of its historical significance, but the site now has numerous visitors. Open to the public, the gas chambers and crematoria that the German Army blew up as they retreated have been preserved as they were. However, the buildings were red brick and mortar, so conservation techniques are an issue. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial (commonly called the “Atomic Bomb Dome”) is in a similar. Sharing information on conservation techniques should prove beneficial.
Conservation efforts underway
Exchange of opinions on conservation policies
The Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation conducted a workshop on conservation of archaeological metal objects at the History Museum of Armenia from June 11 to 22, 2013. This project was a part of the Networking Core Centers for International Cooperation on Conservation of Cultural Heritage Project commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan. The project is in its third year, and the workshop is the fourth to be held domestically.
This workshop was an advanced course for conservators of archaeological metal objects, so Armenian experts were chosen from among personnel who had been attending previous workshops. In total, there were 4 attendees from the History Museum of Armenia and other institutions in Armenia. Based on the knowledge and skills they had gained over the past 2 years, Armenian experts participated in conservation work with Japanese experts. After surveys, which included photography and scientific analysis, and planning exhibition/conservation work, experts concluded the conservation work. This work helped to improve the knowledge and skills of Armenian experts.
The next workshop will be on the topic of preventive conservation for exhibition and storing. Plans are to prepare objects for exhibition in the History Museum of Armenia next year.