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Opening of the permanent exhibition “Film”

Takafusa Hatori
Research Associate, Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum, Waseda University

The Waseda University Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum opened the new permanent exhibition “Film” in April 2013. As implied by its name, the Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum focuses primarily on theatre. However, in response to heightened academic interest in film and images in recent years, the museum has used various programs (the 21st Century COE Program (2002 to 2006), the Global COE Program (2007 to 2011), etc.) to explore the role of a comprehensive research and education institution which includes film and media studies in addition to theatre studies. The opening of the new permanent exhibition “Film” is part of these exploratory activities. The first-term exhibition was held from April 16 to August 4 and used a special exhibition format with two main features: “Film Professionals Related to Waseda University” and “Famous Actors/Actresses from the First Taiga Drama Series” (held to commemorate the 50th anniversary for the 1st broadcast of the NHK Taiga Drama Hana-no-Shougai in April 2013). The second-term exhibition, which opened on September 21, had its venue changed from Exhibition Room II to the 3rd floor hallway. Due to this change, the exhibition was forced to adopt a more introductive theme, in keeping with other 3rd floor permanent exhibitions on Japanese theatre history (the 4 exhibition rooms “the Ancient Age,” “the Middle Ages,” “the Early Modern Age” and “the Modern Age” (Post-Meiji)). In this article, I will explain the exhibition’s purpose and structure from my perspective of involvement in opening the exhibition.

Creating an atmosphere like a “living textbook”

I will begin by explaining the purpose of the exhibition. When preparing the permanent exhibition “Film,” I was particularly aware of the Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum’s role as a university-affiliated institution and gave the highest priority to emphasizing the elements of research and education. The field of film and media studies was established mainly in Western countries and already possesses a wealth of research and educational results. Unfortunately, Japan is conspicuously lagging behind in this academic field. Beginning from the 1990s, heightened academic interest led to a gradual spread of courses focusing on film and media at Japanese universities. However, for example, in the case of a university freshman who has just entered undergraduate school, an overview of more than 100 years of Japanese film history must be conveyed through only about 15 lectures in one term. To accomplish this task, it is necessary to prepare textbooks and film material, install audiovisual equipment in classrooms, and address countless other issues. While considering such current issues in film and media studies, the permanent exhibition “Film” sought to use the collection of the Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum to create an atmosphere like a “living textbook.” Specifically, our efforts were modeled after the permanent exhibition Nihon Eiga: The History of Japanese Film from the NFC Non-film Collection which is held at the National Film Center of the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. We also utilized the straight-line flow of the 3rd floor hallway venue to construct an exhibition which carves the history of Japanese film culture into the minds of university students who are taking their first classes on film and media.

At the same time, there is a more pragmatic reason behind the clear establishment of this purpose. As I stated earlier, film and media studies in Japan is conspicuously lagging when compared to other countries. Despite the heightened interest in recent years, there is still insufficient social recognition for film and media as a subject of research and education. As a result, a variety of problems arose among certain devoted patrons who sought personal satisfaction from the exhibitions at the museum. Occasionally, such problems had a negative effect even on officials outside of the museum. In order to prevent the reoccurrence of such problems in opening the new permanent exhibition, the theme of “research and education” was emphasized in an effort to narrow the scope, and the position of the museum was clarified in advance. Although we considered that such an orientation might actually increase the severity of such problems, we received words of encouragement from many people including members of the general public visiting the museum. I cannot express my gratitude for such encouragement.

Film history from prehistoric to contemporary periods

Based on this purpose, the permanent exhibition “Film” was constructed from 6 segments: 1) Film Prehistory: Shadowgraphs and Magic Lanterns, 2) Bountiful Period of Early Films, 3) Golden Age of Film Studios, 4) Gratitude for Donations: Film Actress Machiko Kyo, 5) From Film to Television, and 6) Film and Universities Today. Generally speaking, we strove to follow a chronological order which conveys the growth of Japanese film culture history. Specifically, segment 1) Film Prehistory: Shadowgraphs and Magic Lanterns uses the projection of digital images onto walls in order to introduce the visual culture of shadowgraphs and magic lanterns which existed before the importation of film to Japan (This segment was constructed by Ryo Okubo, a research associate at the Waseda University Collaborative Research Center for Theatre and Film Arts). Next, segment 2) Bountiful Period of Early Films displays advertisements for Taisho Period “chain dramas” (a theatre performance consisting of part A, in which the story is portrayed by a live actor/actress, and part B, in which the story is portrayed through images projected on a screen; for example, a “chain” is created in an order such as A→A→B→A→A). Overall, focus is placed on the period of early films which garnered meaning from a diverse artistic network including theatre and vaudeville entertainment (Photograph 1). Segment 3) Golden Age of Film Studios introduces the golden age of Japanese film spanning from the 1920s to the 1960s (Photograph 2). Particular focus is placed on the presence of the “imperial capital film factory” (film studios concentrated in the modern capital Tokyo and the ancient capital Kyoto). Related to segment 3) is the special segment 4) Gratitude for Donations: Film Actress Machiko Kyo, which exhibits a portion of precious materials donated by film actress Machiko Kyo (1924 to present) in 2013. Kyo is one of the actresses who led the post-war golden age of Japanese film in the 1950s and 1960s. Segment 5) From Film to Television focuses on the transition of cultural supremacy from film to television which took place in the 1960s (Photograph 3). The segment features a simultaneous display of the screenplay for the identical scenes from the film Yorokobimo Kanashimimo Ikusaigetu [Times of Joy and Sorrow] (1957) made by director Keisuke Kinoshita and the television remake of the film (1965). Finally, segment 6) Film and Universities Today uses special exhibitions to introduce the activities of film researchers at universities today while considering the aforementioned lack of recognition for film and media. Through database conversion for written material called “the Cinema Weekly” from the collection of the Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum, the first special exhibit introduces the work of Kazuto Kondo (University of Tokyo Graduate School), who wrote a master’s thesis on film (Photograph 4).

Future themes

In conclusion, I will discuss future themes. An urgent theme is to increase the number of university students who visit our museum. As I mentioned earlier, the permanent exhibition “Film” is mainly intended for university students who take or will take classes on film and media. We have already tried to increase attendance in a variety of ways such as encouraging instructors of film and media to visit the museum as part of classes. However, I feel that further effort is required. I look forward to receiving the opinions and requests of related parties as we work to convey information and reform exhibition contents to adhere more closely to our purpose.

Photograph 1

Photograph 2

Photograph 3

Photograph 4

Takafusa Hatori
Research Associate, Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum, Waseda University

Born in 1982. Specializes in film study. Completed the Doctoral Program at the Kyoto University Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies. Received a PhD (Human and Environmental Studies) from Kyoto University. Co-written works include “Society in Film & Film in Society” (Minerva Shobo, 2011). Theses include “Film = Shared struggle to break away from the studio system as seen in film stars of the television transition period” (Institute for Theatre Research; forthcoming).