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

An Info-Forum Database for Popular Culture Collections from the Middle East

Research period: April 2017 - March 2019 / Project for Database Improvement (project period: max. 2 years) Coordinator NISHIO Tetsuo

Reserch Theme List

Outline

Objectives

The West Asia exhibition, renewed as a forum in the first year of the renovation process of the Main Exhibitions, has been eliciting responses from visitors from both inside and outside Japan. Enhancing the forum function through exhibition will require a mechanism of sharing more profound information through each exhibit. This project is expected to accomplish the following: 1, survey and develop a database for the collection of the late Motoko Katakura, Professor Emeritus at the National Museum of Ethnology, on the nomadic society on the Arabian Peninsula; 2, survey and develop a database for the Gluck collection of folk art of modern Iran; and 3, survey and develop a database for the Shimegi collection of the coffee culture globalized from the Middle East, in view of developing forum-style information in the future from all materials related to the Middle East (including North Africa) held by Minpaku. The materials for each task are exhibited at the West Asia exhibition. Ideally, we will build a system that facilitates access to each database through individual exhibits.

* Gluck collection: Jay Gluck, an American expert in art history and a collector, was a student of A. U. Pope, a distinguished expert in the Persian art history. He was affiliated with the Asia Institute in Shiraz, founded by Pope as a research institute for Persian art and archeology. Moreover, he studied and collected Iranian art and crafts from the latter half of the 1960s to the 1970s. After the Iranian Revolution of 1979, he lived in Kobe with his Japanese wife. Before he returned to the United States later in life, Minpaku accepted a part of his craft collection in 2000. The West Asia exhibition displays a “tear bottle” and pen cases from the Gluck collection, which are important as exhibits of the folk craft of modern Iran.
* Shimegi collection: approximately 300 items related to coffee collected by the late Mr. Yukitoshi Shimegi,who owned “Moka", the legendary coffee store with café located in Kichijoji, Tokyo. Not only coffee utensils, but also many coffee roasting and extraction instruments that Mr. Shimegi purchased from around the world are extremely valuable and significant when having an overview of the global history of coffee.

Description

We will go through the process of database development in this project based on the following method and system.
(1) To survey and develop a database for the Dr. Motoko Katakura collection (approximately 320 items) on the nomadic society on the Arabian Peninsula, we will examine the basic information that is already found in Minpaku database in cooperation with Hiroshi Nawata (a professor at Akita University and Research Associate at Minpaku) currently conducting a joint research project at Minpaku, the Motoko Katakura Foundation for Desert Culture, research institutions of Saudi Arabia through Saudi Aramco, and local people of the Saudi Arabian oasis while reviewing the sample materials when necessary. Based on this, we will organize the data and add information in Japanese, Arabic (including local dialects), and English. Information related to photographs taken by Dr. Motoko Katakura for her collection is currently being organized as the image database in the Digital Picture Library for Area Studies, Minpaku's project for building a foundation for academic research support. We will ultimately enhance the forum-style database by linking it to the database to be built as described above.
(2) To survey and develop a database for the Gluck collection (179 items) of folk art of modern Iran, we shall, as in the case presented above, examine basic information that is already in a database while reviewing the sample materials when necessary. We will also add descriptions based on documents of information obtained by Jay Gluck, which have not been added to Minpaku data. Furthermore, we expect to add more detailed information by cooperating with researchers, who are experts in Islamic art history and who have extensive knowledge of craft collections stored at other overseas museums and institutions and seek cooperation also of experts at the National Museum of Iran (planning to sign an academic agreement with Minpaku) for database development.
(3) To survey and develop a database for the Shimegi collection (approximately 300 items) of the coffee culture spread from the Middle East, we shall first examine basic data obtained by the former owner for the scheduled new arrival exhibition because the materials were acquired in 2016. We shall also organize the materials as Minpaku's basic sample database. Subsequently, we will add detailed data jointly with the UCC Coffee Museum. If possible, we expect to organize information held by Minpaku in addition to the above collection related to materials associated with coffee cultures around the world.
(4) We will release the database on the internet and facilitate access to the database through related individual exhibits at the West Asia exhibition.
(5) The database created in this project will be used in thematic exhibitions such as the life of Muslim women in the desert and changes over half a century scheduled for fiscal year 2019. The Gluck collection and Shimegi collection will also be developed into international joint research within the framework of the Area Studies Project for the Modern Middle East and into a thematic exhibition in the future.

Expected results

Note: Results also reveal what kind of database it would be.
We intend to add information to the database for Dr. Motoko Katakura's collection of materials from the nomadic society of the Arabian Peninsula with the cooperation of local communities and to then link the upgraded Motoko Katakura's collection database to a visual image database from the time of collection for the purpose of using the resulting information as data related to the material culture in order to identify social changes in local communities. As a further development, by having a thematic exhibition based on a forum-style database tour around Saudi Arabia, we will be able to give the materials held at Minpaku a function of cultural succession in the local society. The databases on the above-mentioned other two collections, the Gluck collection and the Shimegi collection, will similarly provide opportunities to enhance the research of material culture related to these collections with the cooperation of researchers inside and outside of Japan. We will be able to develop such activities into international joint research in the modern Middle East research project through promotion of international joint research via database sharing, which is among the original concepts of the Info-Forum Museum.

Annual Report

Outcomes from 2017
1. The state of the implementation of this year's research

This project comprises three sub-projects, including the following: 1, surveys and development of a database for the collection of the late Dr. Motoko Katakura, Professor Emeritus at the National Museum of Ethnology, on the nomadic society on the Arabian Peninsula; 2, surveys and development of a database for the Gluck collection of folk art of modern Iran; and 3, surveys and development of a database for the Shimegi collection of the coffee culture globalized from the Middle East. During the current fiscal year, we developed a database entry list used in all three sub-projects and input templates for each sub-project through joint examination with the Info-Forum Museum compilation team. Moreover, we started developing a basic information database.
To build a structure of implementing forum-style information gathering, we invited local collaborators jointly with our partner institutions, Motoko Katakura Foundation for Desert Culture, and Saudi Aramco, and held workshops and verified materials and added information through detailed reviews of the collection as a joint survey with a Minpaku Inter-University Research Project, “Comparative Studies of the Afro-Eurasian Material Cultures from the Perspective of Moving Strategies among Desert Societies” in the development of a database of materials from nomadic societies of the Arabian Peninsula. For the development of a database for the Gluck collection, we signed an official academic agreement with our partner institution, the National Museum of Iran, and started a joint survey of similar Iranian craft collections preserved at overseas museums, etc. including the National Museum of Iran. For the development of a database for the coffee collection, we held a workshop and conducted a survey with parties related to former owners and our partner institution, the UCC Coffee Museum, to discuss the position of the collection in cultural history and organized basic information related to the process of growing the collection that we had newly received, while we organized the exhibition in order to present the results of the workshop and survey.

2. Overview of the research results (achievements of the research objects)

For the overall product, we confirmed the database format and designed the entire database, started entering basic data, and organized the format of data translation into multiple languages (English and the languages of places in which the collected items were collected or used, such as Arabic and Persian). For the development of a database for materials from nomadic societies of the Arabian Peninsula, we started detailed reviews and addition of information to the data as part of joint research with people invited from Saudi Arabia. Thereby, we developed a database of approximately 320 sample materials (200 items held by Minpaku and approximately 120 items held by Motoko Katakura Foundation for Desert Culture). To develop a database for the Gluck collection, we started reviewing relevant materials held by the National Museum of Iran and collecting literature and documents related to the Gluck collection to develop a database from 176 sample materials. To develop a database for the coffee collection, we held a detailed interview with the original owner of the Shimegi collection and held a workshop and exhibition to discuss the position of this collection in cultural history to develop a database from approximately 300 sample materials.

3. Records disclosing achievements (publications, public symposia, sectional meetings of academic conferences, electronic media, etc.)

Regarding the development of a database for materials from nomadic societies of the Arabian Peninsula, we held an international symposium, “Preservation of Cultural Heritage in the Arabian Peninsula,” intended for researchers and research institutions related to the protection of cultural heritage on the Arabian Peninsula with specific examination of Saudi Arabia and general participants on December 16 at Yokohama Information Cultural Center, to which we had invited curators from the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies and the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture. We also held a workshop with these curators on December 19 at Minpaku to gather information related to Minpaku’s Saudi Arabia collection. With reference to the development of a database for the Gluck collection, we will invite the Director of the National Museum of Iran and hold a workshop in March 2018. Regarding the development of a database for the coffee collection, we held the 40th anniversary new arrival exhibition, “Mr. Shimegi’s Coffee Collection” (September 28 – November 14, 2017), and a related forum-style workshop, “What is Shimegi’s Coffee?” (October 9, 2017), which was open to the public. We invited Mr. Yuki Kadowaki, one of only a few pupils of Yukitoshi Shimegi, as a lecturer, who spoke with a research staff member of Minpaku about the life of Shimegi and coffee culture of places around the world. Particularly, we were able to obtain important information related to how this coffee collection had grown. In connection with the exhibition, we held events such as the Weekend Salons, “the Arab World’s Culture of Hospitality Seen in Arabic Coffee” and “Coffee as the Key to Open the Door to Your Heart: from fieldwork in Palestine and Israel.” Jointly with the Center for Modern Middle East Studies of the National Museum of Ethnology, we invited Dr. Laura Assaf, a young researcher at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS), France, on October 27, 2017, to give a lecture on recent changes in the social roles of cafés that create public space for youth culture in Abu Dhabi. Moreover, we held a lecture for the general public, “Arabian Nights and Coffee: from a Taboo to Luxury,” at our partner institution, UCC Coffee Museum, to celebrate its 30th anniversary (lecturer: Tetsuo Nishio, October 8, 2017). We also held the 76th experience seminar, “Coffee Culture of its Birthplace, Arabia,” jointly with Minpaku Associates and in cooperation with UCC Coffee Museum and the UCC head office.