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

Visual Documentation of Traditional Performing Arts: Challenges and Prospects

Joint Research Coordinator FUKUOKA Shota

Reserch Theme List


The objectives of this research are to use actual examples of visual documentation of traditional performing arts to investigate from various standpoints such things as the theoretical premises involved, theories of filming and editing methodology, actual conditions concerning conservation/management and conditions of practical application, as well as comprehensive thinking about what form visual documentation should take. The documentation of traditional performing arts has come to have a close relationship to policies for the preservation and promotion of these traditional performing arts. For the concept of tradition, the protection and preservation of which is the premise for these activities, we intend to apply a critical eye from a scholarly/scientific standpoint. Through this research, we want to establish networks with various institutions engaged in the actual visual documentation of traditional performing arts. Our aim is to engage in sustainable informational exchanges regarding various problems surrounding visual documentation and to implement tie-ins with projects for cooperative production of visual documents, information sharing, shared use of materials, and other projects. MINPAKU possesses a wealth of experience in the filming of visuals of ethnographic materials (including many examples of performing arts documentation). For individuals involved with these visual documents, as well as individuals utilizing these visual materials, one of MINPAKU’s missions is to present a comprehensive guideline that goes beyond mere expertise.

Research Results

In this joint research, our organizational research, "Visual Documentation of Traditional Performing Arts: Challenges and Prospects,"" was conducted along with the research project on "Tradition and Transcending of Borders—Interaction between Entrenched Strength and Flows Surpassing Borders" entrusted from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS). These provided opportunities for members with experience in the production of visual records of performing arts to interact with people in the performing arts who are the object of the documentation, through their appearances because of screenings and exchanges of opinions, and while engaging in documentary filming of performing arts to intensify discussion on how performing arts visual documentation should be conducted.
Video films which made possible the recording and reproduction of movement and sound are an appropriate medium for documenting the performing arts. In addition, since they make possible the recording of human movements, expressions, voices, and such, which cannot be captured in written form, they make possible the direct dissemination of information to individuals who have experienced difficulties in reading and interpreting scholarly documents. Video films also make possible dissemination to a larger number of other people. This research showed that these possibilities for visuals will make scholarly documentary visuals of performing arts available to a greater number of people. At the same time, also important is to recognize in particular the importance of getting those individuals directly participating in these performing arts that are being visually documented involved in the process.