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September 2023 Message from the Executive Director

September here at the institute always marks the start of the new academic year – a time to look forward to the activities and plans for the next year and welcome new students and colleagues to our headquarters in the Cathedral Close. While August can sometimes be a quieter month, with many people taking the opportunity to have some well-earned holiday and a break, here at the Sainsbury Institute we have still had an impressive array of activities and projects going on throughout the summer break.

It was a pleasure to see such excellent representation at the recent European Association for Japanese Studies (EAJS) conference from Sainsbury Institute staff, previous fellows and our colleagues at the Centre for Japanese Studies (CJS). Congratulations to all that took part, particularly Eugenia Bogdanova-Kummer who, currently on study leave, convened the series of panels on the theme ‘Visual Arts and Visionaries’. We also made the most of the in-person iteration of this year’s conference and set up a Sainsbury Institute stall in the exhibitors’ hall with some of our latest projects. Of particular note this year was our work with Steve Colmer and Lateral North, in which we have created a 3D model of the institute designed as a virtual reality exhibition display space, with dogu and netsuke scattered throughout the building model, and even Leiko Ikemura’s monumental Usagi Kannon sculpture filling our main foyer space. (For any of our readers interested in viewing the model, be sure to visit the institute on 16th September for our Heritage Open Days event where we will have the project on display).

Once returned from Ghent, the final preparations for our conference Stone Circles Across Eurasia were in full swing. We were delighted to have an excellent array of speakers from across the UK, as well as  representatives from archaeological institutes in Japan. The conference itself, held in Salisbury on Tuesday 29th August, was well attended and provided an important opportunity to discuss many of the themes of the exhibition Circles of Stone: Stonehenge and Prehistoric Japan. I then made the journey to Belfast the following day to present on a similar topic at the European Association for Archaeologists (EAA) conference, before heading down to Dublin to meet some of our Japanese guests at Newgrange, a prehistoric tomb site to the north of the city. After a quick stopover in Dublin, it was back to Salisbury ready for the closing ceremony of the Circles of Stone exhibition, complete with a performance from the London Taiko drummers which seemed a fitting end to what has been an important exhibition for furthering the understanding of Japanese prehistory in the UK.

Institute staff and guests from Japan visited the site of Newgrange during a short stay in Ireland last week. Left to right: Simon Kaner, Miyao Toru, Yashima Ryoko, Uchiyama Junzo, Akasaka Tomomi, Nitta Yasunori, Seki Toshihiko, Enomoto Takeharu, Corey Noxon

Staff across the institute have also continued to be busy with exciting projects over the summer period. We were delighted to have a visit from the Young Obsidian Ambassadors (Nagawa-machi, Japan) to Norfolk this summer, who had an excellent programme of events with the Teenage History Club, based at Thetford Ancient House Museum. This represents the continuation of an exchange instigated back in 2016 as part of the Global Perspectives on British Archaeology project, which saw an international student exchange programme between the Obsidian Museum at Hoshikuso and Thetford Ancient House Museum, as well as the world’s first twinning of archaeological sites at Grimes Graves and the Hoshikuso Obsidian Mine. It is very encouraging to see these relationships continuing to evolve from opposite sides of the world and reinvigorated following the pandemic.  Also related to archaeological sites this summer, Dr Andy Hutcheson led on our second round of excavations as part of the Later Prehistoric Norfolk Project, this year focusing on Warham Iron Age Camp. The site welcomed many visitors and budding archaeologists – from local school children to people engaged in wellbeing support services as part of the Restoration Trust’s work. I congratulate Andy and the project team for their excellent work in organising the excavation, and look forward to sharing more details with our readers as the project progresses.

The London Taiko drummers performed at Stonehenge on the closing day of the exhibition.

Looking forward to September, we will be opening up our doors to the institute twice this month. As mentioned in our summer greeting, we are delighted to be participating in this year’s Heritage Open Days event on Saturday 16th September. The institute will be open to the public with a series of displays about some of our latest projects as well as a mini-display on the Japanese performers that came to Norwich in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Our talk for the day, Japanese performers in 19th century Norwich which will be given by Pernille Rudlin, is currently sold out but do check on the Heritage Open Days ticketing website for any spaces that might become available nearer the time. We are also delighted to welcome Professor William Marotti to Norwich to give our September Third Thursday Lecture which will be held in-person at the institute and streamed online via Zoom. Spaces for this are limited so make sure to sign up early and join us for a reception afterwards. We also welcome our new Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellows for 2023-2024 this month and will look forward to sharing more details about their research projects soon. I would like to wish the best of luck to our fellow from this year, Dr Shilla Lee, who is moving on to a teaching position at Oxford University. She has been a wonderful addition to the Sainsbury Institute over the past year, and we wish her every success in her new position.

I will be in Japan for the month of September, but hope that our readers enjoy the last days of summer here in the UK and I look forward to being back in Norwich in October.

Best wishes,

Professor Simon Kaner
Executive Director