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

Cataloguing Umesao Tadao's Archived Materials on Inner Mongolia for Academic Research

Joint Research Coordinator KONAGAYA Yuki

Reserch Theme List


archives, Umesao Tadao, Inner Mongolia


The Umesao Archive is a collection of materials left to Minpaku by its founder and first director, Umesao Tadao. Of these materials, only the 35,000 photographs had been catalogued. Work was begun in fiscal 2011 on digitizing and cataloguing the remaining materials. The objective of this research is to establish, using scholarly methods, a concrete precedent for organizing the archive’s materials in a way that supports academic research.
The largest single group of materials comprises those collected by Umesao Tadao during his research in Inner Mongolia Region between 1944 and 1946. During this current project, materials related to Umesao’s research on Mongols will be analyzed, digitized and catalogued using appropriate scholarly methods. 
The analysis will be conducted in accordance with international agreements on scientific and scholarly exchange, in cooperation with research organizations in China, and will be used to implement an international joint research project. The results will be made public andshared with local scholars.

Research Results

The “Umesao Archives” comprises materials covering Tadao Umesao’s research on Mongolia. It contains two maps, approximately 100 sketches, around 50 field notebooks, 5,000 Romanized cards, and 1,000 manuscripts. Focusing mainly on the sketches, field notebooks, and Romanized cards, it required two-and-a-half years to of scanning to organize the material for publication. First, the sketches were organized to create the copytext for the portfolio, then the Romanized cards were treated to form the copytext for the card collection.
In preparation for publishing the sketch portfolio, a field survey was conducted to compare the objects depicted in the sketches with contemporary household items. This permitted elucidation of change in material culture over the last half-century. Some items remain unchanged, some look mostly the same, but are now made of different materials, whereas others are completely different.
When editing the Romanized card collection, field surveys were conducted to confirm the names of individuals, places, plants, temples, and other items. These surveys were supported by Inner Mongolia University, aided in particular by Professor Narangerel, under an international joint research agreement. Members of the joint research team added knowledge from their respective fields (for example, linguistics, botany, and sociology), which further enriched the copytexts.
The editing of these resources provided an overview of the research on Mongolia conducted by Tadao Umesao and others. The results of this editorial process will contribute to two areas: Mongolia studies and information science.
For Mongolia studies, the archives help to compile original sources that portray the transition in livestock-raising cultures as a response to ecological differences. This transition can be seen when traveling south to north in Sunid Left Banner. The topic for which the greatest number of cards was collected is related to “mowing”. Most likely these cards formed the basis for Umesao’s book “Mowing Mongolians”. Although the number of cards for topics other than “mowing” is not as numerous, all the items together enabled use of the same vantage point of “transition” to reconstruct a sense of spatial structure. The reconstructed images will provide an important perspective for comparing contemporary society to that illustrated in the materials about Mongolia created by Tadao Umesao. In editing these materials, the maps that traced the course of Umesao’s field research were also revised.
Regarding information science, it was demonstrated that the methods Umesao used for organizing materials applied a “digital approach” in an era before computers existed. This helped to reveal how he came to write “The Art of Intellectual Production”.