|■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
Screenshot of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties’ “Publications” Repository
The Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems publishes investigation/research studies in the journal Bijutsu Kenkyu on a regular basis. This journal was first published in 1932, and its latest issue is No. 431. From November 2020 onwards, the index of Bijutsu Kenkyu (PDF ver.) has been made available on the website of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (https://www.tobunken.go.jp/~joho/index.html) and its institutional repository “Publications” (http://id.nii.ac.jp/1440/00008980/).
The index was created as the sequel of the former index of Bijutsu Kenkyu (for No. 1 to 230) published in 1965. The new index covers more than 2,400 pieces of literature such as editorials and explanations of charts/diagrams. The new index is available both in Japanese and English, and equipped with in-document search functions that can be used for literature search.
The index will be updated every time a new issue of The Bijutsu Kenkyu journal is released.
At the 5 seminar held by the Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems on November 24, 2020, Dr. TAKEDA Eri, a part-time lecturer from the Toyo Institute of Art and Design delivered a presentation titled “Transitions in Western-Style Paintings from the Momoyama Period to the Final Years of the Edo Period (“Bakumatsu”) – Technical Transitions in Japanese Oil Paintings and the Validation of Art Historical Research and Appraisals in Japan.”
Dr. TAKEDA has been engaged in historical research on and the restoration of Japanese oil paintings for many years. She summarized the traditional techniques used for Japanese oil paintings based on research and reproductive experiments on pieces of artwork on her own. The presentation aimed to clarify how Japanese oil paintings fit in with Japanese art history. As the examples, she focused on the oil paintings of the mid-Edo period that have been found in recent years.
Japanese oil paintings, also known as Yofuga (Western-style paintings), were not recognized until research on Western art began during the early years of the Meiji period. Therefore, the art appraisals that were performed on pre-Meiji Western-style paintings are far from being appropriate in some sense. Considering this historical background, Dr. TAKEDA classified the history of Japanese oil painting into the following three categories: paintings made using the lacquer technique in the Asuka period, the early Western-style paintings in the Momoyama period, and the Western-style paintings influenced by the Netherlands in the Bakumatsu period. She said that the recently discovered mid-Edo period pictures painted with dried oil on the lacquered walls of the Yomeimon Gate of the Nikko Toshogu Shrine suggests a link between the early Western-style paintings in the Momoyama period and their counterparts in Bakumatsu. She pointed out that the painting is likely to be the work of an artist belonging to the Franciscans, which indicates passing down of painting techniques from Momoyama to Bakumatsu.
Professor Emeritus SAKAMOTO Mitsuru, an art historian who has been dedicatedly conducting research mainly on early Western-style painting, and Mr. SATO Noritake from the Association for the Preservation of the Nikko World Heritage Site Shrines and Temples, who has been leading the restoration project of the lacquered decorations of Edo period temples and shrines in Nikko, were invited to the seminar as commentators. Additionally, vigorous discussions were held among the participants who expressed different opinions regarding the oil-painted walls of the Yomeimon Gate and how they should be appraised in the context of Japanese oil painting history.
Online Annual Meeting
Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has been carrying out our joint research project with Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures in the United Kingdom since 2013. The Sainsbury Institute, one of the research centers for Japanese arts and cultures in Europe, collects information on Japanese art-related publications written in non-Japanese languages and Japanese art exhibitions held outside of Japan. They provide this information to the Tobunken Research Collections (https://www.tobunken.go.jp/archives/). On the Tobunken Research Collections database, you can access information about Japanese art studies and research trends in and outside of Japan.
Until 2019, our staff used to visit the Sainsbury Institute in Norwich, England, once every year to discuss the database and deliver some lectures. However, our annual visit had to be canceled this year due to COVID-19. Instead, it was conducted online on November 26, 2020. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had a long-lasting global impact, the open-access database and publications, accessible anytime and anywhere, have played an important role and are more indispensable for research than ever before. We discussed initiatives to ensure the services would be available for a wider range of users. The discussion started at 5:00 p.m. in Tokyo and 8:00 a.m. in the U.K., with a 9-hour time difference between both venues. However, as we had a face-to-face discussion and shared as much information as possible, it was a meaningful interaction which will help sustain our joint project into the future. We are going to continue the joint projects with the Sainsbury Institute for the upcoming medium-term plan covering FY 2021–2025.
Presentation through the online conference system
Screenshot of a slide used for the presentation “Potential of further development: GRP Digital Content of Japanese Art”
At the 13th JADS fall seminar held on November 28th, 2020, we made a presentation titled “The Open Access Project of the Oda Kazuma Collection with a Focus on Illustrated Books by Katsushika Hokusai: Disseminate Bibliographic Information Globally in Collaboration with Getty Research Institute: Standardization of Bibliographic Information and Preservation of Material”. This presentation was created by KIKKAWA Hideki; TAMURA Ayako; ABE Tomoe; EMURA Tomoko from Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems; as well as YAMANASHI Emiko, Deputy Director General. On the day of the seminar, five members from Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties participated in the event through the online conference system. KIKKAWA Hideki and TAMURA Ayako, two of the five members, explained the preservation of material for the standardization and digitalization of bibliographic information, which were conducted during the project. They also suggested that the open access project has a lot of potential of further development. As part of the project, we developed an information channel to provide digitalized Japanese art material content to the Getty Research Portal (GRP: https://portal.getty.edu/). At the presentation, they mentioned that by making the channel available for all organizations concerned and by accumulating digitalized content related to Japanese art in the GRP, the global presence of Japanese art could be enhanced. Many specialists who handle museum library collections are members of the JADS. They provided us valuable feedback on our presentation, saying that it demonstrated a good example for handling archival material by focusing on the method of preserving the material and standardizing bibliographic information in a concrete manner.
As travel is restricted to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we are fully aware that the development and improvement of the online research environment is an urgent issue to address. We will disseminate information about Japanese art globally and improve the research environment to provide archival materials which would be beneficial for a wide range of research on cultural properties, while strengthening our partnership with other organizations.
Overview of the presentation is available on the URL below:（Proceedings of the 13th JADS fall seminar: http://www.jads.org/news/2020/jads_autumn2020.pdf#page=9）
Onsite investigation on Kozo (Daigo, Ibaraki)
Straw-made peeling board (Tool to peel Kozo)
Small knife to peel Kozo
Traditional materials and tools are indispensable for the restoration of fine arts and crafts. It has been harder to get such tools and materials in recent years. They are natural materials or are made from them, so it is becoming difficult to secure adequate resources due to changes occurring in the climate and environment. Additionally, a number of artisans who produce such tools and materials find it difficult to find a successor due to social changes such as an aging population even if the resources are secured. There are many such problems. Examples include Noriutsugi (Hydrangea paniculata) / Tororoaoi (Abelmoschus manihot) used for Neri (dispersants/thickeners) and silken threads to weave Sukisu (bamboo screen)—both of which are necessary for traditional Japanese papermaking—Tonoko and Jinoko (clay or soil powder) used for wood crafts, and silken threads produced using a traditional technique. It is difficult to secure the resources for these natural materials.
Concerned about this situation, the Agency for Cultural Affairs launched the “Support for the Management of Tools and Materials Used for the Preservation and Restoration of Fine Arts and Crafts” in FY2020. It is a financial support project for those who produce the tools and materials necessary for the preservation and restoration of fine arts and crafts. In order to receive a subsidy from the project, it is required to justify the necessity of the tools and materials based on scientific evidence and submit such data as videos of the production process and records of the tools/materials used for the restoration of cultural properties. Under these circumstances, Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has investigated the tools and materials from the perspective of them not being produced in the future and provided support to those who produce such tools and materials in response to the request of the Agency for Cultural Affairs since FY2018. In FY2020, we conducted onsite investigations on Tororoaoi (Abelmoschus manihot) and Kozo (Broussonetia kazinoki x B. papyrifera) in Ibaraki; silken threads produced using a traditional technique in Nagano in September; Kozo (Broussonetia kazinoki x B. papyrifera) and tools to make Washi (traditional Japanese paper) in Kochi in October; and Tonoko (clay or soil powder) in Kyoto in November. In the case of scientific evidence is required during the course of an investigation, we conduct timely analysis to ascertain the validity and importance of the traditional tools and materials so that we can contribute to the implementation of measures to preserve future cultural properties.
A glimpse of the online international training course
The Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation provided an online international training course, “Documentation of Cultural Heritage by Three-dimensional Photogrammetry,” on November 12th and 25th, 2020, jointly with the Japanese Centre for South Asian Cultural Heritage (JCSACH), a non-profit organization. It was aimed at promoting active incorporation of digital data as a method of international cooperation in the field of cultural heritage post COVID-19. Three-dimensional photogrammetry is a technique to create a 3D model of the exact shape of an object on a computer from photographs of the object taken from various angles by a digital camera. Since 3D models can be created using familiar equipment, such as compact digital cameras and smartphones, it is becoming popular in cultural heritage sites as a highly practical recording method. For this training course, researchers and practitioners who are responsible for the conservation of cultural heritage in four countries were invited. These included Cambodia, Nepal, and Iran, where Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties is carrying out international cooperation programs, and Pakistan, with which JCSACH enjoys close ties.
Mr. NOGUCHI Atsushi, the Director-cum-Secretary General of JCSACH, who is a leading expert in 3D photogrammetry technique in the field of archaeology, served as lecturer. In the first lecture, the trainees learned the principles of 3D photogrammetry, how to take photographs to be used for photogrammetry, and basic operation of the software. They worked on creating their own 3D models during a week of independent practice after the first lecture. In the second lecture, the trainees presented the models they had created and learned more advanced techniques, such as how to create cross-sectional views from the models.
A total of 24 researchers and practitioners from Cambodia, Nepal, and Pakistan participated in the online training course. It was unfortunate that the Iranian participants were not able to take part due to a problem with the Zoom connection, but they were provided with the course materials. Most of the trainees had never had any prior experience with 3D photogrammetry. However, they were eager to ask questions. Further, in the post-participation survey, they shared their own ideas on how to use 3D photogrammetry data, such as for recording remains at restoration sites, or for museum exhibitions.
Once 3D photogrammetry becomes a common documentation method in every country and sharing 3D information on cultural heritage becomes possible remotely, we will be able to see new developments in international cooperation projects in the future.
Program of “Conservation of Wooden Architectural Heritage in Southeast Asia”
On November 21, 2020, the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation (JCICC) held an online seminar on the policy and methodology of wooden architectural restoration in Southeast Asian countries. This was the fourth seminar of the Southeast Asian wooden architecture seminar series that JCICC annually held recently. In the previous seminars, we had highlighted Southeast Asian wooden architecture through academic studies on historical science, architectural history, and archeology. In this one, we focused on the practical aspect of heritage conservation, one of the important mission of the Institute, which we felt was the appropriate theme to conclude the seminar series.
Mr. Pongthorn HIENGKAEW, senior architect in the Fine Arts Department, Thailand, and Mr. Sengthong LUEYANG, deputy director of Luang Prabang World Heritage Office, Laos, who are involved in wooden architecture restoration in Southeast Asia, attended the seminar, as did Ms. Montira UNAKUL of UNESCO Bangkok Office, a specialist familiar with the overall situation of heritage conservation in Southeast Asian countries. Basic policy and practical measures for the restoration of wooden architecture as cultural heritage were reported by Mr. Pongthorn with concrete examples of nationally designated heritage Buddhist buildings, and by Mr. Sengthong with concrete examples of residential buildings in the old quarter of Luang Prabang. Ms. Montira, on the other hand, introduced the recent pioneering effort for wooden architecture restoration and related human resource development in Thailand and Indonesia.
In the second half of the seminar, Mr. NAKAUCHI Yasuo, senior conservation architect at the Japanese Association for Conservation of Architectural Monuments, joined the three invitees from Southeast Asia and had a panel discussion under the facilitation of Mr. TOMODA Masahiko, JCICC director. The discussions confirmed that there are many commonalities in the conservation principle and restoration measures of wooden architecture. Furthermore, the shortage of producers and artisans who employ traditional materials and techniques was recognized as a universal issue in our modern society.
We had originally planned to hold this seminar in the Institute’s conference room. However, considering the COVID-19 pandemic, we decided to switch to the online mode and hold a webinar. It was an achievement of this year’s our activities to get the seminar done online that hold in the conference room so far. At the same time, many points to be improved are certainly clarified through our mismanagement in addition to unexpected troubles. We aim to use this experience as a lesson and explore a brand new method for holding seminars and events suitable in the post-COVID society.