Study Groups of the Japanese Council of Art Museums

Study Groups of the Japanese Council of Art Museums

 The Japanese Council of Art Museums (JCAM) started a series of Working Groups in 1993. This Working Groups structure brought together curatorial staff members from Council member museums. These staff members organized themselves in terms of shared work responsibilities and shared research areas. Their purpose was to share their awareness of issues common to the field, conduct joint research, exchange information and carry out projects such as Curatorial Study Meetings. Until the development of these Working Groups, Japan's art museum curators largely interacted with curators from other museums only in the contexts of touring special exhibitions or in academic meetings. The merits of the internal structure of the JCAM, which includes most of Japan's art museums among its membership, has made it easier to actualize deeper and broader activities on the inter-curatorial level. The first three groups to be organized focused on the themes of Conservation, Information Processing and Education. Through the publication of information from jointly run projects and Curatorial Study Meeting, these Working Groups began to give their feedback on issues to the overall JCAM membership. Since the formation of these initial Working Groups, other Groups were spontaneously and successively formed around issues as they were identified, such as "Small-Scale Museums." These Groups have generated their own results and information.
 In 2003, ten years after the start of the Working Groups, the JCAM sought to give these activities a clear position within the organization, while also seeking to address some specifically urgent issues facing museums at the time. The JCAM dissolved the existing Working Groups structure, and in their place created eight Study Groups that fall under the aegis of the Program Committee. Each of the eight Groups is made up of anywhere from a few members to at most 30 members. The Groups are actively involved in their subject matter, while member museum personnel are occupied with the everyday operations of their respective museums. The JCAM is the largest, and in fact, sole organization that links Japan's art museums and the basis of its contribution to society is through the day-to-day activities of these Study Groups.

Conservation Study Group

The Conservation Study Group shares information on conservation methods and issues that occur at member museums, and publishes the results of these discussions in various forms. Group members worked with staff members at affected museums in the aftermath of the Great Hanshin Earthquake and the Great East Japan Earthquake to conduct surveys of disaster effects and prepare reports on survey findings. In recent years the group has prepared sample condition check sheets. As well, the group has been involved in such new issues as the conservation of photographs and contemporary artworks.

Educational Research Group

The Educational Research Group aims to broaden its members’ knowledge base through information exchange, discussions and workshops between members and non-member educational specialists, with the aim of deepening our shared understanding of fundamental principles of educational activities at art museums. In addition this group provides an opportunity for members to reflect on and examine their own work activities.

Information and Resources Study Group

The Information and Materials Study Group is actively involved in considering the various information technologies used in art museums, such as websites and collection databases, along with a museum’s many forms of textual resources, such as collection catalogues and exhibition catalogues. The Group has worked hard to consider a balance between the common issues from the past that all museums have regarding the handling of information on books and artworks in their collections, and the more contemporary issues of the information technology that supports such activities today, with the aim of conducting these activities on an information-sharing basis.

Small-Scale Museums Study Group

The members of this study group are those museums within Japan who self-define as small in scale. The group aims to form a network to share knowledge and skills that will help create all the better museums. The study subjects considered by this group involve the various issues related to art museum operations, such as exhibition planning, artwork surveys, display methods, art work care and handling, education and security management. At present the membership totals more than 50 museums located throughout Japan from Hokkaido in the north to Kagoshima prefecture in the south.

Art Museum Management System Study Group

The Designated Manager System Study Group and the National Indemnity for the Arts System Study Group were disbanded in February 2008, and in their place was formed the Art Museum Management System Study Group. Rather than conducting regular meetings, this group was established to move as needed to discuss such topics, as they arise. At present the group is investigating whether or not JCAM should establish its own Operational Standards, based on the Code of Ethics of ICOM (International Council of Museums) or the operational standards of the Japanese Association of Museums.

Regional Arts Study Group

One of the important activities of art museums is to hand on the art traditions of the regions in which they are located and to contribute to the creation of new art in the area, primarily through studying the history of art in their region, along with collecting, displaying and preserving historically important artworks.
Working from this basis, this Regional Arts Study Group aims primarily to provide a nexus for the exchange of information, encourage new surveys and studies on regional art and, through the mutual cooperation of curators at museums throughout Japan, to shift from the existing regional art viewpoint to a more inclusive study of these materials within a new form of art history.
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