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Speech at APL Christmas Lunch, Dec. 15th 2001

by Yoko Terashima, Educator
The National Museum of Western Art

My name is Yoko Terasima and I am in charge of educational programming at the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo. Today I would like to introduce you to some of my museum's education programs. But first, let me give you a brief history of our museum.

The National Museum of Western Art was established in 1959 in Tokyo to house and display the Matsukata Collection. Mr. Kojiro Matsukata was the president of Kawasaki Shipbuilding Company and he assembled his massive art collection in Europe from the end of World War I through the 1920s. During this time, a part of his collection was brought to Japan, but then these works were scattered after the Japanese financial crisis of 1927. Around 360 works including Rodin sculpture and French modern paintings by Courbet, Manet, Monet, Renoir and others, remained in France until the end of World War II. During the post-war period these works briefly became the property of the French government, which then donated them to the Japanese nation after long years of negotiations between the Japanese and French governments. As the only Japanese national museum dedicated to western art, the museum has expanded its collection through purchases and
donations, and today it houses more than five thousand works of art ranging in date from the end of the Medieval period through the twentieth century. We display approximately two hundred of these works in the museum collection galleries.

Our museum's main building was built in 1959 to house the Matsukata collection. It was designed by the famous French architect, Le Corbusier. With the growth of the musem collection over the decades, we have had to expand our gallery facilities. In 1979, the 20th anniversary of the museum's founding, the New Wing was added to the Main Building, and in 1997, the Special Exhibition Wing was completed under the museum's forecourt. Along with the construction of this new underground gallery complex, the old Main Building was renovated and its foundations were fitted with earthquake shock-absorbing devices. You can see a section of these devices through a small window set into the Main Building's basement floor.

Our museum is not as large as national museums in other countries. Indeed, the entire full-time staff of our museum, 32 in number, is smaller than just one department of such museums. Naturally, given this staff size, I am the only educator in our museum. But, in spite of our small staff, we welcome approximately 600 thousand visitors per year, which is quite a large number. And it is my responsibility to offer various programs for these visitors.

Our museum education program has the following goals:

-- Introduce visitors to original works of Western art and provide information on these works.
--Help visitors enjoy their visit to the museum, and increase their interest in the National Museum of Western Art.
--Provide visitors with an opportunity to think about and understand cultural diversity.

As we do not have volunteer program, we are not able to offer a daily program schedule like the tours held at most overseas museums. My work consists of organizing lectures and gallery talks, making brochures about our special exhibitions, and editing such materials as our Internet web-site, calendar of events, and newsletters. These are all targeted at adult audiences. For younger visitors, especially for visiting groups of primary and secondary school students, I give each group a brief orientation explaining museum rules and policies, and a short introduction to the museum's collections and specific works of note. During the summer holiday season, I organize a small exhibition or a special program using our museum collections. At first, these exhibitions and programs were targeted for younger visitors, but later we discovered that novice visitors also found them very enjoyable. So we have begun to open these programs to adult visitors along with younger visitors.
Now, I would like to describe one of our past summer programs in detail. This summer program focused on the theme of "Light". Our goals were to introduce participants to various expressions of light in paintings, and also to help them to enjoy and feel that the works of art were more relevant to their own lives. To achive these goals, we provided free self-study guides at the entrance of the gallery during July andAugust. This Light program also included three Creative & Experimental Activities, Gallery Talks and Lectures. Each event required prior registration and was limited to 20 participants per session except lecture.

First, please look at the copy of the Light self-study guide I have given you. This shows several paintings in the gallery and questions the viewer about light depicted in those paintings. The first page gives a map of the gallery, the location of each painting, and brief explanation of how to use the guide. The next page gives the first question: "Find the owner of each halo. What is each person with a halo like?" On the right, the second question asks: "Each of the pictures below is different from the original painting. Find what is missing in each picture". Then additional pages followed with further illustrated questions. This guide was designed to help museum visitors realize that artists make use of light to create various effects in their paintings.

The Gallery talks on light were held in two museums on the same day,our western art museum, and the nearby Tokyo National Museum which houses Japanese and Asian arts. In these gallery talks I indicated several types of light expression and compared their forms in Japanese painting and European painting. We started the tour in our museum and then moved to the Tokyo National Museum. These tours were well-received by their adult participants.

In addition to these gallery talks, two lectures were organized this year especially for adult audiences. "Depictions of light and their painting techniques" introduced the history of painting techniques in
western art with a focus on forms of light expression. This lecture was given by our museum conservator. "Man and Light" was about notions of light and darkness in the history of mankind. This lecture was given by an outside lecturer and addressed this issue from an anthropological viewpoint.

Creative and Experimental Activities concerning different forms of light were led by local artists who use light in their art works. Each activity was a two-part workshop. In the first part, participants were divided into three groups by age. Each group was led by a museum staff menber into the gallery to look at paintings using the self-study guide. In order to increase their opportunities to participate, each group was kept small and was composed of similarly aged participants. In the second part, the participants did some hands-on activities and experienced different forms of light.

The image shows our "Light Picture" activity. This activity had the participants create pictures, like this one, which show the reflection of light. They drew designs on thick paper, and then cut it along the edge of the design. They then painted the cut-out design on the reverse side of the paper. The edges were separated. A strong light was exposed to the reverse side of paper and reflections of various colors painted on the cut-out shone through the cut design of the paper. During July and August, I displayed the works created in this activity on the windows of one of our lobbies with an accompanying explanatory panel.

Next one is called "Watching Rainbows, Gathering Rainbows" activity. After participants finished their gallery tour, they left the museum to ride on a train from the nearby station. This workshop consisted of two
hands-on activities related to sunlight. The first was to use a prism to look at the passing views from a train window. The next activity was to separate sunlight into rainbows using a bucket of water and mirror.

The image shows the "Time Kept in Candle Light" activity. This artist uses candles for his work. Each participant put a number of candles in spiral, using the number of candles that corresponded to their own age.
The eldest participant first lit one candle of her spiral and then the others lit their own spirals in order by age. The flame moved from one to the other in a domino-like effect. The idea of this workshop was, in fact, very simple, but participants were attracted to the flaring candle light in darkness and greatly enjoyed that mysterious world. This program gave them an opportunity to experience a pitch-black darkness which rarely happens in urban life. I hope these descriptions helped you understand what I tried to do in this program.

The educational role of museums is becoming increasingly important in all countries. I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to study museum education in the United States for one year from 1999 through 2000. I saw a lot of school programs during that year. And I found a trend towards multiple-visit programs for schools. These programs provide repeat visits to the museum based on a sequential curriculum that is connected to the students' classroom work. Because of America's recent education reform program titled Goals 2000: Educate America, which states what all students are expected to achieve in basic subjects including the arts, schools have articulated real educational needs. On the other hand, museum education
departments came of age during this past decade and have proposed real solutions. Multiple-visit programs take more time and resources to design and implement than do traditional single-visit tours. However, museum
educators and school teachers both think such programming is important, because they know that the more time one spends on a subject, the more likely one is to learn. I was very impressed by museum educators' serious attitutes about the results of their programs. Meanwhile I feared that the more the program is connected to school curriculum, the less students could enjoy their visits.

Museum educators in Japan are also going to be faced wtih changes brought about by education reform starting next April. These Ministry of Education reforms will include several aspects. Both primary and secondary school curriculums will be revised, with a reduction in the number of lessons on individual subjects, and the addition of a new course, entitled the "integrated course" where students can choose subjects they would like to study from a wide range subjects. This integrated course approach aims to foster children's spontaneous learning and thinking abilities. And at last Japanese public schools will adopt a five-day school week. These new Japanese education reforms seem to be heading in the opposite direction
from the current education reforms in the United States which promote subject studies. But this Japanese reform aims to persuade schools to utilize learning institutions and human resources in their communities, and museums are expected to play their roles. I believe that it is crucial for us to establish strong partnerships with schools and to understand their curriculum, but I also think that museums should offer students with experiences that differ from those found in their classrooms, indeed, experiences which are based on actual art works and may touch their hearts directly. To start to build a better partnership with schools, at first addmission fees of primary and secondaly school students will become free from the coming exhibition "Prado" in next March. We hope it makes them easier to come to the museum and they make the most of it.

Thank you very much.


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