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Ishibashi Foundation Digital Futures 22/23 – An Overview

The Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures (SISJAC) together with the Centre for Japanese Studies (CJS) at the University of East Anglia (UEA) launches a new initiative in digital Japanese arts. Building on the successes of our previous Ishibashi Foundation Summer Fellowships and Online Summer Programmes in Japanese Arts and Cultures, this initiative will engage students and early career researchers with curators and established specialists in their respective fields through the development of new digital platforms, connecting them with Japanese art collections across Europe, the US and Japan.

In 2022-23, we will undertake a series of pilot projects, which are divided into different yet interconnected strands:

Dr Matsuba Ryoko brings unparalleled experience in the digitisation of Japanese art collections across museums in the UK. While her work to date has mainly focused on 2D objects (e.g. paintings and prints), this strand of activity will develop new methods for the recording of 3D artworks (e.g. lacquer wares and metalworks). Dr Matsuba will lead study sessions at Chiddingstone Castle, Victoria & Albert Museum London, and the National Museum of Scotland. In parallel, we will hold online lectures with specialists working in decorative arts from Japan, the UK and the US to collaboratively develop skills and techniques for digital cataloguing.

Professor Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere, Professor of Japanese Art and Culture at UEA and Research Director of SISJAC, is uncovering unknown treasures in the history of the study of Japanese art in the US. Her recent work focuses on the ‘Japan-style’ house created by Matsuki Bunkyo, who worked closely with Edward Sylvester Morse at the start of American interest in Japanese art. Based on Professor Rousmaniere’s research and 3D-recording of the building, we propose to develop Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality reconstructions of the house built by Matsuki in Salem, Massachusetts, and explore how the famous yet understudied Morse collections of the Peabody Essex Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, can be made available to wider audiences.

Dr Eugenia Bogdanova-Kummer explores ways to connect archiving and collecting practices of modern and contemporary Japanese art using digital tools, working with a range of private and public institutions across Europe. Together with students, we plan to visit and analyse archives in three European centres: London, Paris and Amsterdam/Leiden. Additionally, in a series of conversations with curators, digital and archive specialists, and art historians, we will explore best practices to create and preserve histories of modern and contemporary Japanese art that has been exhibited, collected or created in Europe since the second half of the 20th century.

Professor Simon Kaner, Executive Director of SISJAC and Head of Centre of Archaeology and Heritage, plans to conduct fieldwork in Japan on the history of archaeology and cultural heritage in Spring 2023. His research will adopt digital methods to capture conversations with key figures, with an aim to share his output with both academic and public audiences.

Through these activities, participants will gain unprecedented experience researching Japanese arts and cultures in a resilient manner adapted to the post Covid-19 world, both contributing to and engaging with the full range of digital technologies.