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

Building an Info-Forum Museum for Regional Cultures of China

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

Reserch Theme List


The Cultural Exhibition Gallery for the Chinese region was built in March 2014 and has since elicited a variety of responses from both domestic and foreign visitors. However, the use and enjoyment of cultural resources that have been collected, improved, and stored through the new gallery have been constrained. Against this background, by focusing on the cultural exhibits from the Chinese region, we will make a list of contents for the Info-Forum Museum in Japanese and Chinese, study how to build a system open to the general public, and then bring it to fruition. Through these efforts, not only will the place for people who share the same values regarding these cultural resources be widened, but the cultural resources will be handed down for many years to come, By enhancing the use of cultural resources, we will add both new information to them per se and deepen their meaning.


Under this project, the contents to be opened to the general public will include items that have been exhibited on completion of the new gallery and those selected as candidates for their replacement. The contents include basic information in the collection database of the National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku), a wide variety of text and video information on those items, as well as photographs of them and information, such as captions and panel notes, in the gallery. Through collaboration among museum staff, researchers in Japan and abroad, and people from source communities, we will create a database by organizing, supplementing, and collecting information on the items before building the contents to be opened to the general public. The public system will be equipped with a structure to allow interactive information exchange, and designed to add new information on continuously, thereby realizing the Info-Forum Museum.
Whereas a majority of the preceding Info-Forum Museum projects conducted by Minpaku have aimed at building a database, this project focuses on disseminating information as an Info-Forum Museum. During preparation of a multimedia database prior to the phase of producing contents, an information-generation-type database system created by a preceding project, if available, will be utilized.
Specifically, the following steps will be taken in implementing this project:

  1. After determining the focal items, we will collect and organize the above-mentioned types of information about them, complete a Japanese database, and translate it into Chinese.
  2. Based on the Chinese database, and with the help of source communities and local researchers, we will supplement basic information on the items and collect related information. In this process, regarding much-needed information and highly beneficial items, we will ask collaborative researchers abroad to examine carefully the items or conduct fieldwork with Minpaku researchers and collaborative researchers abroad, to improve the database.
  3. We will review information collected and organized in the Japanese and Chinese databases to build contents to be opened to the general public.
  4. We will design an online system equipped with contents and necessary functionalities as an Info-Forum Museum, which will then be opened to the general public.
Expected results

Note: The results also reveal what kind of database it would be.
In exhibiting cultural artifacts from the Chinese region, for instance, for ethnic costumes, we have attached photographs of local people wearing them. In an attempt to exhibit those items in the cultural context, we have also built an electronic guide that explains how to wear some of the costumes. The amount of information offered in the gallery is limited, however, but the Info-Forum Museum to be completed under this project will be able to offer a far wider variety of, and more substantial, text and video information. Moreover, through the forum, information will likely be continuously understood more deeply and developed, while research will be advanced further as a feedback. Given today’s huge worldwide Chinese-speaking population, the use of cultural resources can be expected to grow significantly through this project. In addition, as the Info-Forum Museum disseminates information to a broad audience, we expect the “existence value” of the museum to be heightened as well.

Outcomes from 2016

1. The state of the implementation of this year’s research
The purpose of this project is to construct a system for an Infor-Forum Museum where exhibitions at the Cultural Exhibition Gallery for the Chinese Region will be opened on the website. Disclosure on the website will enable those members of the general public who cannot visit the museum to access the exhibitions. At the same time, interactive information exchange among overseas researchers and people of the source communities will be promoted for updating the specimen materials.
As the first work of this year, we decided on the scope of exhibition materials as subjects for this project, and examined the exhibition units for the website by considering its features that differed from the gallery, and then implemented the decisions. In addition, we examined the overall design of this Info-Forum Museum. As a result, we concluded that the information should be released in three languages (Japanese, Chinese and English) and not just in Japanese and Chinese, as initially planned. Chinese has two different character styles: simplified and traditional. Since we will use both, we prepared the database to be released on the website in a total of four different character styles.

We conducted translation and organizational work for the text data written in three languages, which will be used for the explanations and captions of photos and drawing panels by the exhibition unit in the gallery
We also organized photo and video data according to holders for smooth uploading to the system, while examining the composition of photos to be released on the website by exhibition unit. Compared with the limited space of a gallery, the website allows uploading of many more photos. Thus we was able to complement a weak point of the Info-Forum Museum, a lack of access to actual objects, by adding exhibition information focusing on photos.

2. Overview of the research results (achievements of the research objects)
We established a total of 784 exhibition units by determining the materials subject to the exhibition and exhibition units. The number of specimen materials exhibited at the Cultural Exhibition Gallery for the Chinese region is almost 1,070. The exhibition units are fewer than specimen material units as recorded specimens, because multiple specimen materials are regarded as one exhibition unit when it is effective to release them as a set on the website. In addition, when information is provided only with photos without displaying any specimen materials, such photo materials are regarded as one exhibition unit.
When the exhibition is presented through an Info-Forum Museum, consideration different from the layout of the gallery is required. Through repeated discussions among the project team members we devised the approach suitable for release on the website.
At first, we planned the dissemination of information in Japanese and Chinese, the main language of the source community of the exhibition materials. However, as our work proceeded we found that we should release the information in the three languages, Chinese, English and Japanese. So we organized the text data in three languages, and completed its translation. Therefore, we made preparations for examining the web system design for establishment and release to the public in the next fiscal year.

3. Records disclosing achievements (publications, public symposia, sectional meetings of academic conferences, electronic media, etc.)
We have not released any outcomes, since our project started from this fiscal year. We have made preparations for release on the website in the next fiscal year.