|■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
A Kote-e by Chohachi Irie (Zenpuku-ji Temple, Tokyo)
Stucco decoration in the Ticino style
Stucco decorations are distinct in their form and purpose, and they can be found in various parts of the world. The Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation began research and surveys investigating stucco decorations in fiscal 2021 as part of a the “International Research on Technology for the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage” program, which offers grants for research expenses. The purpose of this program is to track how stucco decorations have been propagated to different regions as they repeatedly evolve and deteriorate in quality, and to understand and verify how efforts are being made to conserve and restore these decorations in different countries today. On May 29, experts involved in the conservation of stucco decorations, mainly in Europe, participated in an online discussion.
In an exchange of opinions, the topic of stucco decorations in the Ticino region of Switzerland were introduced, which laid the foundation for stucco decoration in Europe from the Mediterranean coastal regions and from the 16th to 18th centuries. From Japan, we introduced what we have learned from our research so far, including kote-e (plaster relief paintings) made using traditional plaster, the stucco techniques and materials that were popularized alongside pseudo-Western-style architecture, which imitated Western architecture from the end of the Edo period to the Meiji period, and also the current maintenance status of these works.
Participating experts expressed surprise that many common points can be found in techniques and materials across different countries and time periods. They also agreed to jointly study methods for conservation and restoration aimed at improving the current situation, as there are many similarities regarding maintenance and management issues.
In the future, while continuing with our research surveys in Japan, we will recruit overseas research collaborators, and expand the scope of our research domains. In addition, we would like to accumulate information through exchanges of opinions and the sharing of research results, deepen understanding of stucco decorations, and opening a forum for the consideration of how to both conserve them and pass them down to future generations.
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.
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.
27th Seminar: “International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage amid the COVID-19 Pandemic”
International cooperation in cultural heritage is facing many challenges due to the spread of COVID-19. The Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage (JCIC-Heritage) held a webinar on “International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage under the COVID-19 Crisis” on September 5th, 2020. The purpose of the webinar is to share detailed information on how each project deal with the situation as well as to discuss the future possibilities of international cooperation in cultural heritage.
For the first report, “Conservation Project of Angkor Archaeological Park under the COVID-19 Crisis,” Dr. NAGAOKA Masanori (from the UNESCO Phnom Penh Office) who participated in the webinar from Cambodia, explained that tourism around Angkor has been severely hit as the number of tourists has decreased due to the COVID-19 pandemic while APSARA national authority, the administrative body of the Angkor, took advantage of the situation to undertake large improvement projects (which had been put on hold) around the site and new studies.
For the second report, “An Example of International Cooperation Project Utilizing Digital Tools,” Associate Dr. WATANABE Nobuya from Chubu University introduced the cooperation project for remotely supporting the 3D documentation work of endangered cultural heritage in Syria during the ongoing conflict.
Following the two reports, Mr. SEKI Yuji of the National Museum of Ethnology served as the moderator and the four panelists including Mr. TOMODA Masahiko of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, and Mr. YAMAUCHI Kazuya of the Research Institute of Cultural Properties, Teikyo University discussed about the possibilities and difficulties of online training and remote research and conservation projects with digital tools.
JCIC-Heritage will continue to make efforts to collect and disseminate information of the challenges and the trial of projects under the COVID-19 Crisis. We are hoping that the accumulation of these knowledge and experiences will be fully utilized for the post-Covid-19 international cooperation in cultural heritage.
For details about this webinar, please refer to the URL below:
AR presentation image of the East Gate after the superstructure was dismantled (technically supported by YAMADA Osamu (Project Professor, Tokyo University of Arts Graduate School))
A year-long permanent exhibition is being held at the Institute’s entrance lobby. Each department or center of the Institute takes turns to arrange this exhibition in yearly shifts to introduce the result of research and projects to the public. In the year of 2020, the exhibition provides an introduction to the ongoing restoration work of the East Gate, as a part of the cooperation project for the conservation and sustainable development of Ta Nei Temple, Angkor, Cambodia. Over two decades, the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation of the Institute has been involved in the cooperation activities at this temple.
In Angkor, since the 1990s when Cambodia emerged from its domestic and political turmoil, the international community including Japan, France, the United States, India, and China has supported conservation initiatives aiming to preserve and repair the splendid architecture in the magnificent monuments, representing the glory of ancient Cambodia. At Ta Nei Temple, it is tried to take the objective of international support a step forward, and promote sustainable heritage conservation in Cambodian circumstances under the conservation masterplan jointly prepared by the Institute and the Cambodian government’s Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and Region of Siem Reap (APSARA). The restoration work of the East Gate is the first case to be explored under this conservation masterplan. The Institute provides technical advice and proposals about restoration methods and procedures as well as conducts architectural surveys and archaeological excavations at each phase of the restoration process, while APSARA ensures the budget and implements the onsite work.
Digital documentation techniques, such as 3D laser scanning and photogrammetry—with rapid progress rates—are actively adopted during onsite research activities. Regarding photogrammetry, a full-scale, straightforward application has already been put into commercial use at accessible prices. It could be utilized as a technique with high versatility in the field of heritage conservation in Cambodia and abroad. We have tried to use such digital data during the exhibition, introducing electronic presentations with AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality) technologies, to provide an interactive experience of the site. We hope that this exhibition rouses your interest in the Institute’s international cooperation efforts for heritage conservation.
Study on the reinforcement measures for the foundation structure of the East Gate
The ICC Secretariat visited the restoration work site of the East Gate (courtesy of APSARA)
Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties provides continuous 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. Last year, the restoration of the East Gate began under the Conservation and Sustainable Development Plan jointly developed by APSARA and the Institute. APSARA is responsible for securing the budget for materials and labors, as well as implementing the work. The Institute provides technical assistance on restoration methodologies and procedures, as well as cooperation in architectural and archaeological surveys before and during the work.
The possibility of our visiting Cambodia has all but disappeared after March this year, due to the global travel bans implemented to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we cannot suspend the restoration work for our convenience, given that COVID-19 has not spread widely in Cambodia and the Cambodian counterpart has been continued regular site duties. From April, we have been benefiting from the advantages of Information & Communication Technology (ICT), actively utilizing interactive networking services with smartphones, besides normal e-mail messaging, to grasp real-time conditions at the site and hold online meetings as needed.
On the 21st of April, an online meeting was conducted with the East Gate restoration team of APSARA to share the result of the foundation’s geological testing during February and March and discuss restoration methods and structural reinforcement measures, based on the test result. Two of our collaborators, Professor KOSHIHARA Mikio (Structural Engineering) and Professor KUWANO Reiko (Geo-technical Engineering) from the Institute of Industrial Science, the University of Tokyo, joined the meeting. After an in-depth discussion from a scientific perspective, the participants finally agreed on a basic scheme for the restoration and reinforcement with an aim to balance heritage authenticity and structural safety. Under this basic scheme, online meetings were held in May and July to study about treating the foundation and superstructure, respectively. We had interactive discussions and shared ideas, plans, and other useful information, as well as the site’s latest condition, and decided that, at this stage, the concrete restoration/reinforcement method be considered the most appropriate one.
The Technical Session of the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor (ICC), organized at APSARA headquarters in June every year, was also postponed, and only the site visit by the ICC co-chairs and the secretariat was done this year. APSARA and the Institute jointly made the progress report and work plan of the project, including the activities mentioned above, and submitted it to the ICC secretariat prior to their site visit. We also held an online meeting with Professor MASUI Masaya of Kyoto University Graduate School, a member of the Ad Hoc Expert Group of the ICC, who supervised and advised us on our recent issues and the project’s work plan and exchanged information about latest information concerning international cooperation on Angkor.
In this way, we accidentally realized a potential of ICT in heritage conservation. Indeed, there is a natural limit to conservation efforts based on telecommunication and remote information sharing because the universal value of cultural heritage is in its object itself. We hope that the world returns to normal, after overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic, and the days of unrestricted international travel are back soon.
Dismantlement of the base platform.
Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP) 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 Ta Nei Temple in Angkor, Cambodia. As a part of this project, TNRICP dispatched a total of four members, including an outside expert, to Cambodia between February 26 and March 18, 2020 for 3D documentation of the base structure and an investigation of the foundation’s strength of the East Gate under restoration.
Directed by Associate Professor Dr. OISHI Takeshi, from the Institute of Industrial Science, the University of Tokyo, a 3D laser scanning survey was conducted between February 27 and 28, 2020 to accurately record the state of the base platform including that in the excavation pits at the external corners of it, which were revealed after the superstructure was dismantled. After that, it was originally planned to conduct a flat-plate loading test and uniaxial compression test of the laterite substrate material. However, because of the spread of COVID-19, the experts in charge were unable to join the mission and only a simple dynamic cone penetration test (DCPT) was performed at the site, which was also conducted in December 2019.
DCPT was conducted at 11 points to check the bearing capacity of the soil infill inside the platform and the foundation layer at the outer edge of the platform. The outcomes of the test indicated that test points below the wall structure have generally larger values than that of the central area (under the pavement). Although the factors such as the difference in the climatic conditions at the time the tests were performed (wet and dry season) might affect the test results, the long-term structural weight causing the rammed earth beneath the walls to get compacted could have caused this distinction. It could be interpreted as the soil infill inside the platform has developed a certain degree of strength enough to support the upper weight of the structure at present. In addition to DCPT, a core sampling was also conducted with a hand auger to check the cross-sectional structure, including the lowest layer of the foundation.
Further, indoor material tests were performed by Professor Dr. KUWANO Reiko and Assistant Professor Dr. OTSUBO Masahide, from the Institute of Industrial Science, the University of Tokyo. Three kinds of specimens (original laterite stone, new laterite stone used for replacing deteriorated parts, and lime mortar used for the level adjustment) were tested in the laboratory through uniaxial compression test, etc. The test results indicated that there was no significant difference in the strength of the old and new laterite materials.
The recent global pandemic has also affected our international cooperation project severely due to the difficulty of reaching to the site yet still the request of completion of the project as scheduled. However, we are trying to adapt to this situation by trying to find a way to communicate remotely with the counterparts through effective utilization of online meeting tools and the digital data of the structure that we have created thus far.
The Old Sasebo Wireless Transmission Facility and its surroundings at present (Sasebo City, Nagasaki Prefecture)
The front of the communication room in the center of the former Fongshan Communication Center (Kaohsiung City, Taiwan)
The Old Sasebo Wireless Transmission Facility (Hario Transmitting Station) standing on a hill overlooking the Harioseto Strait, which divides Sasebo City and Saikai City, Nagasaki Prefecture, is the remains of a long-wave telecommunication base built by the Navy in 1922. The construction of this group of buildings was undertaken by the Architecture Department of Sasebo Naval District led by MASHIMA Kenzaburo (1874-1941), a naval engineer known for pioneering concrete construction in Japan. The quality reinforced concrete constructions are represented by three huge radio towers 136 m in height. These buildings, which reflect the cutting-edge concrete technology of the day, were designated as important cultural properties in 2013.
Since their designation as important cultural properties, Sasebo City, which manages the Old Sasebo Wireless Transmission Facility (hereinafter Sasebo), has been making arrangements for the conservation and utilization of these buildings as cultural properties. On February 12th and 13th, 2020, the former Japanese Navy Fongshan Communication Center, located in a suburb of Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan, was investigated as part of the activities by the Maintenance Examination Commission, for which the author serves as a member. Fongshan Communication Center (hereinafter Fongshan ) is a long-wave telecommunication base built by the Sasebo Naval District, and it was completed in 1917, five years earlier than Sasebo. Fongshan was used as a guest house or as a training center for the Taiwanese Navy until the 2000s. Fongshan , which is now a facility open to the public, was designated a national ancient monument in 2010. Fongshan was designed by the same organization as Sasebo, and reinforced concrete was used everywhere except in the radio tower, which was a steel tower, an icon of the day (now demolished). A circular road of 300 m radius that surrounds Fongshan and the layout of the central facilities are similar to those in Sasebo. This investigation confirmed that Fongshan, which was consistently used as an educational facility, did not require any large-scale renewal or modification after the war, and still maintains its appearance as in the Japanese Navy period due to the relatively few alterations made to the major buildings. Particularly the communication room located at the center of the facility is built in the same style as in the Sasebo. Fittings such as steel doors and upper and lower window frames, as well as interior wooden floors and staircases, still maintain their original appearance although they were partly damaged in a fire. The transmission room in Sasebo was renovated periodically when Sasebo was used by the Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Japan Coast Guard, in addition to the modifications made for explosion resistance at the end of World War II. Therefore, Fongshan can be an effective reference in studying conservation and restoration principles for Sasebo.
However, Fongshan is considerably different from Sasebo due to the uniqueness of its buildings, which have heavy architectural features, locally called a “cross-shaped radio station,” and give an impression of a combat operations center. For the maintenance of Fongshan, relevant people consider the fact that it was a place to reform political prisoners during the White Terror period (the suppression of political dissidents by the Chinese Nationalist Party government). Its occupation by the Japanese Navy does not attract much attention, leading to several unattended matters. For sharing the issues involved in protecting cultural properties, interactions between Sasebo and Fongshan should be promoted. This would contribute to the development of conservation principles and restoration approaches in the modernization heritage of Japan and Taiwan.
On-site confirmation before the workshop (overlooking Kabesa village)
Discussions on the workshop (DCHS conference room)
From this Fiscal Year, Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP) has started an Exchange Project for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs to provide technical support and capacity building for the preservation and utilization of historic buildings in Bhutan. In 16th January 2020, as part of this project, TNRICP dispatched a team of six experts including three outside experts to participate the Workshop on Conservation of Lham Pelzom house organized by the Division for Conservation of Heritage Sites (DCHS), Department of Culture, Ministry of Home and Culture Affairs.
Lham Pelzom house, located in Kabesa near the capital of Thimphu, is considered to be one of the oldest surviving farmhouses in the country, and is the top candidate for designation as historic farmhouses under Bhutan’s first comprehensive basic law on cultural heritage (New Law) which the government aims to pass. On the other hand, the house has been vacant for a long time, and its deterioration has been remarkable recently. Consequently, the need for preliminary consensus among stakeholders, such as the government, owners and local communities, on the potential for preservation and utilization is growing. Given this awareness, DCHS invited house owners, representatives of local communities, government officials from the Ministry of Work and Human Settlements, and Tourism Council to the workshop, for sharing various views on the conservation of the Lham Pelzom house. TNRICP joined the workshop for giving advice from the theoretical and technical point of view regarding heritage conservation.
In the first half of the workshop, from the standpoint of promoting heritage protection, TNRICP proposed conservation policies and restoration methods based on field research, and DCHS reported on how government support should be provided, including financial aspects. Contrary, from the standpoint of the bearer of actual preservation, house owners strongly requested the need to secure economic benefits through common adaptive use, and local communities emphasized the need for the active involvement of the government in preservation. However, they all understood and welcomed a high reputation as a cultural heritage in general. Subsequently, in the second half of the workshop, meaningful mutual discussions unfolded in the latter half of the workshop, based on opinions, aspirations, and grievances of each participant in the first half. Finally, participants agreed to promote the conservation of Lham Pelzom house as the following conditions.
(1) ACCELERATE procedures for value valuation as cultural heritage, such as designation under the new law,
(2) CLARIFY protection frameworks, including administrative support for restoration works and the house owner’s obligations to the preservation,
(3) CONSIDER a proposal for utilization that is appropriate as a cultural heritage and takes into account the house owner’s demand.
TNRICP will cooperate with DCHS and continue research activities and field surveys to realize the conservation of traditional farmhouses in Bhutan as cultural heritage.
Panel discussion at the third Mayors’ Forum
As part of the above-mentioned project commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP) continues to support the building of an administrative network to conserve historic settlements in Nepal. On September 23rd and December 1st, 2019, workshops were organized in Kirtipur municipality with participation of engineers in charge of conservation of historic settlements from relevant municipalities. In response to their outcomes, “the third Mayors’ Forum on Conservation of Historic Settlements in Kathmandu and Kavre Valley” was held on January 5th, 2020, under the joint auspices of Kirtipur municipality and TNRICP.
The first Mayors’ Forum was held in 2018 in Panauti municipality for sharing the initiatives and issues related to preservation of historic settlements among the municipalities, followed by Lalitpur Metropolitan City in 2019.
Kirtipur municipality, whose old city area known as “a medieval settlement in Kirtipur” was listed as a UNESCO tentative list for World Heritage site, has been working on establishing its own rules for conservation. Therefore, the theme of this Forum was set as “regulatory framework for conservation of historic settlements,” and through two engineer workshops, the current issues pertaining to the systems were clarified and discussed while sharing information. As a result, the following were spotlighted as issues of administrative organizations and such systems: the existing framework for preservation of historic settlements is not effective since the policy for protection of cultural heritage of monumental nature is not linked with that for urban planning under national administration; some pioneering municipalities preserve their streetscapes under their original regulations, while others are formulating their regulations or criteria by focusing on completely different issues in municipal administration.
Accordingly, at the Forum, an officer in charge of national policy to protect cultural heritage and the one for urban planning reported about their respective conservation systems, and engineers from five municipalities delivered presentations on their legislation and issues to mutually share the tasks under national and municipal administration. Professor NISHIMURA Yukio of Kobe Design University gave a keynote speech titled “Effective Integration between Methods of Urban Planning and Preservation of Historic Settlements” while KANAI Ken, Head of the Conservation Design Section of the Institute, introduced some case studies on the Japanese system for important preservation districts of historic buildings. The Forum was attended by around 120 people, including State Minister of Urban Planning, five mayors and four deputy mayors, as well as engineers and researchers, who proactively exchanged opinions at the end.
Each municipality has several issues on conservation of historic settlements due to lack of financial and human resources, without sufficient support from the national government. Another reason for the ineffective functioning of the existing systems is insufficient basic research on historic settlements or lack of cooperative systems involving researchers and experts.
Consideration to lay the foundation to operate the network for conservation of historic settlements involving research institutions has just begun. It is anticipated that the autonomous and continuous cooperation among the persons concerned is strengthened to achieve a better environment around the historic settlements as well as its preservation.
Research on the folklore pertaining to wall painting iconography
Investigation to evaluate the state of wall paintings damaged by pests
Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties is providing technical support and human resource training to restore wall paintings and the exterior walls of brick temples at the Bagan Archaeological Site in Myanmar. The decision to register Bagan as a world cultural heritage site was made at the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee in 2019. In response to this decision, the “Bagan International Coordinating Committee (BICC)” was set up to work on improving the conservation system. The Committee is making arrangements for holding an international conference annually for information sharing and mutual adjustment so as to better utilize the initiatives taken in each support-providing country.
To collect information on such changes in local situations, we visited the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture of Myanmar (Naypyidaw) and the Bagan branch of the Department of Archaeology and National Museums from January 15th through 31st, 2020, and exchanged opinions on the direction of the future cooperative project. Responding to expectations of further technical assistance to local experts, we agreed to continue with our support activities.
In addition, research on the folklore pertaining to wall painting iconography was conducted following the previous one in July 2019. On-site investigation was also carried out to evaluate the state of wall paintings damaged by pests and to discuss countermeasures. With respect to the iconographic research, we gathered information showing the relation between the acceptance of Buddhism and an indigenous belief specific to Myanmar from local intellectuals. Also, to find the influence of the indigenous belief on wall paintings, we collected detailed examples primarily from Bagan. We now plan to expand the scope of this research beyond Bagan. Furthermore, the investigation of wall paintings damaged by pests revealed their destruction by termites and potter wasps. Therefore, we plan to conduct detailed research to establish countermeasures suitable to the local environment.
The Institute will continue providing technical support and undertaking research activities based on the opinions of local experts for comprehensive conservation of cultural properties at the Bagan Archaeological Site.
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.
Lecture at Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties
Lecture at the National Museum of Ethnology
In March 2017, Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties exchanged a letter of intent with the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO) and the Research Institute of Cultural Heritage and Tourism (RICHT) to offer its cooperation in various academic fields for the protection of Iranian cultural heritage over the next five years.
During the survey to explore the partner country’s needs conducted in Iran in October 2016, Iranian experts consulted us about the serious air pollution in the capital city of Tehran that resulted in damage to cultural properties. They said that even metal products displayed and housed in the National Museum of Iran might be eroding. Based on this information, we have been conducting seminars regarding the improvement of display and housing environment at Iranian museums since 2017.
In 2019, we invited four researchers, two from RICHT and two from the National Museum of Iran, to Japan for a seminar from November 25th to 29th.
First, lectures on museum environments were delivered at the Institute and were mostly led by SANO Chie, Director, Center for Conservation Science, and Dr. RO Toshitami, in addition to the presentation of a report on the results of air pollution monitoring conducted at the National Museum of Iran in 2018. The lectures on pest control for cultural properties were mostly led by SATO Yoshinori, Head, Biological Science Section, and Associate Fellow KOMINE Yukio.
After the academic program, we visited the Kyoto National Museum and the National Museum of Ethnology. At the Kyoto National Museum, Dr. FURIHATA Junko delivered a lecture on disaster prevention measures before observing the disaster prevention system. At the National Museum of Ethnology, Dr. HIDAKA Shingo, Ms. WADAKA Tomomi, Ms. KAWAMURA Yukako, and Ms. HASHIMOTO Sachi conducted lectures on environmental management, air conditioning, pest control measures, and so on, while taking a tour of the exhibition halls and storage area. Once again, we express our gratitude to all the people and the institutes that have cooperated to support the program.
The Institute will continue to offer its cooperation in various fields for the protection of Iranian cultural heritage.
Practical work on the usage of brushes
Group photo of course participants
From October 30th to November 13th, 2019, the International Course on Paper Conservation in Latin America: Meeting with the East was held as part of the LATAM program (conservation of cultural heritage in Latin America and the Caribbean). This course has been jointly organized by Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP), the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), and the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH). It has been held since 2012 at the Coordinacion Nacional de Conservacion del Patrimonio Cultural (CNCPC), which belongs to INAH, in Mexico City. The course sought to provide attendees with basic knowledge and techniques regarding traditional Japanese paper, adhesives, and tools so that the knowledge and techniques could be used to help conserve cultural properties in the attendees’ home countries. This year, 9 conservation specialists from 8 countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Spain and Venezuela) participated.
Japanese specialists were in charge of the first part of the course (October 30th to November 6th). They offered lectures on the protection system of cultural properties in Japan; tools and materials used in restoration, such as Japanese paper and adhesives; and “Restoration techniques for mounts” which is one of the Selected Conservation Techniques in Japan. The practical work on linings using these tools and materials was carried out with the cooperation of CNCPC staff members who had learned the techniques for several months at TNRICP.
In the latter half of the course (November 7th to 13th), lectures were given by experts from Mexico and Spain who had completed the International Course on Conservation of Japanese Paper at TNRICP. They spoke about how to select materials and apply their techniques to Western paper cultural properties.
The participants could gain a deeper understanding of conservation materials, tools and techniques used in Japan through this technical exchange. We hope that the knowledge and techniques they acquired in the course will be applied to the conservation and restoration of cultural property overseas.
Dismantling work with a crane truck
Head of a statue found inside the East Gate
Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties provides 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. During the period from September 7th to November 5th, 2019, the Institute dispatched a total of six members, including outside experts, to Angkor.
In this restoration project of the East Gate of Ta Nei Temple, APSARA is responsible for implementing the dismantling work, while the Institute provides technical assistance, mainly on restoration methodologies, in addition to cooperation indocumentation and other scientific surveys .
The team began dismantling the roof of the gate by using a crane truck after praying for the safety of all persons involved in the work at the ground-breaking ceremony on September 12th. The numbered stone blocks were removed one by one from the top during which each block was measured, photographed, and assessed with its damage condition.
After dismantling the roof part, the tree roots and anthills invading the structure were removed, and the collapsed stones inside the building were taken out. Most of the collected stones, almost 70 in total,were revealed to fell down from the roof or pediment. They seemed to collapse naturally due to aging. Beneath the collapsed stones, broken head (measuring approximately 56 cm in height) of a statue, which could be identified as Lokesvara, was found leaning against the western wall of the south wing. This statue must be significant in that it is expected to shed light on the history of Ta Nei Temple, much of which is still unknown. After the find was documented with photography and 3D scanning to be described, it was moved to store at a APSARA’s facility for further study.
In cooperation with the OISHI Laboratory at the Institute of Industrial Science, the University of Tokyo, the walls and the interior of the gate were documented with a 3D laser scanner, while the Structure from Motion (SfM) technique was used to record the walls in conjunction with surveying the structure in detail. Dismantlement of the walls started on October 16th and ended safely on November 5th with the completion of the required recording.
A series of surveys following the dismantlement process disclosed the fact that the structure was deformed, partly because of the invasion of tree roots and anthills into the stone joints. Uneven subcidence of the foundation and floor surface suggests that the base structure might have some defects. The recovery of structural soundness requires the improvement of the base structure after clarifying the deterioration mechanism. Therefore, we will dispatch the staff again in December to excavate part of the foundation and investigate the ground.
Besides, we attended the meeting of the International Coordination Committee for the Safeguarding and the Development of Preah Vihear Temple (ICC-Preah Vihear) at the APSARA headquarters office on September 18th to collect the latest information. While exchanging opinions with and collecting information from international experts, we will try to find the most appropriate way to conserve the Angkor ruins in cooperation with APSARA.
Dyeing with natural dyes
Analysis of a material possessed by the Museum of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin
Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties organized a 10-day workshop beginning October 7th, 2019, on the conservation of historic textiles, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport in the Republic of Armenia. Based on the cooperation agreement on cultural heritage protection established between the Institute and the Ministry of Culture (at that time) in 2014, this was the third workshop to be organized since 2017.
This workshop was conducted at the Scientific Research Center for Historical and Cultural Heritage and the Museum of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, with Dr. ISHII Mie, Associate Professor of the Faculty of Art and Regional Design at Saga University, and Ms. YOKOYAMA Midori, expert in embroidery, serving as lecturers like in the previous year. Fourteen trainees from seven institutions, such as museums and galleries in Armenia, attended the workshop. At the Center, silk and cotton cloth was dyed with natural dyes such as indigo and madder while preparing standard samples to identify the dyes actually used in historic textiles. At the Museum, the historic materials in its possession were analyzed for specific techniques.
Director General of the Institute SAITO Takamasa granted a completion certificate to each trainee at the completion ceremony held the last day. The workshop program, organized for three years, has finally ended. We sincerely hope that the Armenian people will not only contribute to the conservation and restoration of their cultural heritage based on the knowhow they have acquired, but also hand down their techniques and knowledge to the coming generation.
Church of Santa Maria Paganica (La chiesa di Santa Maria Paganica) in L’Aquila
Well-Maintained Street at Pompeii
Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has been providing technical assistance to Myanmar for its restoration project covering the areas devastated by the earthquake in 2016, as well as the conservation and restoration work for the wall painting at the Bagan Ruins. During our visit to Italy on October 9th-27th, 2019, we conducted surveys in L’Aquila City and Pompeii Ruins, where post-quake reconstruction activities and conservation efforts have been in progress, so as to emulate the model in the improvement plan for Bagan.
Reconstruction activities have been continuing in L’Aquila even 10 years after an earthquake struck the Abruzzo Region in 2009. According to the experts engaged in the project there, around 50% of the affected areas have just been reconstructed. Since many of the devastated building structures have murals and decorative stucco, the restoration planning requires multiple points of view. As a result, the complicated project delayed the progress of the restoration work. However, since the reconstruction activities took these aspects into consideration, the conservation of the historical landscape has been remarkable.
On the other hand, the maintenance project covering a vast area at the Pompeii Ruins has been underway for more than 100 years. We exchanged opinions with the Archaeological Superintendency of Pompeii on how we should deal with conservation and restoration policies as times change, as well as the difficulties in the comprehensive maintenance of the entire site.
In this survey, we reconfirmed the importance of planning from a comprehensive viewpoint for the conservation and restoration of cultural property consisting of multiple elements. To pass down the vast site to the coming generation, maintenance effort, which is the best way to minimize the burden on the cultural heritage, is important. In the field survey planned for Bagan in January 2020, we will report the outcomes of these surveys, while also repeatedly consulting with local experts about protection activities suitable for the ruins.
The International Course on Conservation of Japanese Paper was held from September 9th to 27th, 2019. This course has been jointly organized by Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties and the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) since 1992. The course aims to contribute to the protection of cultural property outside Japan by disseminating the knowledge and techniques of the conservation and restoration of paper cultural property in Japan to participants from around the world. This year, ten specialists in conservation from ten countries (Australia, Canada, China, Estonia, Ireland, Italy, Qatar, UK, Ukraine, and USA) were selected as participants among 71 applications from 33 countries.
The course was composed of lectures, practical sessions, and an excursion. The lectures covered the protection systems of both tangible and intangible cultural property in Japan, basic insights into the Japanese paper, traditional conservation materials, and tools. The practical sessions were led by instructors from a certified group holding the Selected Conservation Techniques on “Restoration techniques for mounts.” The participants had an experience of restoration work of paper cultural property, from cleaning it to mounting it in a handscroll. Japanese-style bookbinding and handling of folding screens and hanging scrolls were also included in the sessions. The excursion to the cities of Nagoya, Mino, and Kyoto, which was arranged in the middle of the course, offered an opportunity to see folding screens and sliding doors in historic buildings, the Japanese papermaking, which is designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Property of Japan (Honminoshi), a traditional restoration studio, and so forth. On the last day, availability and the usage of washi in each country and the application of Japanese traditional techniques to other countries were discussed.
The participants could gain a deeper understanding of conservation materials, tools, and techniques used in Japan throughout this course. We hope that the knowledge and techniques they acquired during the course will be applied to the conservation and restoration of cultural property overseas.