|■Tokyo National Research
Institute for Cultural Properties
||■Center for Conservation
|■Department of Art Research,
Archives and Information Systems
||■Japan Center for
International Cooperation in Conservation
|■Department of Intangible
The satellite venue
YAMANASHI Emiko, Deputy Director General at Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) gave a lecture entitled “The project of compiling the Year Book of Japanese Art as a legacy of the Hakuba-Kai” on March 25th, 2021. Currently, the Year Book of Japanese Art (the Year Book ) that TOBUNKEN publishes compiles annual developments in the Japanese art world two years ago, which is made up of “annals,” “art exhibitions,” “bibliography of art literature,” and “the deceased.” We have published the Year Book since 1936, which was not disrupted by the difficult times during and after the war and has continued up until today. Its unique composition was invented by IWAMURA Tōru (1870 – 1917), an art critic who maintained close relations with KURODA Seiki and KUME Keiichiro. Regarding how it has developed and changed thereafter, she delivered a lecture from her viewpoint as a researcher of modern Japanese art history and based on a wealth of experience that she had accumulated. As the number of art exhibitions has risen and the scope of “art” has widened in recent years, there are various challenges. She concluded her lecture by emphasizing the importance of sharing common awareness of the issues to continue with its publication and the significance of a public institution like TOBUNKEN continuing to publish the Year Book. In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the lecture was conducted online while participants viewed her presentation from the seminar room at TOBUNKEN, which served as a satellite venue, their respective workplaces or homes. Further, the video of the lecture was published via TOBUNKEN’s YouTube channel for a limited period of time until April 30, 2021. Yamanashi resigned as Deputy Director General as of the end of March 2021 and assumed a role as a visiting researcher starting in April 2021 and continues to provide cooperation to our activities at TOBUNKEN.
Database of KUME Keiichiro’s Diary, Accounts on January 4th, 1899
The Portrait of SANO Akira by KURODA Seiki Possessed by the Tokyo National Museum
Western-style painter KUME Keiichiro (1866 – 1934) is known as an artist who strove to revamp Japanese modern western-style painting along with his close colleague KURODA Seiki (1866 – 1924). At Kume Museum of Art in Meguro, Tokyo, which is designed to praise his achievements as a painter, Kume’s diary titled “KUME Keiichiro’s Diary” is kept and was already published (by Chuo Koron Bijutsu Shuppan in 1990). As part of a collaborative project between the museum and Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN), we began publishing the content of the diary online in database format using WordPress Content Management System (CMS) via the following URL as of March 25:
The diary was written in part in French and the database contains the French text written until 1892 and its Japanese translation by visiting researcher SAITO Tatsuya. Further, it is linked with the database of KURODA Seiki’s diary, which had already been published online, and as for descriptions with the same dates, the two diaries can be cross-referenced. For instance, Kuroda and Kume celebrated the New Year in Numazu, Shizuoka, in 1899. In Kume’s diary on January 4th, he noted that “Kuroda portrayed Sano,” while Kuroda mentioned in his diary that “I portrayed Sano.” Sano is SANO Akira (1866 – 1955), a sculptor who enjoyed a close friendship with Kuroda and Kume.
The portrait of Sano painted by Kuroda is a collection that was housed in the Kuroda Memorial Hall (Tokyo National Museum) in 2019. It can safely be described as an interesting example in which Kuroda and Kume’s accounts in their respective diaries are linked with the existing piece of art.
For your information, also as a result of our collaborative study with Kume Museum of Art, we published an article, “Exchanges between KURODA Seiki and KUME Keiichiro Seen in Letters (I),” by SHIOYA Jun, ITO Fumiko (curator at Kume Museum of Art), TANAKA Jun (visiting researcher), and SAITO Tatsuya in The Journal of Art Studies Vol. 433. We compiled the letters exchanged between Kuroda and Kume as a comprehensive list to allow you to view its summary. It will be a real pleasure for us if it provides a means of looking at Japan’s modern western-style painting along with the database of Kume’s diary.
Explanation of the point of attention in taking a picture of ishari
Hands-on practice of shooting spouted pottery
Hands-on practice of shooting shimacho
Documentation of cultural properties aims to obtain information needed to conduct research on cultural properties, and to protect or utilize them. In particular, photographs convey detailed information that words alone are unable to express fully, and by setting the appropriate shooting conditions, more information can be conveyed.
We organized a seminar on practical photographing for documentation of cultural properties with the title above, which was targeted at the staff of member museums of the Liaison Council of Museums in Miyagi Prefecture, at the Tohoku History Museum (Tagajo City, Miyagi Prefecture) on March 12th, 2021. Co-hosted by the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN), the Tohoku History Museum, and the liaison council, the seminar was the liaison council’s second workshop during fiscal year 2020. During the seminar, measures to avoid the spread of COVID-19 were taken, such as requiring participants to wear masks and ensuring social distancing and ventilation.
Following a lecture in the morning, hands-on practice of taking pictures of a variety of objects in the collection of the Tohoku History Museum, such as spouted pottery in the Late Jomon Period, ishari, a traditional lure for catching octopuses, and shimacho (a swatch book of stripe-patterned kimono fabrics), was conducted under the guidance of SHIRONO Seiji, an artificer at TOBUNKEN. All participants in the hands-on practice were requested to bring a camera with them and other equipment, such as lights and reflector boards, was provided by the museum. In the practice, we emphasized the importance of handling light. All the techniques were applicable using an existing or inexpensive device; one example was eliminating deep shadows that inhibit observation by illuminating the target object by projecting the light on a reflector board, which was hand-made by the staff at the museum. Participants worked on the practice with keen interest and many of them commented that they hoped to share what they learned with their colleagues or to use the techniques acquired in their work.
Let us take this opportunity to express our heartfelt thanks to everyone at the co-host organizations and all the participants that provided us with many useful suggestions. We hope to continue to organize seminars by taking advantage of this experience.
Production of Uda paper (video)
Production of a paper for repair and conservation (video)
Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has carried out the Cooperative Program for the Conservation of Japanese Art Objects Overseas since 1990. To date, it has conserved 385 pieces of paintings and crafts owned by art museums in many parts of the world, including Europe, North America, and Australia. According to the initial plan, the conserved works of art in this program were supposed to return home in fiscal 2020 and an exhibition was due to be organized, wherein restoration techniques, materials, and tools would also have been presented; we had accordingly made preparations. In order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus infectious disease (COVID-19), however, we decided to postpone the exhibition.
Instead, we have recently launched a special website as something we can do even under constraints on the moves of people and goods. On this website, we introduce works of Japanese arts and crafts that we planned to exhibit, museums that own them in Europe and the U.S., and a list of works that have been conserved in searchable database format. As for those of which reports have already been published, you can read the text online as well. Further, there are a wide variety of traditional materials necessary to restore cultural properties. Moreover, a video is posted to explain, among others, Uda paper, which is used for the final and the backmost lining of a hanging scroll and a paper to be used to repair or restore the honshi (the paper on which a painting or calligraphy is drawn). These are designated as the national selected preservation technique for cultural properties. This video allows you to understand that various kinds of wisdom and ingenuity are brought together to hand down traditional techniques from generation to generation and conserve cultural properties amid Japanese traditional culture and natural environment. Let us take this opportunity to encourage you to visit the site. For your information, the preparations for the exhibition and production of the website were carried out as part of the Japan Cultural Expo.
The front cover of the research report
Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) owns a total of 2,565 auction catalogues published from the Meiji Era to the Showa Era, which is the largest collection among those owned by public organizations. We have digitized them in collaboration with Tokyo Art Club since 2015 (refer to the Research Report for April 2015 https://www.tobunken.go.jp/
materials/ekatudo/206112.html) and started publishing them as the Auction Catalogue Digital Archive on May 2019 (refer to the Research Report for April 2019 https://www.tobunken.go.jp/
materials/ekatudo/817176.html). Further, in order to publicize this digital archive widely, we organized a seminar titled “The Auction Catalogue Digital Archive: Exploring the Potential of Auction Catalogues in Art Historical Research” on February 25, 2020. In this workshop, four people who participated from and outside of TOBUNKEN made presentations and curators and researchers who participated from various regions nationwide held discussion and question and answer sessions, which received a strong response and good reviews (refer to the Research Report for February 2020 https://www.tobunken.go.jp/materials/ekatudo/823156.html).
Against this background, centered on what was discussed in the workshop, we published the results of our five-year efforts at digitizing the auction catalogues in the form of a research report by adding parts on the significance of the auction catalogues that have been offered for review over the years as one of TOBUNKEN’s important collections, and the background of digitization. This contains: “An Overview of the Auction Catalogue Digital Archive” by YASUNAGA Takuyo (senior researcher at TOBUNKEN) as a project overview; and “Research on the History of Sculpture and Auction Catalogues” by YAMAGUCHI Ryûsuke (senior researcher at Nara National Museum), “The Use and Development of Auction Catalogues in the Tôrei Hijikata: A Retrospective Exhibition Held at Tottori Prefectural Museum” by YAMASHITA Mayumi (curator at The Hosomi Museum), “How to ‘See’ and ‘Read’ Auction Catalogues: Decorative Arts as an Example of the Use of the Auction Catalogue Digital Archive by TSUKIMURA Kino (curator at Fukuyama Museum of Art), and “Various Issues Regarding Early Modern Paintings that Emerge from the Auction Catalogue Digital Archive” by YASUNAGA Takuyo as discussions; as well as “The Process of Making Auction Catalogues Available to the Public at the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties” by NAKAMURA Setsuko (former librarian at TOBUNKEN) and “The Function of the Systems Used in the Creation of the Auction Catalogue Digital Archive” By OYAMADA Tomohiro (researcher at TOBUNKEN) as reports.
We donated copies of the research report to major museums, art museums, libraries, and universities at the end of the last fiscal year. Let me encourage those who are interested to visit a library nearby to view the report.
A scene of the seminar
As part of a research project titled “Exhibition Environments for Conservation and Utilization” by the Center for Conservation Science, a seminar on “Exhibition Environments for Conservation and Utilization” – Relationships between Lighting, Colors, and How One Looks was organized to sum up research on lighting on March 4th, 2021. Reports on cases that put emphasis on ideal lighting for exhibitions at art and other museums while taking into account conservation of cultural properties had been predominant up until then. This time around, however, we asked experts in the area of lighting, which had not been taken up very much in the area of cultural properties, to share their insights into lighting with us from a perspective that was a little different from conservation.
First of all, Ms. SANO Chie, an honorary researcher at Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TBUNKEN), who had taken the initiative in this project, gave a lecture on the flow of research into lighting at the Center for Conservation Science as an introduction. This was followed by lectures that covered a broad range of subjects delivered respectively by Prof. MIZOKAMI Yoko (Graduate School of Engineering, Chiba University), who specializes in vision science, vision engineering, visual information processing, and color dynamics, Prof. YOSHIZAWA Nozomu (Department of Architecture, Faculty of Science and Technology, Tokyo University of Science), who studies evaluation techniques for architectural light environments, and Prof. YAMAUCHI Yasuki (Graduate School of Science and Engineering, Yamagata University), who carries out research on visual information processing, color dynamics, illuminating engineering, and image processing.
As a state of emergency was issued due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the seating capacity was limited to up to 30 in the seminar room, whose seating capacity is normally 120, but a face-to-face seminar proved extremely productive. Participants commented that the lectures delivered on a face-to-face basis were meaningful and that they were able to deepen their understanding of lighting, indicating that the seminar had a high satisfaction level. Meanwhile, we announced this seminar by limiting the recipients to art and other museums etc. in and around the Kanto region to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Thus, we decided to record the seminar and publish it on TOBUNKEN’s YouTube channel for a limited period of time. Let us encourage those who were unable to participate in the seminar in person to view it on this occasion.
You can view it from May 10th through July 30th, 2021 at:
Unpacking the artwork
A large number of works of Japanese art are possessed by museums overseas. However, most of them have no specialists who can restore works of Japanese art and no appropriate measures have been taken against their deterioration or damage. In the Cooperative Program for the Conservation of Japanese Art Objects Overseas, we investigate Japanese art objects overseas, identify those with high cultural values and needing to be restored more urgently than others, bring them back to Japan through consultation with the museums that possess them, restore them under the thoroughgoing measures in Japan, and send them back to them after the completion of the restoration work.
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Canada’s oldest art museum, currently possesses more than 45,000 works of art after having relocated or expanded since it was inaugurated in 1879. They include a large number of Japanese works. Based on the results of a local survey conducted in 2018, we decided to restore two works: Kumano Honjibutsu Mandala (color on silk; a hanging scroll), and Byobu Screens Featuring the Thirty-six Poetesses (color on paper with gold leaf; a pair of six-panel folding screens) that are housed in the museum.
Though a museum courier was unable to accompany the works in transit due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, they were safely imported into Japan in March 2021. We will start a series of the restoration processes from documentation, including a current situation survey and taking a high-definition photo.