|■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
KUME Keiichiro (left) and KURODA Seiki during their study in France
Part of the letter written to KUME Kei-ichiro by KURODA Seiki dated on April 1st, 1895, which includes the view of marriage expressed partially in French by him right after his marriage
KURODA Seiki (1866-1924) and KUME Keiichiro (1866-1934), who learned oil painting from Raphael COLLIN––an academic painter in France––were close friends and shared an atelier. After returning to Japan, they founded a new fine art association named Hakubakai. Through their involvement in art education and administration, they endeavored to innovate and develop the sphere of Japanese oil painting.
The Kume Museum of Art, which owns and publishes the works and materials of KUME Keiichiro, and Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, which was founded with the inheritance of KURODA Seiki, began joint research in 2016 in order to investigate the materials pertaining to their friendship. The letters exchanged between them particularly attract attention as materials that illustrate their social and professional friendship. The 7th seminar titled “Reading the Letters Written by KURODA Seiki and KUME Keiichiro” was organized by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems on December 10th, 2019. SHIOYA Jun of the Institute delivered a presentation regarding the letters written to Kume by Kuroda, while Ms. ITO Fumiko of the Kume Museum of Art addressed the letters written to Kuroda by Kume.
The letters investigated by this research were written from the 1890s until 1925, after they returned to Japan from France. They wrote not in the epistolary style used generally at that time, but in a colloquial style to report their productions’ progress and their travel impressions. They occasionally wrote in French to secretly pour forth their feelings. In 1910 and 1911, Kume visited the UK to do clerical work for the association for exhibits for the Japan-British Exhibition. The letters written during the period¬¬––in which he detailed the exhibition, the reunion with Mr. Collin, and interaction with local painters––represent the network of oil painters of that time.
After the presentation, two Visiting Researchers who helped us reprint the letters, Mr. TANAKA Jun and Mr. SAITO Tatsuya, joined the opinion exchange. We will release the outcomes of this research in “The Journal of Art Studies,” which will be published in the next fiscal year.
A scene from the presentation, showing the breakdown of the participants
Inventories of cultural properties are very important for museums, galleries, and archives, as well as for local governments. It works as a principle source of information not only for the research/study and the conservation/management of cultural properties but also for planning exhibitions and rental schedules. Photos, which record the visual information of cultural properties, also support research and studies. Their management with listed cultural properties enables more appropriate conservation and utilization of cultural heritage and its related information. Thus, the recording of cultural properties and the database compilation of such records are essential to the conservation and utilization of cultural heritage. However, not a few persons concerned have budgetary and technological restrictions, which render them difficult. Therefore, the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems held a seminar for the same on December 2nd, 2019.
At the seminar, we used examples to explicate the significance of recording and compiling the databases for cultural properties. We also introduced a free system that facilitates building a database of cultural properties, which has been worked on by the Cultural Properties Information Section of the department in recent years. In addition, the Image Laboratory of the section presented various types of photography as a means to record information on cultural properties, along with relevant concepts and concrete examples.
Almost 120 people attended the seminar, particularly those who are practically involved in the conservation and utilization of cultural heritage. The participants’ significant number of questions related to routine tasks made us believe that they were quite interested in this topic. Although we organized this comprehensive seminar as a first step, we seek to further transmit diversified information, such as seminars focusing on specific themes and workshops with practical training.
A scene from the seminar
At the 8th seminar organized by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems on December 24th, 2019, HAYASHI Yoshimi––a Part-time Lecturer at Tokai University––delivered a presentation titled “Researching Medieval Glass in Japan – Based on the Outcomes in 2018 and 2019.”
Dr. Hayashi has been researching the history of glass in East Asia for many years. For this seminar, she introduced a part of her outcomes from the collection and observational research of Japanese glass products manufactured between the 13th and 16th century, which she has researched after writing her doctoral dissertation in 2018. The actual state of Japanese medieval glass has been almost unknown due to the rarity of its unearthed products. However, in recent years, glass products manufactured during the aforementioned period have been excavated in Kyoto, Hakata and other areas. An improved understanding of Japanese medieval glass is expected based on these products, which will add to the existing literature and materials. Dr. Hayashi mentioned the following three key aspects in the research of Japanese glass produced between the 13th and 16th century: (1) Getting a whole sketch, (2) Determination of production areas, and (3) Consideration from historical and broad-based viewpoints. Then, she presented her views on the manufacturing technique and origin of the glassware unveiled, through her study of written and excavated materials.
Ms. INOUE Akiko, director of the Association for Glass Art Studies, Japan, also attended the seminar as a commentator so as to facilitate a discussion on various front-line topics pertaining to glass history studies, proceeding step-by-step alongside a few researchers.
A scene from the comprehensive discussion
On December 20th, 2019, the 14th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties was held on the topic “Towards the new utilization of intangible cultural heritages.” The meeting attracted about 170 participants including government officials, researchers, and representatives of conservation groups.
Due to the amendment of the Act on Protection of Cultural Properties, the utilization of properties is expected to increase., many cultural programs featuring intangible cultural heritage are planned or have been implemented for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020. However, there is room for discussion on how to utilize such properties and whether they should be utilized or not in the first place has not been discussed thoroughly. Leaving many properties vulnerable to total demise, a new way to make good use of them for inheritance is sought.
The meeting featured four presenters in different positions from various regions. With specific examples, they reported the utilization through existing systems such as the hometown tax system and programs on traditional culture for parents and children, utilization by building an inter-regional network, and utilization for the purpose of transmitting attractive features of the heritage to the public via multimedia. This was followed by a vigorous and comprehensive discussion by the presenters and two commentators.
This conference will be published in March 2020, and they will be available on the website of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
A live performance of “Music and dance of Dominican Bachata” (Dominican Republic), which was inscribed on the Representative List
The fourteenth session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage took place in Bogota, the capital of Columbia, from December 9th to 14th, 2019. Two researchers from this Institute attended the session.
At the session, Japanese elements were not discussed, but the Committee inscribed five on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding and 35 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The Committee also added two projects to the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices. Among the elements inscribed on the Representative List are “Music and dance of Dominican Bachata” (Dominican Republic), “Nuad Thai, traditional Thai massage” (Thailand), and “Ie Samoa, fine mat and its cultural value” (Samoa). In particular, “Safeguarding strategy of traditional crafts for peace building” (Colombia), which was also added to the Good Practices, attracted global attention. As a good model, the strategy shows that intangible cultural heritage plays an active role in recovering from the devastation of long battles with drug syndicates.
In a first, the Committee decided to remove one element, “Aalst Carnival” (Belgium), from the Representative List. The reason for that was the recurrence of anti-Semitic and Nazi representations on the carnival floats, which was not stopped on the grounds of “freedom of expression” despite protests and objections from various quarters. This is incompatible with the fundamental principles of the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, thereby non-conforming with the inscription criteria. The global community expressed its intention to not allow any forms of discrimination, even in cultural activities or practices.
Intangible cultural heritage may give courage and pride to people, promoting dialogue between peoples of different cultural backgrounds, while it may also highlight the cultural superiority of one side, denying or excluding people on the other side. We feel that it is the responsibility of us experts to blow a whistle against political use of intangible cultural heritage while promoting its use for peacekeeping and mutual understanding.
Participants at the International Researchers Forum
The International Research Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region under the auspices of UNESCO (IRCI) co-organized the International Researchers Forum “Perspectives of Research for Intangible Cultural Heritage: Toward a Sustainable Society” with the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan, on December 17th and 18th, 2019 at this Institute. As a co-organizer, the Institute thoroughly cooperated in this forum, right from its planning to operation.
The forum’s aim was to discuss how Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) can contribute to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDGs are the international goals to shift the world onto a better, sustainable path by 2030, specified in “the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” adopted at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in September 2015, following the Millennium Development Goals developed in 2001. Under its 17 goals and 169 targets, the agenda pledges to leave no one behind. As universal goals, not only developing countries but also developed countries, including Japan, are expected to achieve the SDGs.
This forum addressed two goals related to ICH in particular: “Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” and “Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.” For the goals, three sessions were arranged—in Session 1 “Community Development: ICH and Regional Development,” we mainly discussed the promotion of local cultures, communities, and economy through ICH, and then the efforts to conserve urban landscapes and the natural environment through ICH in Session 2 “Community Development: Environment and ICH”; in Session 3 “Discussion from Education Perspective,” how ICH could contribute to education was discussed based on the discussions of the previous two sessions. The forum ended with a comprehensive discussion covering all three sessions.
At the forum, 10 experts each from home and the Asia-Pacific region delivered presentations. While many of them specialized in cultural heritage and education, it should be noted that some were actual successors to or practitioners of ICH. Professor Vince DIAZ from the University of Minnesota, who has his roots in Micronesia, Guam, and the Philippines, is working on the revival of canoe culture in the Pacific region. He said, “For the natives in the Pacific region, nature has always been one with people. Protecting nature means keeping us human. The canoe is one of the means which connects nature with people. The revival of canoe culture is a process of making us more human, in addition to protecting nature.” His impressive talk suggests that some clues to achieving SDGs might be found in our traditional knowledge or worldview.
It is true that many intangible cultural properties are now in danger due to globalization or modernization. On the other hand, they may become the sources from which to regain such lost properties. Thus, this forum, which spotlighted the active aspects of ICH through SDGs, is significant enough to be disseminated to the world.
Practical work on surface cleaning
“Workshop on Conservation and Restoration of Urushi Objects” was held at Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst, Museen Köln (Museum of East Asian Art, Cologne), Germany, from December 2nd to 6th, 2019. Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP) has conducted the annual workshops with the cooperation of the Museum since 2007. The aim of the workshops is to facilitate the preservation and utilization of urushi objects in museum collections outside Japan. This year’s workshop focuses on the fundamental knowledge and techniques required for storing, maintaining and handling urushi objects, and six conservators from Western countries participated.
The topics of lecture included the chemical properties of urushi, the multi-layered structure of urushi objects and typical decoration techniques, degradation and damage, and appropriate storage environments. The practical work on applying urushi to wooden substrates helped the participants understand the characteristics of urushi. In addition, the case studies on the conservation and restoration of urushi objects in Japan were introduced, and Japanese conservation ethics and techniques were shared. The participants also experienced applying remedial treatment to urushi objects, such as temporary stabilization of damaged areas and surface cleaning. In the question-and-answer session on the last day, the deterioration and damage of urushi-coated surfaces and their treatments were actively discussed.
We hope that introducing basic knowledge about urushi objects as well as materials and techniques used for their conservation to the conservation specialists overseas will contribute to the safer preservation and the further utilization of urushi objects overseas.
A scene from the ICC meeting
Dynamic cone penetration testing
Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has been providing technical support to the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap (APSARA) for the conservation and sustainable development of the ruins of Ta Nei Temple in Angkor, Cambodia. TNRICP dispatched a total of six members including outside experts to Cambodia from December 1st to 21st, 2019 in order to report the progress of dismantling the East Gate of the temple at the meeting of the International Co-ordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor (ICC), and investigate causes of uneven subsidence at the basement and floor of the East Gate.
At theICC meeting at the APSARA headquarters office on December 10th and 11th, we delivered a report in association with Mr. Sea Sophearun from APSARA. Approval was granted to proceed with the conservation work further while utilizing the results of the dismantling survey, including a site visit by four specialized members of the committee. We also collected the latest information by exchanging opinions with persons in charge from APSARA, as well as experts within and outside Cambodia.
To investigate the causes of uneven subsidence, we analyzed the old ground surface, and dug the southeast and northwest internal corners till the bottom of the stone foundation to check the condition of the East Gate base. This confirmed that the East Gate basement was made of roughly formed sandstone exterior, laterite groundwork, and internal landfill. It was also determined that the entire basement structure was built on a manmade soil layer using fine grains of sand. This sand layer seems to be the one that lends stability to the foundation on which the building was constructed. Similar techniques can been observed at other temple ruins in Angkor.
After partially removing the floor pavement stone blocks, the bearing capacity of the foundation landfill was investigated with a dynamic cone penetration testing device in cooperation with Professor Dr. KUWANO Reiko from the Institute of Industrial Science, the University of Tokyo. The testing disclosed that the fragility of laterite used as base layer of the floor pavement and the strength of foundation landfill differed by location. This could be one of the causes of uneven subsidence.
Based on the outcomes of this survey, we will examine how to improve the basement structure to ensure complete restoration of the East Gate.