Digital Archives Research Center (DARC)

Research Activities

Purpose of Research

[Purpose of Research Activities]

To make effective use of digitally archived classical documents and cultural property gathered according to the founding spirit of Ryukoku University and use the latest technologies to form digital archives enabling versatile publishing of academic materials. Also, through the latest research findings and scientific analyses based on interdisciplinary research that integrates the humanities and the sciences and a track record of international collaboration with the International Dunhuang Project (IDP), to aim to add discussions of historical context, support the preservation, restoration, and succession of cultural property and academic material, and build a next-generation digital museum.

[Project Objectives]

Ryukoku University holds a vast array of rare and valuable cultural property, such as classical documents and materials unearthed in Central Asia. While this cultural property is here thanks to the 382-year tradition of Ryukoku University and its founding spirit of Buddhism (Jōdo Shinshū), this cultural property is also academic material. Of the six categories of cultural property cited in the Japanese Law for the Protection of Cultural Property, this project aims to undertake contents research focused on manuscripts, classical documents, paintings, sculptures, and buildings classified as Tangible Cultural Property, dance, music, and Buddhist hymns classified as Intangible Cultural Property, and ceremonies and customs classified as Folk Cultural Property, to preserve this property digitally, and make these digital assets widely available to researchers and general society by highly versatile methods.

For this digitally archived cultural property to be used effectively in academic research, this project aims to study versatile methods of publishing these digital archives through exhibits, displays, and browsing, focusing mainly on cultural property and academic materials such as including classical documents.

Furthermore, of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), goal 9, “Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation” is most relevant to this project. The mission of this center is to best utilize the unique cultural property held by Ryukoku University and create new, innovative infrastructure that brings society access to findings from studying this cultural property.

This will involve proposing new methods of exhibiting assets at Ryukoku Museum (a general museum of Buddhism), and in the community, archiving Folk Cultural Property such as Buddhist memorial services and similar customs maintained at temples, reproducing Buddhist sculptures and their surrounding ornaments that shape temple spaces, and exploring sustainability in the design techniques of temple and shrine architecture. This promises to become a core research project at Ryukoku University, an institution that is committed to “Buddhist SDGs.”

This project is consistent with the policy themes of Ryukoku University and falls under “research that links Buddhism to a diverse range of fields” and “research aimed at achieving the 17 SDGs.”

Research Goals and Methods

The Digital Archives Research Center (DARC) is established to implement this project.
The Ōtani expeditions were the only Japanese expeditions that dared to explore Asia during the early part of the 20th century, and the materials collected by the expeditions are currently divided between China, South Korea, and Japan. Almost all the documents held by Ryukoku University have been published through the International Dunhuang Project (IDP) website, but work has yet to begin on publishing many of the art and archaeological items and plant specimens also in the possession of Ryukoku University. DARC will create a digital archive of these items, and in conjunction with the Research Center for World Buddhist Cultures (RCWBC) at Ryukoku University, Omiya Library, and Ryukoku Museum, will promote research into these items, suggest items appropriate for public presentation, and propose more effective methods of exhibiting these items.

Regarding ancient manuscripts, DARC will identify old Buddhist literatures published on the IDP website with the literatures included in Taishō Shinshū Daizōkyō, link information with other holding institutions, display new resources, and supplement the database by including the research history with these items. For plant specimens yet to be published digitally, DARC will aim to make them publicly available during the period of study. DARC will also digitally archive the journals (as yet unpublished) of the Japanese naturalist Kumagusu Minakata, who was active in the same time period as Kōzui Ōtani, and by publishing his illustrated catalog of fungi along with records of his friendships, readings, and writings on folklore, present a worldview that spans the fields of natural history and folklore.

Museum exhibitions are typically based around original or replica exhibits using information technologies to augment their display. For larger items, such as murals and architectural structures, spatial and technical constraints make exhibiting original pieces more difficult, which tends to result in exhibitions that are discrete and fragmented. Some exhibitions use computer graphics (CG), virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR) technology, but this is often limited to exhibitions of specific cultural property, and applying these technologies to digital archives shared between multiple public museums poses a greater challenge. This project will focus on temples, shrines, and the cultural property itself, and establish exhibition methods that interface with museum exhibitions and, principally, thematic museum exhibitions. The project will construct a universal basic technology that can be applied to thematic exhibitions across multiple museums to create a next-generation museum with items from a globally expanding database of academic research and ultra-realistic technology that replicates and solidifies the sense of realism.

This project will not simply digitalize and reproduce tangible and intangible cultural property, it will build digital archives with cross-modal abilities, allowing users to perceive and interpret cultural property by supplementing information from one sense with information from other senses. Specifically, the project will measure macro 3D contours, micro 3D surface roughness, and perform a scientific pigment analysis of Buddhist clay sculptures, murals, and other cultural property, and measure the human movements and other examples of traditional performing art forms. The project will also reproduce the texture of skin and other surfaces on restored carvings and other Buddhist clay sculptures. Through scientific pigment analysis, the project will support the restoration and succession of cultural property by furnishing the owner with discussions of historical context and technological history upon the return of the property.

[Research Structure]

To ensure the above goals are executed smoothly, two research units will be established at DARC and undertake research activities in ongoing partnership.
• Unit A—Digital archiving and versatile exhibition methods research
• Unit B—Contents and digital humanities research

Structure, Goals, and Methods of Each Unit

Unit A will comprise eight adjunct researchers from the Faculty of Advanced Science and Technology. Topics of research will be presenting 3D information linked to real-world exhibitions, exhibition guides, and information services for academic material publishing. The research undertaken by Unit A will focus on the development of media integration-oriented information engineering and media engineering, such as VR and AR, in support of new exhibition methods. Unit A will also consolidate and research the scope for applying preservation science, materials science, instrument engineering, ergonomics, and mechanical engineering to cultural property and academic material.
Unit B will comprise six adjunct researchers from the Faculty of Letters, Faculty of International Studies, and Faculty of Agriculture. Unit B will undertake contents research of classical documents and cultural property through interdisciplinary collaboration with Buddhist studies, oriental history, art history, cultural anthropology, museum studies, agricultural studies, and folklore studies. Literature materials, art and archeology materials, and plant specimens will be the subject of this research.
Two researchers belonging to the Ryukoku Museum will interface organically with the whole project across the two units and help by offering specific ideas about different items and versatile exhibition methods.