The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) is a research center for ethnology and cultural anthropology.

Building an Info-Forum Museum for Musical Instruments

Research period: April 2016 - March 2018 / Project for Database Improvement (project period: max. 2 years) Coordinator FUKUOKA Shota

Reserch Theme List


This project aims to build an Info-Forum Museum for musical instruments that will allow research institutes for music, researchers, musical instrument users and others to contribute information jointly to share and deepen knowledge, by developing an integrated database. The database will relate the data on musical instruments to that on visual, audio and other materials, based on the collection of musical instruments owned by Minpaku. Classification codes are added to that collection of musical instruments following the Sachs-Hornbostel system of musical instrument classification and the Outline of World Cultures (OWC), a systematic listing of the cultures of the world. We will try to share systematically information by relating musical instruments owned by various institutions and individuals from both culture-specific and cross-cultural perspectives with the two types of classification codes. Also we will attempt to understand music cultures from a comprehensive perspective, by integrating the data on different materials, such as visual and audio materials, accumulated by studies on world musics.

  1. Building an initial database
    The music exhibition project team has already taken the lead in building a database with musical instrument classification codes attached for the approximately 5,000 instruments owned by Minpaku,. We will add the OWC codes to the data and translate them into English to build a Japanese-English bilingual musical instrument database that will serve as the base of the project. Further, we will translate a database of music and performing arts video clips (approx. 850 pieces of data) into English, and relate them one to another.
  2. Designing a database,br> Based on the initial database, we will deal with musical instrument data of other institutions and individuals in an integrated manner and design a system and interface to allow data addition jointly on the web. We will designate a person to add or correct individual data, so that data would be added or corrected by using the information posted by users through the “Comment Function” and audio-visual data uploaded as a reference.
  3. Attempting to share musical instrument data owned by multiple institutions
    We will try to share musical instrument data owned by multiple institutions (assuming Minpaku, Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments, etc.) and publish data at respective institutions by using the Info-Forum Museum’s system.
  4. Attempting to prepare musical instrument data through collaboration
    Using as an example the donation of approximately 300 pieces of musical instruments that the music exhibition project team plans to accept, we will create basic musical instrument data and try to add data jointly through collaboration with multiple researchers.
  5. Attempting to build a data collection based on a specific theme
    We will select data based on a specific theme from the mother database, design a system to build a collection to which audio-visual and related data are attached, and create several data collections on a trial basis.
    1)Using Filipino music as an example, we will build a database by relating musical instrument data that Minpaku owns to audio data that researchers have accumulated.
    2)Using gongs in Southeast Asia as an example, we will build a database by relating musical instrument data that Minpaku owns to image records, including those of musical instrument production and performances.
Expected results

Note: The results also reveal what kind of database it would be.
The musical instrument database to be built in this project has the following features: 1) by attaching musical instrument classification and OWC codes, relationships between musical instrument data can be explored from two perspectives; 2) by relating musical instrument data to audio-visual data, music that the musical instrument plays can be learned as well; 3) by dealing with musical instrument data owned by different institutions and others in an integrated manner and allowing the data to be added jointly, data can be enhanced mutually. Although Minpaku has one of the largest musical instrument collections in Japan, users are unable to view them at a glance on a database, and neither are the musical instruments classified in accordance with musical instrument classification. For this reason, users have not been able to learn the musical instruments of the world systematically from Minpaku’s musical instrument collection. Thanks to this project, not only will the significance of Minpaku’s collection as a musical instrument collection that deepens understanding of the musical cultures in the world increase considerably, but it will contribute also to enhancing data on musical instruments that other institutions own.

Outcomes from 2016

1.The state of the implementation of this year’s research
We went ahead with the following work so as to share the data on musical instrument collections among research institutions for addition and correction of the data as joint work.
(1) Development of a system to share the data and to jointly add and/or correct the data
We are working on the development of a system that allows sharing the data on the website and exchanging information among the registered users. The development of the system will be completed within FY 2016.
(2) Preparation of the data on musical instruments collected by the National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku)
For the approximately 5,400 musical instrument materials owned by Minpaku, we have transferred the data on classification codes from the musical instrument database established previously. We are now assigning names (Japanese and English) according to the musical instrument classification. In addition, we will assign codes to approximately 800 musical instrument materials having no classification codes. This will be completed within FY 2016.
(3) Cooperation with relevant research institutions
We have established a cooperative relationship with the Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments for data sharing, and the addition and correction of the data as collaborative work. For the presentation of our achievements at the International Council of Museums, to be held in September 2019, we have decided to request cooperation from other institutions.
(4) Research and transportation of musical instrument materials to be donated
Regarding the collection of musical instruments owned by Mr. Masahiko TATSUTA, of Kobe City, as a model case to share information among institutions and to provide data, we discussed the acceptance of his donation as a goal and surveyed the musical instruments. Since it is a large collection, we have decided to transport them to Minpaku and use the Info-Forum Museum system for listing and data-provision.

2. Overview of the research results (achievements of the research objects)
We are working on the development of a system to share the musical instrument data and provide data jointly with other institutions. The core system will be completed within this fiscal year. Among the data to be shared, that on musical instruments owned by Minpaku is being prepared smoothly. Sharing of the musical instrument data possessed by other institutions remains a challenge to be settled, since only a few institutions construct and disclose their musical instrument databases. We will continue to collect information and call for cooperation. As for joint data-giving, the amount of musical instrument collection as a model is larger than initially envisaged. Therefore, we will divide them into two and transport the first half in this fiscal year, and we will start the work from the beginning of the second fiscal year after beginning operation of the base system. A system to prepare a collection of musical instrument data according to a certain theme and relate visual and audio materials with them will be developed in the second fiscal year. However, this plan may be changed since the acceptance and data preparation of the above-mentioned musical instrument collection requires far more resources than was estimated initially.

3. Records disclosing achievements (publications, public symposia, sectional meetings of academic conferences, electronic media, etc.)
None in particular.