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

Investigating the structure of Koto from multiple perspectives: In collaboration with Society for the Conservation of Traditional Japanese Musical Instrument Making Skills and Kyushu National Museum

Checking the captured CT images.
Setting up to scan the koto, which is over 170 cm in length, was a challenge.

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage conducts research not only on the traditional performing arts themselves, but also on their ‘tools’ – musical instruments. The department has now started a joint survey of the structure of a koto (in a private collection), which is thought to have been made between the late Edo period and the Taisho period, in collaboration with two organisations: the Society for the Conservation of Traditional Japanese Musical Instrument Making Skills, which is a conservation group for the Selected Conservation Techniques of the making of the koto and the fashioning of the shamisen neck and body, and Kyushu National Museum, which belongs to the National Institutes for Cultural Heritage, in common with us. This effort is an attempt to synthesise the knowledge and perspectives that have connected performers and audiences through instrument-making skills, the techniques and perspectives of museology for non-destructive investigation of the interior of cultural properties, and the perspectives of instrumentology and musicology on intangible cultural properties to clarify the structure of the koto from multiple perspectives.

 On August 29, a CT examination of the koto was conducted at the Kyushu National Museum, and while checking the images immediately after the scan, several discoveries unique to this collaboration were made. For example, opinions were exchanged on a newly discovered notch on the inner bottom surface of the koto: the notch appears to have been accidentally caused by the entry of a saw blade once used in the instrument-making process and to have been partially filled in with other wood to compensate for this.

 This research has only just begun, but by gathering opinions from people with various perspectives, it is hoped that new aspects will emerge, such as the techniques used in the instrument-making process, the intentions of the makers, and the structure of the koto as the culmination of this work. In the future, we intend to examine the CT images obtained in detail, scrutinise the origin of this koto, and compare it with other kotos owned by other institutions that may have been made by the same maker, to clarify the characteristics of its structure and production techniques.

Workshop on Basic Science for Conservators in 2023

The participants just after the opening session
A lecture in progress

 The Center for Conservation Science conducts scientific research on the conservation and restoration of cultural properties. Since FY 2021, based on our research, we have held annual workshops on basic science for conservators who have diverse experience in the restoration of cultural properties and museum curation and archiving.

 In 2023, the workshop was held for three days, from August 22 to 24. We provided lectures and practical sessions on basic scientific knowledge essential for conservation and restoration, including basic chemistry, science of adhesion and adhesives, chemistry of paper, pest damage control, and usage and disposal of chemical agents. Researchers of the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties delivered lectures based on their expertise.

 We received 32 applications from across Japan for 15 workshop seats. Though it is unfortunate that we could not accept all, as the workshop included practical sessions, we invited 21 applicants among them. In responding to feedback received from the previous year, we tried to plan more practical contents for 2023. Participants expressed their appreciation for this workshop through the questionnaires provided. We received specific requests for disseminating scientific information used in actual conservation and restoration cases. We intend to continue this workshop series to meet these expectations.

Symposium: “Grand Egyptian Museum Now: Preserving the Treasures of the Pharaohs 2023”

Panel talk on the conservation of the Tutankhamun collections
Speakers in this symposium

 Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) was entrusted with an opening support project for the Grand Egyptian Museum by JICA from 2008 to 2016, and conducted seminars on capacity development and technical instruction for the conservation of museum collections.
 In this context, we organized a symposium titled “Grand Egyptian Museum Now: Preserving the Treasures of the Pharaohs 2023,” which aimed to widely release the opening support projects conducted by the Japanese mission, including our entrusted project, ahead of Museum opening. This symposium was co-organized by the Grand Egyptian Museum and JICA on August 6, 2023 at the Heiseikan Auditorium in Tokyo National Museum. We invited both Mr. Atef Moftah, the general supervisor of Grand Egyptian Museum Project and Surrounding Area, and Mr. Eissa Zidan, the general manager of the first aid conservation and transportation of the artifacts, to this symposium.
 The Grand Egyptian Museum, which is located next to the Great Pyramids area, is attracting attention before its opening as the largest museum in the world exhibiting collections from a single civilization. In the symposium, Mr. Moftah gave the keynote lecture and introduced the whole museum and the Tutankhamun collection room. Following that, Prof. YOSHIMURA Sakuji, the president of Higashi Nippon International University, and Mr. Zidan both made presentations on the latest outcomes on the second boat of Khufu, which the Japanese mission is currently restoring for display in the annex building. Additionally, the researchers responsible for the conservation of Tutankhamun’s objects presented their results, and a panel discussion was held on the theme of expectations for the Grand Egyptian Museum.
 This symposium became a great opportunity to showcase the achievement of international cooperation to date, because we not only introduced the situation of the museum before the opening, but also all of the Japanese support in one place. Contents of the symposium will be released on the TOBUNKEN home page soon.

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