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Japanese Cultural Properties: 246 Instances of Damage; Sendai’s “Pompeii” Exhibition

Seiichi Kondo, Japan’s Commissioner for Cultural Affairs

My attempt to get further information about the impact of Japan’s disaster on museums and cultural sites resulted in my receiving by e-mail this document from Japan’s Agency of Cultural Affairs: Damages of cultural properties of 2011 Tohoku – Pacific Ocean Earthquake.

As of Thursday, according to this list, there were some 246 instances of damage. The document breaks these down by types of cultural properties and sites, as well as by geographic area. What it does NOT do is identify the specific properties and sites that were impacted.

For example, it reports two “damages” to National Treasures” and 74 to Important Cultural Properties. I assume (but have not yet received confirmation) this means that 74 different Important Cultural Properties were impacted (not that multiple damages to one property were each counted separately towards the total of 74). I am seeking clarification and further information.

By digging around online, I learned that the city of Sendai, near the epicenter of the 9.0 earthquake, is home to the Miyagi Museum, with Japanese art—Meiji (1868-1912) to the present—as well as Western works:

Miyagi Museum of Art, Sendai

Sendai also has a City Museum that, at the time of the disaster, was hosting an exhibition that has become eerily resonant with the current situation.

Here’s the museum’s own description of that show:

Pompeii: Miracle of Ancient Rome and World Heritage Site

February 10 to May 8, 2011

In the year 79 A.D., the ancient city of Pompeii was buried in the cataclysmic volcanic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. Though the city was destroyed, many artifacts of its culture and achievements were preserved in the ashes.

With the full cooperation of the Naples National Archaeological Museum, this exhibit features 250 valuable artifacts and art pieces from its collection. Of special interest are the collection of silver artifacts, shown outside of Italy for the first time, and the bathtub and water heating system excavated from a summer home on the outskirts of Pompeii as well as the mosaic art found on the floor section of the bathroom.

Next up on the temporary exhibition schedule was to have been a show of ukiyo-e prints from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. And on Aug. 30, the museum was to open an exhibition celebrating its 50th anniversary—“Selected 100 Masterpieces from Sendai City Museum.”

We can only hope…

Sendai City Museum

I have not yet gotten any information about possible damage to these or other museums in Japan. If and when I know more, you’ll know more. If any CultureGrrl readers already know more, please contact me.

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