| 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
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
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
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