LOG (Message from the Chairman)

To All JAHS Members
Issues and Prospects for JAHS in Fiscal 2012
     This is my first statement to the entire membership as Chairman and I would like to touch on the current state of affairs of the organization and my hopes for its future.

For JAHS’s Democratic Operation
     The Japan Art History Society was established in June 1949 (Shôwa 24). In January of the same year a fire broke out in the Kondô at Hôryûji and provided further impetus for the simultaneous establishment of the society’s two divisions in the Kansai area and Tokyo. The group began with around 200 members. In 1980 the membership ranks surpassed the 1,000 mark, and more than 2,000 members have been involved since 1995. At the 65th General Assembly held in May of this year, the membership total was announced as 2,435 members.
     The membership numbers stand as a measure of the advances made in the spread of research in our field. It is extremely fortunate that the ongoing increase in membership numbers since the group’s establishment reflects the steady developments being made in art history research. However, in recent years the number of new members has been competing with the number of members leaving the society (including those who drop out of the membership due to lack of dues payment), and over the longer term, there is a potential towards a gradual decline in overall member numbers. At present while the group is maintaining a healthy financial status, clearly we must consider long-term prospects for the future, given that this is a group whose sole source of income is annual membership fees.
     In the humanities in Japan there is only one other academic association, the Nihongo Gakkai (name changed from Kokugo Gakkai in 2004), which boasts more than 2,000 members. Thus JAHS has a major presence within the humanities and its host of smaller academic associations. It is best for the development of the discipline if the scholarly basis for art history is supported in a unified fashion by a single organization. However, to that degree it is also desirable to seek transparency and fairness as the premise behind maintaining the benefit and authority of all members in the group’s operations.
     The organization’s operations are carried out by the standing committees of each of the two divisions, East and West. The members of those committees are selected every year in a ballot amongst the members affiliated with each of those two divisions. The JAHS membership is made up of largely three equal sized groups, namely university teachers, museum curators and graduate students. While the standing committees are operated on a democratic basis, those committees do not necessarily reflect the makeup of the membership as a whole. In particular, there are few standing committee members employed at museums, and the great majority of standing committee members are university faculty members. Similarly, the gender ratios in the standing committees differ considerably from the ratios present in the overall membership. Neither of these trends is desirable and we can hope for improvements in these matters in the future.
     Maintaining the democratic operation of the society, it goes without saying, involves the attitudes and actions of all members. In addition to exercising your right to vote, please consider these matters. Further, for the healthy renewal and generational continuation of society operations, I hope for the active participation of younger members in JAHS operations and activities.

Encouraging Art Historical Research and Survey Activities
     Fieldwork is an essential element of art historical research. Given the current and recent state of affairs, where reduction in survey and research budgets is now the norm, scholars must consider turning to external funding sources. The current typical example of such competitive research funds is the Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research administered by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (with some large-scale projects eligible for MEXT’s enhanced Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research under their Basic Research Program administered by their Research Promotion Bureau, Scientific Research Aid Division). The JSPS grant is commonly known in Japanese by its syllabic acronym, Kakenhi. The Kakenhi program has contributed greatly to scholarly development in Japan, and large numbers of art historical research projects have benefited from it. The JAHS newsletter publishes an annual list of the research conducted by JAHS members under Kakenhi auspices.
     Every decade the Kakenhi program carries out a reconsideration of its “general field, discipline, division, and detailed subject area chart,” with smaller revisions carried out at the intervening five-year marks. Art history falls under the humanities discipline, philosophy division, and aesthetics and art history detailed subject area. The 2013 Kakenhi (Fiscal Heisei 25) program will begin accepting applications this autumn, and the large-scale 10-year category revision occurs with this program. The new categories chart has been published, and beginning with the 2013 grants, art history will be categorized under the art studies division and the art history detailed subject area.
     The categorization of the Kakenhi program reflects the scholarly recognition level of each particular subject area. As new areas of academic research develop, corresponding detail subject areas are added to the Kakenhi list. Conversely, as applicant numbers drop in any specific field, that subject area is either merged with another or deleted altogether. In the 2003 category revision, the category “aesthetics” (including various arts disciplines) was merged with art history to become the “aesthetics/art history” detailed subject area. Thus it is ten years since art history has had its own subject area listing. In the future, the number of applications will aim to maintain this separate detailed subject area categorization. I hope that everyone will submit numerous applications in the future.
     In this regard, the general rule is that 25 percent of applicants are awarded grants under this program. The term “general rule” is a means of making sure that enough funding is available to maintain the award rate in fields where there are large numbers of applicants. Thus it is not a case of a pre-set amount of funding apportioned across the applicants in a certain field.
     However, there is a problem with this method. In the case of Kakenhi, there are eligibility requirements for applicants. There are no problems when an applicant has a university affiliation, but when the applicant is affiliated with a museum or other such institution, that institution must be designated by MEXT as a research institution. In order to get such designation, the institution must first submit paperwork and be subject to an inspection. Unfortunately many of the museums throughout the country where JAHS members are affiliated are not eligible for Kakenhi grants. I will take up that issue in the next section of this paper.

Towards Improving Museum Employment Conditions
     As we all know, museums throughout Japan are experiencing dire conditions. This situation began with the change of all national museums and art museums into Independent Administrative Institutions as part of the government policy reforms of 2001. Indeed, JAHS held a symposium questioning this structural transformation.
     After the 2001 changes, and amidst the fall in local government budgets due to economic problems, the introduction of a designated management system for museums became a problem. The problems at the Ashiya City Museum of Art and History, which set off this issue, were widely reported in the media. In October 2003 Ashiya city decided to privatize the museum, and then decided that if it could not privatize the museum by fiscal 2006, it would either sell the museum or close it. Needless to say this situation set off shockwaves in the public museums of Japan. JAHS created a statement asserting the importance of the existence of the Ashiya City Museum of Art and History and submitted it to all involved parties.
     While these issues had the positive aspect of calling for the reconsideration of the public nature of museums, and the clarification of the responsibility of the local government who operate museums, they had the far greater problem of further deepening the dire circumstances surrounding museums and postponing any chance for improvement. Indeed, museum employment opportunities worsened further.
     While the decreasing number of curatorial positions had been an ongoing problem, it became the new standard that new curatorial hires were not done on a permanent full-time employee basis but rather as contract or non-permanent employee basis. The discussion of this issue in April 2012 at the Joint East-West Divisions Symposium, New Curators Today: Current Hiring Conditions and the Future, held at the Assembly Hall, University of Osaka, evoked a strong reaction. As we approach the retirement age of the first generation of curators who work at the public museums that opened in droves in the 1980s, it is essential for all of us and for JAHS to keep on top of this changing situation.
     There is also a problem with the Kakenhi that I discussed earlier. At present the organizations that have been recognized by MEXT and hence can apply for the Kakenhi program are the Independent Administrative Institution National Museums, National Art Museums (with the exception of the new National Art Center, Tokyo), the National Research Institutes for Cultural Properties, and private and regional museums such as the Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Fine Arts, the Idemitsu Museum of Arts, the Kanagawa Prefectural Kanazawa Bunko Museum, the Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Modern Art, the Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Cultural History, the Yamanashi Prefectural Museum of Art, the MOA Museum of Art, the Tokugawa Art Museum, the Sen-oku Hakukokan, the Osaka Museum of Oriental Ceramics, the Osaka Museum of History, the Kurokawa Institute of Ancient Cultures, the Museum Yamato Bunkakan, the Kyushu History Museum and the Fukuoka Art Museum.
     However, two other important factors are the generally severe conditions at museums today, and the reality that an increase in the numbers of recognized museums has come to a standstill. At this point, given that we can anticipate that all of these museums can function as research centers, we must work to correct the situation and address the important issues involved in improving the research environment in museums nationwide.

Disseminating Information on Art History
     The editing and publication of the Society’s journal Bijutsushi is one of the important roles of JAHS. A JAHS working group has explored the idea of publishing a Western languages edition of Bijutsushi, and on the basis of that group’s findings, a Bijutsushi Western Languages Edition Preparation Committee has been formed this year and work progresses on the actual publication of such an edition. While I am entrusting the details of such a publication, including its content and publication process, to the committee’s deliberation process, I will report on occasion on their progress.

     In the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake that struck on March 11, 2011, JAHS took the temporary measure of allowing members who were affected by the earthquake to apply for exemption from payment of their annual dues. Further, quite a number of our members have been involved in the rescue, preservation and repair of art works and cultural properties affected by the disaster. Unfortunately, however, there was no opportunity for the Society as a whole to become involved in the recovery from the disaster. During the coming fiscal year I hope that we can consider what the Society can do in this regard and actually come together for such work.
     It goes without saying that the understanding and cooperation of all members is essential for the operation and activities of JAHS. I will do my own best, joining hands with the members of the standing committees, as we strive for the future development of JAHS and I hope for your support of these efforts in the year to come.

July 5, 2012
Suzuki Hiroyuki

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