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

Integrated Conservation Management for the Collection of the National Museum of Ethnology: First Stage—Basic research for the construction of systems

Joint Research Coordinator SONODA Naoko

Reserch Theme List


This joint research has the two-fold objective of conservation management and effective usage, which features intimate cooperation with the cultural resources project “Construction of Conservation Management Systems for Tangible Cultural Resources” in its pursuit. This joint research will determine the most pressing problems directly facing the materials in this museum’s collection as far as custodial management, conservation measures and storage methods are concerned and conduct fundamental research to find a solution. The cultural resource project together with the results achieved through this joint research represents large-scale experimental and development research aiming for practical application. The results achieved can then be further evaluated in other joint research venues to develop additional results.

Research Results

This joint research had the two-fold purpose of preservation and active use of the various materials in this museum’s collection, and had the goal of developing solution policies for critical issues related to the conservation of the museum's collection. We were able to divide the research into three main subdivisions of conservation environment for materials, preservation countermeasures for materials and custodial methods for materials.
For the conservation environment for materials, after the total elimination of methyl bromide chemicals for insecticide/antibacterial use at the end of 2004, even while researching development of alternative methods and striving for construction of conservation management systems, we did not stop at research on the development of methodologies. We also emphasized tying this research to the countermeasures being taken in day-to-day management of these problems. For policies to manage insects, to acquire data for long-term comparisons, we reconsidered our methods in various areas, including materials inspections, accident reports, and biological/environmental inspection and analysis, for a comprehensive, interconnected approach. For insect extermination, in addition to considering such varied factors as the composition of the materials, types of noxious insects involved, conditions and scale of insect damage, and time required to deal with the problem, we proposed different policies appropriate to different methods for insect extermination. Based on this research, in 2007 the museum upgraded its existing storage facilities and constructed a high and low temperature treatment chambers.
For countermeasures for the preservation of materials, we adopted preservation measures for acid paper library materials. We devised a rolling test, with which the degradation of fragile paper can be scaled by rolling paper around poles of different diameters, to evaluate the degradation. Based on the tests, we ran verification tests correlating physical properties tests with chemical analysis results. To strengthen paper, we found that among cellulose conductive materials with chemical compositions that are similar to paper, dissolvable materials were dissolved in solvents, while aqueous-based materials were dispersed in a solution of alcohol dissolved in a small amount of water, the drying process was faster, and wrinkles and waves did not appear. We thus discovered a method for strengthening paper. By adding a deacidifying agent, we were able to obtain deacidification results. This approach has the special feature of being applicable to both single-leaf and bound volume materials because the method allows spray coating. This research made possible the receipt of Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research for the FY2007-2009 period. We are now aiming for further research developments.
For custodial methods for materials, we considered methods that would make investigations easier for researchers, while also safely preserving the materials, as well as research on the kinds of ingredients that should be used for storage. We created prototypes for custodial methods appropriate for materials of various sizes and dimensions, and we will apply these methods to sequential improvement of the storage environment in the museum.
In this joint research, we have been careful to closely coordinate our activities with the museum’s cultural resources project “Construction of Conservation Management Systems for Tangible Cultural Properties” in both theory and practice. We hope to make large-scale experiments in the practical application of the research being carried out by our joint research project together with the joint research from the cultural resources project. We would also like to again discuss the results obtained from the cultural resources project through critical evaluation in a joint research forum.