|■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
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.
Participants taking pictures for 3D digital documentation
The３D documentation using Agisoft Metashape and iPhone Scaniverse has recently been introduced, and is rapidly coming into use. The introduction of this technology can not only reduce working time, but also makes it possible to document cultural heritage with very high precision.
The Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation arranged a three-day workshop on 3D digital documentation for experts who are working abroad from July 15 to 17, 2023. Dr. NOGUCHI Atsushi from Komatsu University was invited as the lecturer. The main aim of this workshop was to spread 3D documentation techniques among the foreign experts through the Japanese experts who attended the workshop.
Twenty-five specialists with a variety of backgrounds in areas such as archaeology, conservation science, and conservation architecture joined this workshop and studied how to make 3D models using Agisoft Metashape and iPhone Scaniverse.
Exterior view of St Michael's Church
Cleaning tests for soot stains
Cappadocia, located in Central Anatolia, Republic of Turkey, was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1985 as Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia, as a result of long-term erosion of the tuff plateau. More than 1,000 rock churches and monasteries had been built, and mural paintings were painted on the inner walls of these churches and monasteries.
Last year, a preliminary survey was conducted with Ankara Haji Bayram Veli University to establish a joint research project on the conservation and restoration of cultural properties, and as a result, it was decided to target the mural paintings in St, Michael’s Church (in the Keslik Monastery). In response, we visited the site from June 15 to 22, 2023 and conducted a survey aimed to establish a research plan. Research issues were then identified, such as the removal of soot stains covering the mural paintings surfaces and the conservation treatment of plaster layers that had detached from the bedrock support.
In the future, while sharing research issues with local experts, we will continue our activities to contribute to the conservation and restoration activities of cultural heritage in the Republic of Turkey.
Kheni village in Trashiyangtse province, composed of vernacular stone masonry houses
A house of typology unique to Merak district in Trashigang province
Measurement survey of a timber hut
Since 2012, the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has been continuously engaged in research on vernacular houses in Bhutan, in collaboration with the Department of Culture and Dzongkha Development (DCDD, formerly the Department of Culture, renamed recently upon restructuring), Ministry of Home Affairs, Royal Government of Bhutan. The DCDD promotes a policy of preserving and utilizing vernacular houses by integrating them into the legal protection framework of cultural heritage, while TOBUNKEN supports the initiative from academic and technical aspects.
Previously, our study focused on rammed earth houses commonly seen in the western area of the country. This year, we began a survey on stone masonry houses widely located in central and eastern areas, with the financial support of a JSPS Grant-in-aid for Scientific Research. The first survey mission under this scheme was implemented from April 25 to May 5, 2023.
Our group, comprising four dispatched staff members of TOBUNKEN and two from DCDD, jointly carried out a field survey in the five provinces spanning from Trashigang in the east to Bumthang in the central region. We observed stone masonry houses that appeared to have been built during earlier periods than other traditional houses in the target area, based on prior information collected by DCDD, and surveyed 14 houses in a detailed manner including taking measurements and interviewing the residents. Other than three cases of large-scale, three-storied residences of the ruling class, all were originally very small houses of one or two stories. In the Merak district of Trashigang, where a nomadic ethnic group lives, a unique typology of one-story houses without cattle sheds was widely observed.
Based on knowledge and information obtained during this survey mission, we plan to extend the target area and conduct more detailed investigations of the old houses we had already identified. In addition, since transition and locality of the housing type reflects change and difference of lifestyles, we feel a need to put more focus on these areas in the future. We will continue in our effort to further accelerate cooperation to prevent the loss of precious heritage against the trend that the numbers of vacant and degraded houses are increasing.
The East Gate after completion (photo taken by drone)
The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) continues to support the conservation and sustainable development project of Ta Nei Temple by the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap (APSARA) in Cambodia. In November 2022, the two parties completed a three-year collaborative restoration project to dismantle and restore the East Gate of the temple. From May 6 to 18, 2023, TOBUNKEN dispatched our group, consisting of two staff members, to the site to record the completion status of the restoration and conduct additional research for the preparation of a final report on the restoration work to be published this year.
For documentation of the completion status, in addition to (1) architectural photography, (2) architectural drawings and (3) a digital 3D model of the East Gate were created. The digital 3D model with dimensional information was generated from some 1,000 images of the building taken from all directions with a single-lens reflex camera and two drones (Mavic mini), using a technique known as “3D photogrammetry.”
Supplementary survey work for preparing the final report included (1) partial revision of the temple layout drawings, (2) photographic documentation of pediment decorations, and (3) a comparative study to analyze the architectural features of the East Gate. For the comparative survey, we visited 10 other temples among the Angkor Monuments that were constructed during the same period as Ta Nei Temple to examine their architectural styles and decorations.
In addition, on-site discussions were held with APSARA representatives regarding the future implementation plan of the Ta Nei Temple conservation project.
We plan to conduct archaeological excavation and architectural survey of the Entrance Terrace to the Causeway, publish a final report, and organize a symposium to commemorate the completion of the East Gate restoration work in the second half of this fiscal year. We will keep you posted on the progress of our project!
Please also see the past activity reports on the Ta Nei project.
Field Activities (Part I)
Field Activities (Part II)
Field Activities (Part III)
Field Activities (Part IV)
Field Activities (Part V)
Field Activities (Part VI)
Field Activities (Part VII)
Field Activities (Part VIII)
Activities during the COVID-19
Field Activities (Part IX)
Field Activities (Part X-1)
Field Activities (Part X-2)
Field Activities (Part X-3)
Field Activities (Part XI)
Presentation by Mr. Ivgin
The Japan Center for Institutional Cooperation accepted a visiting researcher, Mr. Ilkay Ivgin, from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in the Republic of Turkey from April 10 to May 31, 2023. Mr. Ivgin studies comparative research on the cultural property laws in Turkey, Japan, and Italy. During his stay, he undertook research especially on the administrative system of buried cultural property in Japan. Moreover, he collected information on cultural heritage disaster risk management to reconstruct damaged cultural properties and museums affected by the great earthquake in Turkey and Syria in February 2023.
Our center provided collected knowledge on the protection systems for cultural properties and introduced related documents, and also accompanied Mr. Ivgin on visits to the organizations and institutions that work to investigate and manage cultural properties. Acceptance of this visiting researcher at this time was a good opportunity for us to learn about the current situation of Turkish cultural heritage as well as to understand more deeply the Japanese administrative system for buried cultural property and its tasks.
A comment from Mr. Ivgin is included below.
“Within the scope of my Ph.D. thesis titled "Examination of Legal Legislation in the Preservation of Archaeological Artifacts in Türkiye and Legal Arrangement Suggestions for Standardization", which I am still working with the Department of Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage at Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli University. In my Ph.D. thesis, the Japanese legislative system for the protection of cultural assets constitutes an important part of my work.
I am very grateful for their support of my work on the subject of my thesis at the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, where I began my research within the scope of this thesis. I would like to thank the staff of the Tokyo University, Ancient Orient Museum, Tokyo National Museum, Chiba-City Archaeological Research Center, Tokyo Metropolitan Archaeological Research Center, Archeology Institute of Kashihara, Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties and Agency for Cultural Affairs for their support.”
Interview at the Dutch Cultural Heritage Agency
Field survey at the archaeological site of Hedeby in Schleswig
Since FY 2007, Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation has been collecting and translating foreign laws concerning the protection of cultural properties and has so far published 27 volumes covering 16 Asian and 6 European countries. The project is intended to be Japan’s contribution to international cooperation in the field of cultural heritage protection and provide a reference for reevaluating the system used by Japan to protect its cultural properties. A field survey was conducted in the Netherlands, the target country for the current FY, and in Germany, the target for last FY. The survey was conducted from March 3 to 13, 2023.
Recently, in the Netherlands, there has been a discussion on the need to include heritage protection in land use and environmental preservation planning. A new Environmental Planning Law, integrating the existing related laws, will come into force on January 1, 2024. This law will introduce an environmental permit system for the use of cultural heritage sites with basic provisions for municipal environmental planning and similar purposes. This legislative amendment is constructed on the foundation of various agreements of the Council of Europe, such as the Valletta Treaty of 1992 on archaeological heritage and the Florence Convention of 2000 on landscapes.
On the other hand, in Germany, each of the 16 states have their own laws for protection of monuments. There are also slight differences in the protected objects, and only three states have regulations on cultural landscapes. Schleswig-Holstein, the northern state I visited this time, is one of them, but cultural landscapes are not yet in operation. A similar provision can be found in the Federal Nature Conservation Law. However, the German government has not signed the Florence Convention, which is a topic of great debate within the country.
One of the objectives of the Florence Convention is to recognize landscapes that express the “form” of Europe, woven by diverse histories, cultures, and nature, as a common heritage of the EU member States, and to protect them appropriately. Certainly, landscape protection is deeply linked to global issues such as climate change and sustainability that cannot be resolved by a single country. In future research, I think it will be even more important not only to translate laws, but also to specifically clarify the organic relationship between cultural properties and the comprehensive framework that surrounds them.
The Church of St. Mary on skriljinah
Istria is a peninsula that is largely located in northwestern Croatia, with some parts governed by Slovenia and Italy. Istria has a history of frequent changes in rulers: the Roman Empire in ancient times, the Venetian Republic in the Middle Ages, and the Habsburg Empire in modern times.
In this region, the practice of beautifying churches with wall paintings flourished from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, giving birth to numerous remarkable works. Unfortunately, the need to preserve this heritage was recognized only in the late 19th century in the wake of the activities of the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s Commission for Research and Conservation of Art and Historical Monuments. Later on, in the 20th century, after several wars and conflicts, the political situation finally calmed down after 1995 and the Croatian government established the Croatian Conservation Institute for cultural heritage. This led to a joint investigation by the Institute and the Archaeological Museum of Istria, and the term “Istrian-style wall painting” was coined as a general term for murals unique to this region.
From March 1-7, 2023, with the assistance of Dr. Sunčica Mustač of the Historic and Naval Museum of Istria and Associate Professor Neva Pološki of the University of Zagreb, we visited about 20 major churches in Istria to conduct field research on the wall paintings. In the process, technical cooperation was sought for the creation of a data archive on production techniques and conservation conditions, as well as for the study of conservation and restoration methods for the future. In the Istria region, there are approximately 150 surviving church wall paintings have been confirmed to exist. With the desire to pass on this irreplaceable cultural heritage to future generations, we will work to establish international collaboration while building networks with experts in related fields.
Courtesy visit to Rector Calcagnini
Italy is home to numerous cultural heritage sites and has been at the forefront of the conservation and restoration efforts undertaken to maintain these sites. The Department of Pure and Applied Sciences of the University of Urbino Carlo Bo is one the educational institutions in Italy that has made many contributions in the field of conservation science.
Recently, the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties concluded an agreement with this department to enter into research cooperation for the conservation and restoration of cultural heritages. The content of the agreement is comprehensive, targeting cultural properties around the world. The agreement aims to foster cooperation in scientific investigation and in development of techniques and materials for the formulation of conservation and restoration plans. Furthermore, a mutual exchange of researchers through events such as workshops is envisioned.
On February 17, 2023, I visited the University and exchanged opinions with Rector Giorgio Calcagnini regarding the future cooperation.
Also, under the guidance of Prof. Maria Letizia Amadori, Department of Pure and Applied Sciences, I toured the university facilities and had the pleasure of learning about an analytical study on cultural heritage preservation that is currently being undertaken.
In the future, through research cooperation that utilizes the expertise of both institutions, we hope to go beyond simply collecting analytical data, and develop activities that will lead to concrete preservation of cultural heritages.
Damaged cultural properties in the collection
First aid treatment
Since 2017, the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has been carrying out a cooperative project to improve the conservation management system for cultural properties in the Republic of Turkey. On February 6, 2023, an earthquake centered in southeastern Turkey occurred, causing extensive damage mainly in Turkey and the Syrian Arab Republic, and affecting the state of preservation of cultural heritage. Obviously, for the time being, humanitarian aid should be prioritized. However, in the near future, it is anticipated that international support will also be needed for conservation and restoration of cultural properties.
Meanwhile, Central Italy suffered a series of major earthquakes in 1997, 2009, and 2016, and recovery efforts for damaged cultural heritage are still ongoing. The investigation was conducted from February 13 to 16, 2023, in the regions of Marche and Umbria, with the aim of learning how to respond to possible future contingencies, as well as to consider future support for Turkey and Syria, which have similar cultural heritages. Located in the city of Spoleto, the Sainte Quiord Art Collection was built following the 1997 earthquake as a shelter for cultural properties in the event of a natural disaster and as a place to provide first aid.
The facility still houses approximately 7000 pieces of damaged cultural properties, and emergency measures are being taken by nationally certified conservators.
Through repeated experience, Italy has developed an organizational structure and procedures for rescue operations immediately after a disaster and for subsequent handling of the situation. There are many things to be learned from countries that continue to make advanced efforts in disaster recovery and reconstruction activities related to cultural properties. We would like to continue our research and use the learnings in our future activities.
Flyer for the 32nd Research Meeting
The 32nd Research Meeting
The Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage (the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties is entrusted with the administration of the secretariat by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan) held its 32nd seminar, “Past and Future of International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage in Central Europe” via webinar on January 28, 2023.
In considering the severe damage that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had on international cooperation for cultural heritage, it is necessary to know the region’s geographical and cultural characteristics, and to give due consideration to its historical background. From this perspective, the program’s purpose was to learn about Central, Eastern, and Southeastern European, including Ukraine, and to review Japan’s international cooperation activities related to cultural heritage in the region while considering how future cooperation should be conducted.
Mr. SHINOHARA Taku (Tokyo University of Foreign Studies) presented “The Historical World of Central Europe,” MAEDA Koki (Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage) presented “International Assistance to Central Europe and Japan’s International Cooperation,” Ms. SHIMADA Sachi (Jissen Women’s University) presented “Cultural Heritage Protection and International Cooperation in Serbia,” and Mr. MIYAKE Riichi (Tokyo University of Science) presented a report titled “Historical and Cultural Heritage in Romania and its Protection’.
Following these lectures, Mr. KINBARA Yasuo (Chairman of the European Subcommittee, Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage/ Tokai University) as a moderator and the speakers actively discussed the importance of international cooperation based on mutual understanding and the need for developing local human resource and building organizational structure to link to sustainable cultural heritage protection. The need for developing local human resource development, building organizational structure, and supporting sustainable cultural heritage protection was pointed out, and active opinions were exchanged. For details on the seminar, please see the consortium’s webpage below.
Research at the Bahrain National Museum
The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has been cooperating with the excavation survey and maintenance of historical sites in the tombs of Bahrain for many years. When we visited the site in July 2022 and met Salman Al Mahari, Director of the Bahrain National Museum, he asked us to help protect the historical Islamic tombstones that remained in the mosques and cemeteries. Currently, approximately 150 historical Islamic tombstones remain in the country, but they are deteriorating due to salt damage and other factors.
In response to this request, as the first step of new cooperative activities, 3D measurements were taken of tombstones in the Bahrain National Museum’ collection and Al-Khamis Mosque from February 11 to 16, 2023. Structure-from-Motion/Multi-View-Stereo (SfM-MVS), a technology that creates 3D models from photographs, was used for photogrammetry to complete measurements of 20 units in the Bahrain National Museum and 27 units in the Al-Khamis Mosque’s collections. Tombstones made of limestone are highly compatible with photogrammetry, and from the 3D models created, the inscriptions on the tombstones can be seen much more clearly than from photographs or with the naked eye. These models will be made publicly available on a platform that can be accessed widely both domestically and internationally and will be used as a database for tombstones in the future.
In the following fiscal year and beyond, we plan to further expand the scope of our 3D measurement work to other cemeteries in Bahrain.
Information leaflet (front)
Scene of discussion at the seminar
Since 2018, the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation has been hosting the World Heritage Seminar, which aims to transmit information and facilitate an exchange of opinions about the world heritage system and its trends in the country. In FY 2022, redefining it as Re-question on Landscape as Cultural Property, it focused on “landscape” as a tangential point between UNESCO’s sites based on an idea of environmental and territorial preservation, and the Japanese concept of cultural property protection, which recently has been trying to upgrade the “old-style” protection (i.e., protection of a single building or site) to a wider, areal one. For the past two years (FY 2020 and 2021), due to COVID-19, we have had no choice but to conduct it online; however, this year, we held it in-person on December 26th, 2022, at the Tokyo National Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN), limiting participation to 50 persons.
Mr. NISHI Kazuhiko (Agency for Cultural Affairs) started with a presentation on Trends on World Heritage. Thereafter, KANAI Ken (TOBUNKEN) explained the purpose of the seminar. In Part I, Ms. EDANI Hiroko (Nara National Institute for Cultural Properties) and MATSUURA Kazunosuke (TOBUNKEN) made two presentations from a research perspective titled Characteristic of Japanese Cultural Landscapes and World Heritage Sites as Landscape: Area Setting and its Basis Law, respectively. In Part II, Mr. UENO Kenji (Hirado City) and Mr. NAKATANI Yuichiro (Kanazawa City) made presentations from an administrative perspective about the Possibility of a Landscape Protection through Cooperation and Town Planning to Revive the Cultural Landscape Value in Kanazawa. Thereafter, all speakers discussed the landscape positioning within the Japanese heritage protection system.
Through presentations and discussions, it was clarified that, while the landscape as cultural property is accepted conceptually and institutionally in a limited manner in Japan, it is widely integrated in the land use policy involving urban planning, environmental preservation, and agricultural policy, as is done in Europe. It was also pointed out that cultural property protection and urban planning in Japan have taken separate steps that drastically delay its overall protection even today. The Center will continue to research on the international heritage protection system, including the theme of “landscape,” which is a complicated problem in Japan.
Dilmun Burial Mounds remaining in Bahrain
Speakers and participants of the symposium held in Tokyo, Japan.
The Kingdom of Bahrain in the Middle East has many interesting cultural heritage sites, despite being a small island country of the size of Tokyo’s 23 wards and Kawasaki City combined. It is known that Bahrain was called Dilmun, and prospered by monopolizing the maritime trade connecting Mesopotamia with the Indus region, approximately 4,000 years ago. As many as 75,000 burial mounds were built during that period only in Bahrain, which have attracted the attention of many researchers since the end of the 19th century. The Dilmun Burial Mounds were inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2019.
The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has been cooperating on the site management and excavations of the Dilmun Burial Mounds for a long time. From FY2022, we began cooperating on the conservation of historic Islamic gravestones in Bahrain.
The year 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Bahrain and Japan. TOBUNKEN held the international symposia on Archaeology and International Contribution: Japanese Cooperation for the Protection of the Cultural Heritage in Bahrain (on December 11th, 2022 at TOBUNKEN) and the Latest Discoveries of Arabian Archaeology (on December 14th, 2022, at Kanazawa University), co-sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Ancient Civilizations and Cultural Resources of Kanazawa University. The Director of Archaeology and Museums of Bahrain, heads of Denmark, France, and British missions that conduct excavations in Bahrain, and archaeology and conservation science experts in Japan, gathered for the symposia.
The history of each country’s excavations in Bahrain and the excavation, conservation, and restoration activities of Japanese experts were introduced at the symposium in Tokyo. The latest excavation survey results for each mission were introduced at the symposium in Kanazawa.
TOBUNKEN plans to continue cooperating for the protection of cultural heritage in Bahrain in various ways.
APSARA dance performed in the ceremony
Poster exhibition (TOBUNKEN poster is in the middle)
The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has been working with the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap (APSARA) on the cooperation program for the Ta Nei Temple in the Angkor Archaeological site in Cambodia.
Angkor was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1992. This led to comprehensive international support and cooperation from other countries, including Japan, which covers not only the conservation and restoration of the archaeological sites, but also various other fields like the formation of management systems, including human resource development, tourism development, and planning and infrastructure improvement for sustainable development of the surrounding regions. Angkor has been established as a top international tourist destination and became one of the most important sources of foreign currency revenue for the Cambodian economy. At the same time, it was highly praised as a successful model of international cooperation on the protection and utilization of World Heritage Sites, despite facing various challenges till date.
On the early morning of December 14th, 2022, I attended a ceremony commemorating the 30th anniversary of Angkor’s inscription on the World Heritage List. The solemn ceremony, held in front of the entrance causeway to the Angkor Wat Temple, started with Buddhist sutra chanting by many priests, where the APSARA dance was also performed. A poster exhibition on international cooperation history, including TOBUNKEN’s projects, was also held at the event.
On the following two days, the 36th Technical Session and the 29th Plenary Session of the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Sites of Angkor and Sambor Prei Kuk (ICC-Angkor) were held successively in Siem Reap City. For the previous two years, these regular meetings were held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, we finally managed to hold the meeting in person, with related experts and institute representatives both from and outside of Cambodia. The progress on many programs was reported and shared, and we revived the relationship among the related parties from various countries. I deeply appreciate the fact that in-person meetings as precious opportunities have finally resumed.
Neri is extracted from noriutsugi bark. The yellow part of the tree is where bark has been removed.
Discussion meeting in TOBUNKEN
Washi (Japanese traditional paper) is used for the restoration of cultural properties and for traditional crafts. It is well known that washi is made of fibers extracted from plants such as kōzo (Broussonetia kazinoki x B. papyrifera) and ganpi (Diplomorpha sikokiana). However, it is not widely known that neri, a dispersant, is also essential for washi making. Adding neri disperses the fibers evenly in water, producing smooth and beautiful washi. Without the addition of neri, the fibers are not evenly dispersed, and washi made without neri has poor formation.
Including washi most cases of industrial mass paper manufacturing use synthetic compounds such as polyethylene oxide as neri. Traditionally, neri is made from mucilage extracted from plants such as tororoaoi (Abelmoschus Manihot) and noriutsugi (Hydrangea paniculate). At present, neri extracted from tororoaoi or noriutsugi is still most suitable for thin washi making. It is also widely used for washi-making for cultural property restoration. However, the sustainable and stable supply of these raw materials, especially noriutsugi, becomes increasingly difficult. This is because noriutsugi for neri is a wild species and there are not enough successors to the experts with knowledge on locating noriutsugi and removing its bark. If the low amounts of noriutsugi available does not change, this will permanently impair washi-making for the restoration of cultural property. For example, uda washi paper used for soura-kami (the final lining paper) of hanging scrolls is made using neri extracted from noriutsugi. Therefore, we are concerned that restoring hanging scrolls will become difficult in the near future.
Commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, the Center for Conservation Science has been conducting a research project: “Investigation of Tools and Materials Used for the Preservation and Restoration of Fine Arts and Crafts” with the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems and the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage. As an important investigation of this project, we are working for sustainable and stable supply of noriutsugi. This investigation is conducted in cooperation with Hokkaido Prefecture, Shibetsu Town and others. We visit the noriutsugi growing area in Shibetsu Town and hold regular discussion meetings. We will provide supports for sustainable and stable supply of noriutsugi and conduct scientific studies on why neri extracted from noriutsugi shows such excellent characteristics.
Survey at the conservation and restoration site of the rock-cut tomb wall paintings
Survey of a case for conservation and restoration at the site (Temple of Hathor)
Luxor is where the old capital Thebes was located during the New Kingdom period within the chronological division of ancient Egyptian history. Within Luxor, in the Valley of the Kings, Egyptian pharaohs such as Thutmose I and Tutankhamun were buried. Luxor also has many surviving mortuary temples, including the Karnak Temple Complex. These archaeological sites were inscribed on the World Heritage List as the “Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis” in 1979. They were evaluated as important archaeological ruins that demonstrate a lost civilization. Egyptology, research regarding Egyptian Civilization, stemmed from Napoleon Bonaparte’s 1798 French Campaign in Egypt. Since then, research has been actively conducted on an international scale. Interesting outcomes and reports have been made available annually, and will continue to be published. Luxor is one of the targets of these studies. Excavation surveys are actively conducted at various sites in Luxor, where archaeological complexes and objects are continuously discovered.
The challenges associated with continuous discoveries are the conservation and utilization after archaeological surveys. In recent years, it has become mandatory that the sites and archaeological objects discovered by excavation surveys must be conserved and maintained as cultural properties for local tourism promotions. However, there are many cases in which inadequate emergency treatments are made under time and budget constraints, often damaging the sites and archaeological objects.
We conducted an on-site survey, targeting the Luxor Museum and West Bank rock-cut tomb sites from December 12th to 24th, 2022, to explore the possibilities of supporting the improvement of these situations. As a result, we were asked for cooperation by local experts to discuss maintenance methods regarding the conservation and management of archaeological objects housed in the museum, and on conservation and restoration methods of the wall paintings of rock-cut tombs in the principle that they would be conserved at the original sites. We will continue the survey to narrow down the research theme of urgent needs and targets to bring it to the international team co-working on this project.
Since 2012, the International Course on Paper Conservation in Latin America: Meeting East has been jointly organized by the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN), the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) and Coordinacion Nacional de Conservacion del Patrimonio Cultural – Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (CNCPC-INAH) at CNCPC in Mexico City. This year, the in-person teaching course returned after two years of cancellation. A total of nine conservation specialists from eight countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Spain, and Uruguay) participated in the course held from November 9th to 22nd 2022.
The course sought to provide attendees with basic knowledge and techniques regarding traditional paper conservation in Japan. Japanese specialists were in charge of the first part of the course (November 9th to 14th). They presented lectures on the protection system of traditional techniques, tools and materials used in restoration, and Restoration Techniques for Mounts, which is one of the Selected Conservation Techniques in Japan. Methods useful for various situations were taught by working on linings with Japanese paper and wheat starch paste. In the latter half of the course (November 16th to 22nd), experts from Mexico and Spain gave lectures. They spoke about how to select materials and apply their techniques to Western paper cultural properties.
We would like to express our gratitude to the participants for their cooperation in preventing the spread of coronavirus throughout the course. We hope that the knowledge and techniques the attendees acquired will be applied to the conservation and restoration of cultural property overseas.
Arial view of Korphu village (from the west)
MoU signing ceremony (left: Director of the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation, TOBUNKEN, TOMODA Masahiko; right: Director-General of the DoC, Nagtsho Dorji)
From the scientific research aspect, the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) provides technical support for the value evaluation and enhancement of heritage buildings to the Department of Culture (DoC), the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs of Bhutan, which aims to expand the scope of heritage conservation to all historic buildings, including traditional houses. While we have been forced to implement cooperation projects online since January 2020 due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, TOBUNKEN agreed with the DoC to resume joint surveys in Bhutan, following the significant easing of travel restrictions in Japan and Bhutan from July and September onward, respectively. From November 5th–15th, 2022, TOBUNKEN dispatched four staff experts, including an expert from the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties.
The mission targeted the traditional masonry houses found in the eastern part of Bhutan. The purpose was to recognize and analyze the fundamental features of settlements and buildings in the region as the preliminary stage of the comprehensive scientific survey, which will serve as the basis for appropriate heritage conservation and development. Effective survey strategies were also examined in the mission. The on-site survey covered Trongsa Dzongkhag, Bumthang Dzongkhag, and the surrounding area, located in the central-eastern part of the country, which is relatively easy to access from the capital city of Thimphu. Measurements, photogrammetry, and interviews with locals were conducted in villages and houses preselected by the Division of Conservation of Heritage Sites (DCHS) of the DoC, based on the governmental archive and information provided by Dzongkhags. We found that the region had its own distinctive village forms. For instance, Trong and Korphu, located in the rugged mountainous area in the southern part of Trongsa Dzongkhag, are particularly unique as their houses are built in rows along a ridge, giving them merchant town-like appearance despite them being farming villages. In addition, while almost all houses in Trong are masonry structures, those in Korphu are both masonry and rammed earth structures, and rammed earth structures retain their older form. In other houses we surveyed, some were originally built in rammed earth, and later expanded or modified in stone. This suggests that, at least in the region surveyed this time, the structural manner of traditional houses shifted from rammed earth to masonry. We also found some masonry houses that have a very complex series of expansion and modification, and there is a possibility that the frequency of modification is generally higher in masonry structures than that in rammed-earth structures. Regarding the survey method, photogrammetry proved to be efficient and very useful in recording the masonry house, which shows random and complex patterns with natural stones and has many distortions in its shape.
After the on-site survey, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the cooperation in the conservation of architectural heritage was signed at the DoC headquarters, Thimphu, and a meeting was organized with the DCHS to discuss the results of the survey, as well as the prospects and needs of the Bhutanese counterparts. In the future, we expect to develop more on-site surveys and research activities targeting masonry houses in eastern Bhutan in close collaboration with the DCHS.
Kina-Saffron-Shu-Honpo Kote-e Kura
Flaking and chipping
Kina-Saffron-Shu-Honpo Kote-e Kura in Nagaoka City, Niigata Prefecture was completed in 1926 by the plasterer KAWAKAMI Ikichi. The artwork was commissioned by YOSHIZAWA Nitarō, the founder of Kina-Saffron-Shu-Honpo (i.e., Kina Saffron Winery). The kote-e* (plaster reliefs) are mainly positioned around eaves and doors of the warehouse structured of lumber and with mud wall. The kote-e reliefs are three-dimensional representations of Daikokuten (Japanese deity of fortune and wealth) and animals and plants, and were created with the impasto technique mainly using plaster. The use of red and blue colors in the reliefs creates a contrast that enhances the three-dimensional visual effect.
Although these kote-e are placed in a harsh environment with exposure to rainfall and wind, they have remained in a relatively good condition considering that they were created almost 100 years ago. This can be attributed to the efforts made by people to protect the artwork and hand down it to generations as well as to the characteristics of the plaster and the ingenious plastering techniques.
Nonetheless, some damage such as flaking and chipping of plaster and color can be seen in every kote-e on careful observation. Hence, responding to the request by Nagaoka City, the owner of the warehouse, Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) visited the site on November 11th, 2022 and conducted sampling investigation of color and plaster as a part of pre-investigation for conservation and restoration, which has been deemed necessary for the near future. Sampling investigation is conducted by extracting small samples from the target materials; this practice is also described as “destructive investigation.” Although the word “destructive” may indicate something “bad,” it is not so. Sampling investigation enables us to obtain reliable information that cannot be obtained by simply checking the surface. Therefore, destructive investigation, in fact, enables safer and superior conservation and restoration.
We will effectively utilize the outcome analysis of this investigation for planning the conservation and restoration project so that the Kote-e Kura, which has been maintained by prior generations, can be passed down to future generations and it remains well-preserved for at least another 100 years.
*Kote-e: colorful Japanese plaster reliefs created using a trowel