Director, Mie Prefectural Museum ( “MieMu” ), Japan
Museums work with community
It has been common for museums in Japan to concern themselves only with those visitors who use the museum with a clear and definable purpose, while neglecting those who visit merely to look at the exhibits, to say nothing of those who do not visit the museum at all. Societal change, however, has led to the realization that museum management focused solely on exhibitions and object care makes it impossible for a museum to gain the support of the local community. This awakening to the social role of the museum has spurred the development of the image of museums in Japan from the conventional museum to one that is connected to the local community, useful to local residents, and relevant to community building; in short a museum that can be used by all local residents. The reason for this shift is the realization that, in the midst of increasing social anxiety over matters such as the breakdown of community, the increasing isolation of individuals, and the widening of social inequalities, it is museums that have the potential to nurture the growth of the public as individuals through learning and experiences leading to self-actualization and thereby contribute to the rebuilding of local communities.
Even before the Mie Prefectural Museum opened in April 2014, it was centred on the goal of being a museum that was both useful to all and involved in community building. To this end, strategies and publicity have been developed targeting children’s programming and a range of projects carried out. By examining MieMu’s fundamental philosophy and providing practical examples of the work the museum is achieving, I will take a look at the new shape of museum in Japan.
Dr. Tomoo Nunotani first became a curator at the Osaka Museum of Natural History in 1974, focusing his research on the relationships between the museum and its friends- and other user groups. In 1991, he joined the Shiga Prefectural Museum Preparations Office and participated in the preparations for the opening of the Lake Biwa Museum. In doing so, he began to think about how museums ought to be, not from the point of view of those involved in the establishment, but from the point of view of future visitors to the museum. In 2008, he joined the planning committee for the new prefectural museum in Mie and became the director of the Mie Prefectural Museum in 2011, working to improve museums in the prefecture as well as furthering preparations for the new museum which opened in April 2014. In addition to exhibition space, the Mie Prefectural Museum also includes extensive space for alternative use in the hope that the museum will become a space for local residents and others to learn and think about the local community in new ways.