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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



The Gallery for the Regional Cultures of China renovated in March 2014, has elicited various responses from both domestic and foreign visitors. However, the use and enjoyment of cultural resources that have been collected, improved, and stored through the renovation have been constrained. We shall therefore make a multilingual contents for the Info-Forum Museum of the gallery in three languages with four writing systems, namely in Japanese, Chinese (traditional and simplified characters), and English, and examine a better web operations of digital archive to complete the whole system to the public. Through these efforts, not only will the space for people who share the value of our cultural resources be widened, but the cultural resources in the present gallery will be handed down for many years regardless of the future renovation. By enhancing the use of cultural resources, we will add new information to them per se and also deepen their meaning.


The exhibits created in this project shall comprise sample materials released after the new construction and sample materials selected as possible alternatives, photographs of materials in the sample material database at the Main Exhibition Building, and other relevant photographs selected by researchers in addition to photographs of sample materials and captions, descriptions on panels, and other information at the exhibition area. Materials such as paintings that cannot be exhibited at the venue because of space limitations are photographed and exhibited in photo albums, which will also be exhibited on the website. In an effort to present the images similarly to viewing them at the exhibition, some materials will include multiple pieces in a single unit of exhibit (e.g., samples of ethnic costumes worn by a mannequin are combined in a single unit of exhibits). Information related to the sample materials will be organized and elaborated to develop a database through cooperation among the museum staff, foreign researchers, and members of source communities, based on which exhibits for the public be produced. The exhibition system will have a mechanism that allows information exchange in both directions. It will be designed to allow continuous addition of information to create a forum-style museum.
In contrast to many Info-Forum Museum projects led by the Main Exhibition Building, which has had the primary purpose of building a database, this project specifically examines distribution of information as an information museum. In the development of a multimedia database as a step before creating the exhibits, we will use database systems that generate information created in previous projects if they are suited for use in this project.
More specifically, this project will follow the steps below.

  1. Determine the units of exhibition for the sample materials to be exhibited.
  2. Develop data related to sample materials for each unit of exhibition and complete the Japanese version of the database.
  3. Translate the Japanese database into Chinese and English.
  4. Organize photographs of sample materials and related images and of video information when appropriate for each unit of exhibition.
  5. Work to organize and elaborate the database while receiving cooperation from source communities and native researchers. Supplement the basic information related to the sample materials and collect other relevant information.
  6. Create exhibits for the general public based on Japanese, Chinese, and English databases that have been developed.
  7. Design and release a system of online publishing of exhibits, which is equipped with functions necessary for a forum-style museum.

Expected results

Note: 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 their 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, but the Info-Forum Museum to be completed under this project will be able to offer a far wider variety of, and more substantial contents of, text and video information. Moreover, through the forum, information will likely be understood continuously, more deeply, and with better developed contents. Moreover, 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 considerably 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 enahanced as well.

Annual Report

Outcomes from 2017

1. The state of the implementation of this year’s research

The project is conducted to present materials exhibited at the newly built Cultural Exhibition Gallery for the Chinese region on a website for the purpose of enabling interactive information exchange among researchers, people of source communities, and the general public, to promote mutual understanding of the cultures of the Chinese region, and to enhance information related to the collection.
We ascertained the range of exhibitions in the project during the prior fiscal year, specified the framework of exhibition units for the website, considering the characteristics of online publication that differs from the exhibition hall, and prepared data for captions of exhibits in three languages with four writing systems (Japanese, English, simplified Chinese and traditional Chinese). During the current fiscal year, we proceeded with preparation for the online release on the foundation built in the last fiscal year.
We first examined specific web system design with the editing team of the forum and system developers and determined a design suited for the database. Based on this, we drew the layout of the entire exhibition hall, designed the icons on the home page of the project website, prepared file data, and examined and established “website categories” as subdivisions of sections to indicate clearly each of the 10 sections in total, consisting of an Introduction and nine sections, in line with the displays at the exhibition hall. We used this to select image data such as photographs and illustrations for each collection and exhibition unit and organized them in Excel files. We created necessary captions for the new portion above and translated them to deliver them in three languages with four writing systems. We also conducted inspections of the data of all materials in three languages and four typefaces, of which inspections and translation had been competed in the last fiscal year for the time being, for final confirmation. Then we made necessary corrections.

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

We carefully conducted all activities necessary for the online release of the exhibition by the end of the current fiscal year and reached our goal. We organized the data of all the nearly 1,160 items covered in the project in the required three languages with four writing systems.
Although we completed the translation of basic caption data in the last fiscal year, inspections of individual items revealed issues to be reconsidered, such as how some items should be named. We changed these names to more accurate and more readily comprehensible names. Furthermore, we made necessary changes to the order of arranging exhibition units to reflect the intentions of the exhibition adequately.

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

We presented a report tilted “Info-Forum Museum for Regional Cultures of China Gallery” at the Research Trends Roundtable I (International Symposium) “Preservation of Cultural Heritage in a Changing World” held on October 7 and 8, 2017, to explain differences between the exhibition hall and the website, which had been identified during the course of the project,

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.