文化遺産国際協力コンソーシアム Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage JCIC-Heritage logo JCIC-Heritage

Transfer of Japanese techniques for restoration and conservation of paper cultural properties

Transfer of Japanese techniques for restoration and conservation of paper cultural properties

National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo,ICCROM,the Association for Conservation of National Treasures

Worldwide

Japanese paper cultural properties

1992-Ongoing Conservation and Restoration,Human Resource Development
01/03/2013
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BACKGROUND

Outstanding techniques for restoration and conservation of paper-based cultural properties fostered in Japan

Japanese paper cultural properties have survived for over a millennium

In Japan, cultural properties with paper, such as paintings, calligraphy, and documents have been transmitted in diverse forms, including folding screens, hanging scrolls and books. The climate in Japan certainly cannot be said to be suitable for preserving natural organic material such as paper. Changing weather conditions also mean fluctuations in the preservation environment, which have a negative impact on artifacts. Moreover, during the warm and humid season mold, insects, and other organisms abound, and natural organic materials provide them with a good source of nutrients. Despite such harsh conditions, some of Japan’s oldest paper cultural properties have been handed down from more than a thousand years ago, which is testimony to the outstanding traditional techniques for restoration and conservation of paper cultural properties that have been cultivated in Japan.

Techniques for the conservation of paper cultural properties

Conservation of paper cultural properties in Japan rely on traditional materials such as Japanese paper and wheat starch paste, and “soko” -a restoration technique based on Japanese traditional mounting - which makes the best use of these materials.Although this technique was first developed in ancient China, it has been adapted and cultivated for more than several hundred years since its arrival to reach its current form in Japan. We hope that we can contribute to the conservation of cultural properties worldwide by disseminating these techniques to various countries.

Preservation sysytem for scrolls consisting of mounts, a roller cramp, a paulownia box and a protective cover.

ACTIVITIES

Hosting a training course to transfer the technique

International Course on Conservation of Japanese Paper

The National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo, has been co-hosting a training course entitled “International Course on Conservation of Japanese Paper” with ICCROM (International Center for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property) since 1992. We had initially conducted the training for those who were involved in conservation and restoration of cultural properties, but have narrowed down our target to conservators and restorers. As of 2012, 157 trainees have completed our training course. In this training program, we not only focus on the practice of restoration techniques based on Japanese traditional mounting, but also on understanding the background to the development of techniques and materials.
In 2012, we co-hosted another program in Mexico with ICCROM and INAH (National Institute of Anthropology and History of Mexico) as a part of the LATAM program, ICCROM’s program targeting the Latin America.

Other training programs

In Germany, we have been carrying out a workshop on folding screens and hanging scrolls in cooperation with the German Museum of Technology and the Museum of Asian Art, the National Museums in Berlin. The training course has been well received by curators of Oriental arts and students of Japanese studies since the content of the program concerns not only conservation and restoration but also production techniques and handling methods for Japanese arts and calligraphy.
 
In 2011, specialists from our Research Institute organized a training course in Egypt featuring restoration techniques using Japanese paper, which formed part of the larger project run by JICA, entitled “Project for the Conservation Center in the Grand Egyptian Museum.” In this course, we focused on disseminating ideas and knowledge related to the usage of Japanese paper and wheat starch paste as well as hands-on practice using these materials in the hope that these techniques may be applied to restoration of mummies and mural paintings.

Training – Making Japanese paper (International Course on Conservation of Japanese Paper)

RESULTS

Raising awareness of the training course overseas and challenges met in the diffusion of the technique

Praise from participants

The training course mentioned above received favorable comments from participants on surveys and other evaluations. Every time we offer the course, we receive many applications, and we find that quite a number of applicants were motivated by recommendations given by former participants. In addition, we receive many requests from participants to hold a similar training course in their home country. Such comments indicate that this training course has been highly successful.

Request for hosting the training course

Conservation and restoration using Japanese paper has become common in the West. For paper conservators and restorers in particular, it has become the global standard to use Japanese paper; many of them, however, acquire their knowledge indirectly through books and other publications. There is a growing demand for seminars and workshops on conservation of paper by Japanese experts. Although we receive requests from several countries each year to host seminars, we regret that we are unable to respond to them all, due to budgets, schedules, venues, and lack of human resources.

Diffusion of techniques and associated challenges

We cannot deny that we have faced some challenges regarding the diffusion of this technique.
For example, there is no clear definition of “Japanese paper,” which is an indispensable material for the technique concerned. Since there are various materials and methods for making Japanese paper, the term“Japanese paper” does not specify paper that is suitable for conservation and restoration of cultural properties.
As Japanese paper attracts more attention in the field of conservation, the number of vendors selling Japanese paper overseas has increased. However, Japanese paper is sometimes sold under the wrong name, and in some cases paper unsuitable for conservation is provided.
Now that Japanese techniques and materials for restoration and conservation of paper-based cultural properties are globally recognized as an outstanding method, we are gathering information on techniques and materials used overseas, and putting more effort into dissemination of proper understanding and teaching people the appropriate techniques and knowledge required to choose the right materials.

Training - Reinforcement of objects with Japanese paper and wheat starch paste (Project for the Conservation Centre in the Grand Egyptian Museum)

Workshop: “The Use of Techniques of Japanese Paper Conservation outside Japan”

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