[The University of Tokyo]

The Present and Future of the University Museum

The history of The University Museum goes back to 1966, when the University Storage Center for Research Materials was founded. This institution served various faculties since 1966. The main objective of the University Storage Center was collecting, classifying and preserving natural, cultural and historical research materials, in order to make these accessible for research. Apart from research, the collections were used for education, publication, and exhibition. In order to correspond to increasing demands, the University Storage Center became the first University Museum in Japan in 1997.

The objectives of the museum can be summarized as follows:

  1. Collecting, classifying and preserving a large variety of natural and cultural objects;
  2. Making this material accessible for research and education;
  3. Publication of the materials, including databases;
  4. Organizing exhibitions of the collections
  5. Promoting of research related to the collections.

The University Museum the University of Tokyo is one of the leading university museums in Japan and as before, it tries to make a contribution to science and society in the 21st century. By means of making accessible its various collections, The University Museum shall continue to stimulate academic research. And of course, being a public institution, we strive to make this research available to the "wider public", so that society as a whole can benefit.

At present, the museum staff consists of 10 persons: 3 professors, 3 associate professors, 3 assistant professors, and 1 foreign visiting associate professor. This staff is related to 3 departments: the Department of Curatorial Studies; the Department of Museum Collection Utilization Studies; the Department of Museum Informatics and Media Studies. Complementing the staff are 2 research assistants (working in respectively the Koishikawa Annex and the Laboratory for Radiocarbon Dating), 2 visiting professors, and 1 visiting associate professor (Museum Technology).

The above are evidently insufficient enough to cover the large range of scientific fields relating to the research materials stored in the museum. For this reason we invite faculty members of other institutions of the university as "interfaculty staff" to make the best use of their expert knowledge. Those "interfaculty staff"s belong to the Departments of Material, allocated into 17 specific units.

The intensive research in the museum has, among other things, thus far resulted in a large number of scientific papers, among which are; 60 volumes of Research Materials Reports; 40 volumes of Research Bulletins; 6 volumes of Collected Research Reports; 5 volumes of Research Reports; 2 volumes of UMUT Monographs.

The University Museum is one of the so-called interfaculty facilities. Apart from research, the staff is engaged in graduate education, presentation of lectures, and providing all kind of information. We especially welcome graduate students to make use of the museum's many facilities. At the moment, the University Museum is examining the possibility of establishing a graduate school, aimed at producing high quality researchers in various disciplines. As indicated above, we believe that university museums should and can play important roles for both the scientific community and the wider public. This is mainly to be achieved by means of research, education and exhibition. We encourage everybody to make use of our facilities.

The University of Tokyo owns 6,400,000 research objects; 2,430,000 of these are located in The University Museum. And the collection is growing steadily by means of active research (e.g. overseas fieldwork), or obtaining collections from both public and private sources. Due to the huge numbers of objects, we currently face a chronic shortage of space. Already in 2000, this problem was acknowledged by the "External Evaluating Committee" (who, by the way, rated the activities by the University Museum high). At present, the museum covers an area of 8,759 m². The exhibition space is large enough, but research and especially storage space need to be enlarged. In fact, due to limitations of space, the museum is currently not able to function properly with regard to one of its basic tasks: storing and preserving (scientifically) valuable materials. As a worst-case scenario, it is even possible that collections have to be reduced, or housed elsewhere.

The Departments of Research and Material

Two of the most basic units within the museum are the departments of research and material.

The Department of Research

This department includes three closely cooperating basic units. Each of them aims to cover activities for "basic stratum", "fusion", and "circulation" of research. The rest comprise another group of three facilities, which complements the basic units in more specialized respectives.

Department of Curatorial Studies

This department is the "basic stratum" of the University Museum; it is in charge of collecting, classifying, and preserving research materials.

Department of Museum Collection Utilization Studies

It promotes "fusion" in the University Museum, planning to use accumulated research materials effectively and repeatedly.

Department of Museum Informatics and Media Studies

This department "translates" the results of academic research for the wider public (public relations), hence enabling "circulation" of scientific information generated in the museum

Department of Museum Technology

This additional department was established in 2002, conceived as a cooperative "think tank" with regard to the intricacies of exhibition.

Laboratory for Radiocarbon Dating

In this facility we are able to measures the accurate date of various organic materials from geological, archaeological or historic contexts.

Koishikawa Annex

In the Koishikawa Annex, attractively located near the universities' Botanical Gardens, temporary exhibitions are held, and objects and databases are stored and made available to researchers and the public.

The Department of Material

This department consists of three units, sub-divided into seventeen sections, owning over 2,430,000 items mainly from natural and cultural history:

Departments of Earth Science:

Mineralogy, Petrology and Mineral Deposits, Mining, Historical Geology and Palaeontology, Geography

Departments of Biology:

Botany, Forest Botany, Pharmaceutical Science, Zoology, Fishery, Physical Anthropology and Prehistory, Medicine

Departments of Cultural History:

Archaeology; History of Architecture; Archaeology of Fine Arts; History of Fine Arts; and Cultural Anthropology

Museum staff


Susumu Takahashi, Professor, History of International Politics, Graduate School of Law and Politics


Head: Miyoko Isagoda

Other: Tsutomu Uno, Hiroe Tasaki, Hiroshi Takamatsu, Satoshi Kifune, Masashi Tsuchiya, Sonoko Harada, Masumi Okudera


Department of Curatorial Studies

Department of Museum Collection Utilization Studies

Department of Museum Informatics and Media Studies

Department of Museum Technology

Laboratory for Radiocarbon Dating


Besides collection management, research and exhibitions, the activities of the University Museum include educational programs. One such program is the "Special Course for Curators". This is an annually recurring course for professional curators from all over the country. Another educational activity is the "Program of Open Lectures", where a large variety of high-quality Japanese and international researchers present information about their research. These lectures are intended for both students and the general public.

A major task of the museum, of course, is mounting exhibitions. The main aim of these exhibitions (both small and large, or special), is to present the museums collections and related research to the public. As such, the museum aims to be a bridge between the university and the public.

From 1996 to 2005 there were the following special exhibitions:

History of Japanese Typography
September 10, 1996 to October 13, 1996
History of Botanical Studies in Japan: 300 years of Koishikawa Botanic Garden
November 12, 1996 to December 20, 1996
The Digital Museum: The Museum of the Future
January 21, 1997 to February 28, 1997
Virtual Architecture: Possibility and the Impossibility in Architecture
May 13, 1997 to June 10, 1997
Academic Science: The Past, the Present, and the Future
October 16, 1997 to December 14, 1997
Science for Life
July 2, 1998 to August 9, 1998
Portraits of Doctors: Why they left the Portraits?
October 1, 1998 to November 15, 1998
Behind the Camera: A New Look at the World of Director Yasujiro Ozu Based on Private Materials of the Late Yuharu Atsuta
December 12, 1998 to January 31, 1999
Wonderland of Meteorites
July 21, 1999 to September 10, 1999
The Birth of News: The Information World of Kawaraban and Nishikie Shinbun as Visual News Media
October 8, 1999 to December 12, 1999
Digital Museum 2000
March 1, 2000 to April 28, 2000
Revisiting to Kaga's Residence: Historical Relics of the Hongo Campus, The University of Tokyo
May 20, 2000 to July 9, 2000
Investing in the Afterlife: Funeral and Festivals in the Area of Ancient Mediterranean Sea (between 7th c. B.C. and 3rd c. A.D.)
November 1, 2000 to December 15, 2000
History of Kamioka Mine: The Representative Mine of Nonferrous Metals in Japan
April 16, 2001 to June 29, 2001
The Wada's Mineral Collection
July 14, 2001 to September 28, 2001
Between Original and Reproduction: The Art of Making Copies, from Duchamp to DNA
October 20, 2001 to December 9, 2001
Digital Museum III
January 12, 2002 to February 24, 2002
A Different World in the North—A Unique Prehistoric Culture along the Sea Coast of Okhotsk
May 18, 2002 to July 14, 2002
Doctoral Research at the University of Tokyo: on the Frontiers of Science
July 27, 2002 to September 1, 2002
A Natural History of Shells
September 21, 2002 to November 4, 2002
April 1, 2003 to June 20, 2003
Doctoral Research at the University of Tokyo II
July 19, 2003 to September 7, 2003
The 21th Century of Siebold
October 4, 2003 to December 7, 2003
Memories of Stones: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
January 24, 2004 to April 12, 2004
Propaganda 1904-1945: Between Modernism and Totalitarianism
April 29, 2004 to August 29, 2004
Digital Technology and Museum
October 2, 2004 to December 26, 2004
Systema Naturae
October 2, 2004 to March 31, 2006
Architecture as Media - From Roma 1760 to Osaka 1970
February 5, 2005 to May 8, 2005
Tadashi Sekino: Explorer of Asia
June 4, 2005 to September 4, 2005

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