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A Message from Masami Zeniya, Executive Director

The global coronavirus pandemic has brought widespread tragedy and disruption to our communities, both in Japan and abroad. My thoughts are filled with prayers for peace for the deceased, comfort and condolences to their loved ones, and wishes for a swift and full recovery to those currently battling coronavirus.

To prevent the spread of coronavirus, the Museum has been closed since February 27th. This measure was taken to protect the health and safety of visitors and staff, along with the wider community. Over a month later, we are still unable to say when we will be able to reopen. On April 7th, the Japanese government implemented a national state of emergency and urged even stronger cooperation in curbing activity outside the home.

In this atmosphere of uncertainty, our museum staff have remained dedicated to the museum’s core activities as we eagerly await the day we can reopen. Our commitment to conserving and protecting the works in our collection for future generations also remains unchanged.

Though our doors continue to remain closed, the following resources are available to engage with our collection online.

 

1. We have uploaded curator-led virtual tours (in Japanese only) of exhibitions that have been cut short due to the temporary closure. The videos can be viewed on TNM’s YouTube channel. Our curators painstakingly planned these exhibitions, and we are deeply saddened that visitors will not be able to experience them. Three tours have been uploaded so far, including an exhibition of hina dolls, an exhibition on Korean court culture, and an exhibition of Buddhist paintings. Virtual visitors are invited to watch these videos and learn from our curators directly.

2. Our highly-anticipated annual event, Cherry Blossom Viewing at the Tokyo National Museum has also been canceled. Though we intended for visitors to enjoy coloring in coloring-sheet versions of works of art at the Museum itself, we have moved these files online for you to print out at home. I myself tried my hand at one of them, after many years of a coloring hiatus, and found it to be a relaxing, meditative activity. I urge parents to enjoy this activity with their children.

3. Virtual tours are also available on Google Arts & Culture. Images and explanatory texts about notable works in the Museum’s collection are available in addition to a walk-through “museum view” of the Japanese Gallery and Gallery of Horyuji Treasures. The 16th-century painted folding screen Maple Viewers (National Treasure) can also be viewed online in 7-gigapixel, ultra-high resolution. Viewers will lose track of the hours spent at home while examining this finely detailed masterpiece.

4. ColBase is a searchable database of the collections of Japan’s four national museums (Tokyo National Museum, Kyoto National Museum, Nara National Museum, and Kyushu National Museum). Visitors can access images, explanatory texts, and audio guides for objects in the museums’ collections. Images in the database may be freely copied, posted on social network accounts, made publicly available, translated, adapted, or altered. Classroom applications, such as use in online classes, are also welcome. Everyone is invited to use this time at home as a chance to learn about the works in Japan’s national museums.

5. The NHK WORLD JAPAN site offers an online radio program called The Magic of Japanese Masterpieces. The program is available in 17 languages, including English. Narrators introduce Japanese works of art, including historical context and production techniques. Newcomers and connoisseurs alike will enjoy these fifteen-minute forays into the world of Japanese art.

6. I would also like to mention our “Preserving Cultural Properties” page on the TNM website. This page introduces the step-by-step process to conserve and protect cultural properties, from damage assessment to long-term storage. Most visitors are unaware of the time-consuming work that goes on behind the scenes of exhibitions. To educate our visitors about these processes, the Museum hosts an annual special exhibition entitled Conservation and Restoration of the Tokyo National Museum’s Collection. This exhibition features works of art that have been recently restored, highlighting damaged sections that were repaired and the information gleaned through each step of the process. Leaflets containing this data are usually distributed at the exhibition, but have been made available online.

In this time of uncertainty and disruption, we can take solace in finding beauty in art and learning from history. By accessing the media introduced above, I hope each user will be inspired to take on new challenges and to face this crisis with perseverance and composure.

In closing, the Museum staff and I sincerely hope that we can open our doors again soon. Each exhibition is a meticulously crafted event, resulting from years of diligent planning and preparation. It pains us to not be able to share them with you. Your continued support of the Museum is deeply appreciated, and we look forward to seeing you again when we are able to safely reopen.

 

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