New ‘Digital Gallery’ to Open Jan. 31 at Tokyo National Museum’s Gallery of Horyuji Treasures

Alice Gordenker Buddhism Tokyo National Museum

As part of a larger effort to make Japan’s cultural properties more available for study and enjoyment, the Tokyo National Museum is preparing to unveil a new interactive, technology-based exhibit that will become part of the regular exhibition in the museum’s Gallery of Horyuji Treasures. Initially, from Jan. 31, the new Digital Gallery of Horyuji Treasures will focus on The Illustrated Biography of Prince Shotoku, a series of paintings — completed in 1069 and now too fragile for regular exhibition — that once adorned an inner hall within Horyuji temple in Nara. Visitors to the gallery will be able to freely examine high-resolution photographic copies on true-to-life panels, and use a digital viewer to zoom in on details that can’t be seen with the naked eye. From Aug. 1, the contents of the gallery will change to feature a beautiful series of Buddhist murals. The murals, thought to have been painted between the latter half of the 7th century and the early 8th century, once adorned a room inside the Kondo Hall of Hōryūji Temple but suffered extensive damage in a fire in 1949. Fortunately, a photographic record had been made as part of a 1935 survey of Japan’s treasures. The glass photographic plates from that survey have been restored and digitized, and visitors will be able to freely select and enlarge the images, projected on a massive 8K monitor within the gallery. A press release in Japanese is available here. Japan Living Arts will report in more detail after the gallery opens.


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