Japanese Design Archive Survey


University, Museum & Organization

Musashino Art University Museum and Library

Tadanori Nagasawa


Date: 2 July 2018, 15:30 - 17:30
Location: Musashino Art University
Interviewees: Tadanori Nagasawa (President, Musashino Art University; Senior Fellow, Royal College of Art), Yuichi Sawada (Leader of Library Team, Museum & Library Group), Takefumi Murai (Library Team, Museum & Library Group)
Interviewers: Yasuko Seki, Tomoko Ishiguro
Author: Tomoko Ishiguro



Tadanori Nagasawa

President, Musashino Art University
Senior Fellow, Royal College of Art

1953 Born in Toyama Prefecture.
1978 BA in Science of Design, Musashino Art University and moved to England
1981 MA in Graphic Information, Royal College of Art, London. After returning to Japan, he opened his own office and served as a member of the jury for the Good Design Award for 15 years from 1987.
1999 Appointed as a full-time professor at Musashino Art University, Department of Design Informatics.
2015 President and Trustee, Musashino Art University.
2016 The Senior Fellow of the Royal College of Art.



The Musashino Art University Museum & Library (MAU M&L) is a unique 'knowledge complex' that combines the functions of a library, an art museum and a museum, and is unique among art universities. The library was rebuilt in 2010. The library has 310,000 volumes, mainly in the fields of art, design and architecture, rare books on 20th century design, etc. The library is one of the largest art university libraries in Japan. The museum has 30,000 posters and 400 pairs of chairs and works by past teachers, as well as household items and toys, and holds special exhibitions. The museum also houses a folklore archive with 90,000 daily utensils and folk tools, which Tsuneichi Miyamoto began collecting during his tenure, and Image Library has over 20,000 audiovisual materials.
In 2008, Musashino Art University Research Center for Art and Design was established under the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology's Supported Program for the Strategic Research Foundation at Private Universities, 2008-2012. A database is being built to preserve and make publicly available a great deal of material on plastic arts, including books and works held by libraries and museums, Image Libraries and materials from the folklore archive. In 2012, the university participated in the Tokyo Midtown Design Hub and opened the Musashino Art University Design Lounge, the first design dissemination base for an art university in Japan.
The current president, Tadanori Nagasawa, MA in Graphic Information, Royal College of Art, London and has been involved in design production, critique and strategic planning, and has long devoted himself to design promotion support activities and the establishment of an international design information network. We asked Mr Nagasawa, who has such a background, about the state of design archives at art universities, the Design Museum and the design archive of Kohei Sugiura, Design Cosmos at the school.



Musashino Art University Museum and Library



From "Museology" to "Institutional," if you treat your material with care, it will cost you in perpetuity.

History of MAU which has treated books as works of art

 When we interviewed Kohei Sugiura about the design archive last year, he explained the proactive initiatives of Musashino Art University (MAU) and Mr Nagasawa's activities. Mr Nagasawa, you have been teaching at MAU since 1990, and I would like to start by asking you about how you became interested in the archive.


Nagasawa The specifics of the Kohei Sugiura Design Archive will be discussed later by Mr Sawada, the library team leader, and Mr Murai, the art libralian. My activities as an educator began in 1986 when I taught 'Colour Studies' at Tama Art University; from 1990 I taught 'Design Theory' at the University's Department of Science of Design; in 1999, when the Department of Design Informatics at the Faculty of Art and Design was founded, I was appointed as a full-time professor and since 2015 I have served as the president of the university. The university has focused on enriching its traditional library and art resources and on the internationalization of design education. Let me explain why MAU's libraries began to focus on archiving in the first place. We now call it Museum and Library, but it used to be called The Art Resource Library. Books are materials, but the University has always treated books as works of art. There is traditionally a different mindset than simply making a bunch of papers available for everyone to read. The Art Resource Library was born out of the idea of valuing the expression projected in books, even though they are still subject to mass-production processes. The university was never wealthy, but we ran the library with the intention of showing our students things that were out of their reach. This is the root of the University's archiving philosophy. Since the library opened, we have also collected furniture, products and posters, but we are conscious that the books are works of art just like them. The collection of books thus assembled is unparalleled among Japanese art universities. I believe that Mr Sugiura knows MAU's attitude towards books and that is why he entrusted me with this collection. I became head of the International Relations in 2003, and since then I have served as head of the Planning Division and apointed a Deputy President in 2007. I have served as a councillor since 2011 and as the president / trustee since 2015.


 The MAU's library tradition has made it possible to archive Mr Sugiura's work.


Nagasawa And Mr Sugiura and MAU had a close connection. Around 1959, Yusaku Kamekura presided over the Graphic 21 Association, a group that considered graphic design for the next generation, and Mr Sugiura was a member of this group along with Ryuichi Yamashiro and Ikko Tanaka. This led to design activities such as the Tokyo Olympics 1964, and Shutaro Mukai, who later founded MAU's Department of Science of Design, was invited to the meeting after returning from his studies at the “Hochscule für Gestaltung Ulm” (Ulm School of Design), which is descended from Bauhaus, in 1957 and spoke about the “Hochscule für Gestaltung Ulm” (Ulm School of Design) and the Max Bill. This was the start of a series of meetings between Mr Mukai and Mr Sugiura. This is how Mr Mukai and Mr Sugiura became close friends. When Mr Mukai decided to establish the new department in 1965, Mr Sugiura, who had returned from a visiting professorship at the “Hochscule für Gestaltung Ulm” (Ulm School of Design), lent his support as a founding member. At that time, Mr Sugiura was started teaching at Tokyo Zokei University, where Masaru Katsumi was head of the Department of Design, and he also gave classes at the Department of Science of Design at MAU. From Mr Mukai's point of view, it is no exaggeration to say that Mr Sugiura is a founding member of the Department of Science of Design. I am a student in the 8th year of the Department of Science of Design and was introduced to the Sugiura’s office by Mr Mukai, and I have been taught by him as well.


 We heard about Mr Nagasawa's internship practice at the Sugiura’s office during an interview with Mr Sugiura.


Nagasawa At the time I was going to Mr Sugiura's office, graphic design was changing from letterpress to phototypesetting, and it was a very active time. Seigo Matsuoka visited often to work on the "Objet Magazine Yu" (Mr Matsuoka was the editor and Mr Sugiura was the art director, published by Kosakusha), and there was also a master copyist who was said to be the best in Japan, so it had a hive-like atmosphere. I also got to know a lot of people. Various people gathered, worked, and ate together. There is an episode that Mr Sugiura waited until the phototypesetter brought the typesettted prints with him, without having dinner until late himself. Mr Sugiura is the kind of person who treats those who support him unconditionally. He has keen eyes and memory not only for letters but also for colours. As a student, I was fascinated by the things he collected, from books to everything else. I also admired his trademark Indian kurta shirts.


 Like Mr Sugiura, you always wear a jacket with a stand-up collar.


Nagasawa With the advice of Mr Sugiura, I later went to London to study at the Royal College of Art (RCA), a postgraduate university. When I went to London to study, his late wife, Mrs Fumiko Sugiura, tailored me a stuffed collar jacket as a farewell gift. I still wear the stuffed collar jackets and my mother's handmade kurtas as a memento of their herkindness. During my studies in London, I often met with Mr Sugiura when he visited in London and helped him purchase and deliver valuable books on world iconography and other subjects there. In addition to mandalas and iconographic books, he also bought old books of etched celestial iconography in pieces, which became the source of Sugiura's designs. These were books that would not have been available in Japan even if we had ordered them.


 So the collection of books that were the source of these Sugiura designs is also housed at MAU M&L?


Nagasawa The collection contains the source of the idea, the prints showing the production process and all of the artworks. Mr Sugiura, together with Mr Gan Hosoya was the first person in Japan to fill and paste printed letters when it came to transcription. They cut the printed letters and adjusted the spacing between them. When he designed "The Mandalas of the Two Worlds at the Kyoo Gokokuji in Kyoto" (Heibonsha, 1977), he fixed the missing edges of the old woodblock-printed characters using a straight ruler and a cloud-shaped ruler with Rotrings. I had to repeat the tedious process of fixing, photographing, and making the plates. The calendar numbers were also enlarged subtly because the single digits would be subtly small if they were left as they were. If we had film of the printing plates from those days, we could see immediately what kind of work we were doing and how it was done. I asked Mr Sugiura if he had saved them, and he said he had everything, from the printing plates to everything else, so I decided to take on the job. I don't think there is anyone else who is as elaborate about printing as Mr Sugiura is.


 How was that organised?


Murai Three years ago, Mr Sugiura came to the library every month to organse the archive materials, and we made time to check each item in the collection to see what it was about. We have been organising the archive materials based on comments received directly from Mr Sugiura, and at the same time the records of the interviews are also very important as oral histories. A database of the binding works is currently being compiled, with the aim of making it publicly available soon.


I want to show this to my students, but I have to choose.


 That's wonderful, I think it's a rare example. There are very few examples of university museums practising such archiving. Ideally, a museum should have both exhibition and archiving, and research activities are inseparable.


Nagasawa Take the Victoria and Albert Museum, for example, where the back walls of the galleries are double-walled, with filing lockers on both sides from bottom to top. For example, if you look at the historic Manor House collection, even the fireplace scratching post is neatly categorized and stored. It's a huge locker, but it's also currently full. The RCA also used to buy artworks when I was there. For example, there were students who painted on the walls and the works selected the excellent works, so that the school had to buy them out and cut the walls down. We respect art. However, they couldn't keep the artwork at the school as it was, so they outsourced it to a museum for storage. This is because the museum has the structure and budget to do archiving. The museums can use the artworks as their own, while clearly labelling them as part of the RCA collection.


 The MAU M&L archive has been a pioneer in this regard, but we would like to hear your views from the perspective of acceptance. Do you have any opinions on how you think it would be easier to accept the archive in this way?


Nagasawa If we are to be honest, we would first of all like people to bear in mind that it costs money to archive it and to maintain it. Those who accept them don't just accept them and be done with them. Taking good care of them means that from that point on there will be a permanent cost. There are many epoch-making designers associated with the University, including Hiromu Hara, who was a professor at the University, Kiyoshi Awazu and Mitsuo Katsui. They all have interesting and valuable things and I want to show them to my students. But when I think about the cost, I must choose. The more work and materials we receive, the more money we spend, which is a big burden. We must think firstly about what value we will get out of this.


Sawada The archiving of Mr Sugiura's design material began about 10 years ago, and was a very exploratory process. The reason MAU M&L was able to archive the design materials was because we were able to obtain a grant from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), and after that five-year term has ended, we are finding it difficult to raise the funds.


As an archive showing print culture


 Does this mean that the work of organising, clarifying, scanning, and digitizing the work takes more manpower and time, also puts more pressure on the economy?


Sawada That is what I mean. Mr Sugiura has been an extraordinary help in organising the archive. This work would not be possible without a close relationship with the donor, and the more trust we gain and the more relationships we build, the deeper the archive tends to become. During our research, we often find new things and discover new facts, and we are often back to square one.


 Because you take it seriously, the research into the work becomes endless, and it also arises that the numbering of the first organised stage has to be redone.


Nagasawa Those who are entrusted with the work may have the impression that if the school forms a team and works with them, they can organise the materials without difficulty, but in reality, the work cannot even be started unless the artist himself is at the centre of it and has properly classified, organised and collected the works without dispersing them. However, it is not possible to even begin work unless the artist is at the centre of it all and has properly classified, organised and collected the works without dispersing them. We asked Mr Sugiura to tell us what kind of concept he had for his work, and over the course of three years we made the videos of it. This was also a lot of work. The aim is to be able to trace back the formative ideas in the future through the prints, books and style. We thought that if we collected all the materials in one place, it would be a valuable resource when the printing culture disappeared.


 You treat it not only as the work of a single designer, but also as a source of information about the printing culture of the time.


Nagasawa The birth of the phototypesetting system and Mr Sugiura's insistence on real-size typography inspired typographers to put their know-how into computers to produce a large number of characters. In this way, the positioning of the book changed. It was Mr Sugiura himself who carried out some of the greatest work of his time in Japan. That's why we decided to take care of him at our university. No one else but Mr Sugiura could have been that, and MAU M&L was a credit to him. That said, I would say that it is wrong to put pressure on private universities to archive without looking at the huge maintenance costs.


What is more serious than funds is securing human resources.


Sawada Mr Sugiura's case can only be described as a fortunate case. For a further total of 30 hours, we were able to have him explain the process documents and preserve them on film. Mr Atsushi Sato, who had been with the Sugiura’s office for a long time, also came and helped us as a companion. If you try to do it only from a layman's point of view when some unknown but valuable material comes to you, you may not be able to get it back. There are many things that can only be determined by experts, so we are stuck without them. Such interdisciplinary collaborators are needed more than funding, and archiving will not go ahead unless you know how many well-rounded support members you have, and unless you have people who are prepared to be involved on a semi-permanent basis. The problem is more severe than funding.


Nagasawa If and when no one is knowledgeable of the specific situation and lacks communication ability, every archives can easily become just dead items. Also, you cannot protect archives when you are passive for it. As I learned from a BBC programme one day in the UK, the National Gallery in London has specialists, called keepers, who observe the atmosphere. They are constantly checking the atmosphere to see how it is changing because of the new things that modern society has created, from visitors' hairdressing products, vaporizing chemicals and static electricity from synthetic clothing, to PM2.5 and electromagnetic radiation. How can we protect our artworks from them? The preservation of artworks is only possible from a creative point of view. Other people in the field often lose a great deal of time in the preliminary work. In addition, people in the field often lose a great deal of time in the preliminary work. The field is burdened with the hardships of maintaining the collection.


Sawada The effort of maintaining the archive is something that seems to slowly take its toll over time, but we are always striving to keep the archive alive.


 What is needed for archiving and what should be formatted?


Nagasawa That, too, is essentially the job of the state. There are limits to how private universities, which are made up of tuition fees paid, can accept, and operate these things. It is a difficult problem.


What is the Archive Project of the Agency for Cultural Affairs?


 What about private museums in the UK, for example, the Design Museum in London?


Nagasawa They do organise exhibitions but do not hold much in the way of collections. I think the operation relies a lot on donations. This reminds me that before the Design Museum was completed, when the British Government was trying to revitalize the economy by stimulating design, I had the opportunity to speak with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who visited in Japan. At that time, I advised her that the future should be institutional, not museological. Prime Minister Thatcher was convinced. If you do museology, there is no end to it.


 MAU was awarded the Agency for Cultural Affairs' Model Project for the Formation of an Archival Core, what kind of activity was this?


Nagasawa The project aims to promote the archiving of culture-related materials by selecting institutions that can act as 'core' centres of excellence in the three fields of graphics, fashion and products, and conducting research and surveys in these fields. The Kyoto Institute of Technology's Museum of Arts and Crafts for graphics, the Bunka Gakuen University's Institute of Japanese Clothing Culture for fashion, and the MAU M&L for products applied for the public call and were selected.


Sawada The project was implemented over three years and completed in March 2018. MAU proposed early on that we wanted to create a database, but we were told at the beginning that it would be impossible. Initially, we were told that it would be impossible. The library industry has standardized cataloguing rules and centralized data management, so it is possible to search all the data at once, but in the museum world, each museum manages its own local rules, so it is not possible to cross-subsidize. The research element is also in the database, which is more guarded about information disclosure and is not as open as libraries. It is customary for art objects not to reveal the source of their acquisition. Even within the university, there were voices saying it was difficult, but a breakthrough came when we learned about a cloud service. The cloud service was provided by Waseda System Development, a storage management system for art galleries and museums, and its initial costs were much lower than those of conventional systems. Around 200 museums and galleries across the country were already participating in the project.


 You completed the course in spring this year, will you continue with these activities in the future?


Sawada The results of the project are now available on the website of the Model Project for the Formation of an Archive Core Centre (http://www. d-archive.jp).


Various problems associated for create databasing


 If we take the perspective of life and culture, those three areas alone are not enough.


Nagasawa Until the 20th century, design was positioned within the fine arts and occupied a major place. But that will not be the case in the 21st century. We live in an age where students are using 3D printers to create their graduation projects. It may become a case of 'all you need is data'. If we don't archive the interest of this transitional period, it won't be passed on. This is now being created as the MAU collection. Next spring, a new campus for the Creative Thinking for Social Innovation will open in Ichigaya. Mr Kamekura's collection will be housed in its library. From Mr Hiromu Hara and Mr Kamekura to Mr Sugiura, MAU has all the works that should be regarded as symbols of Japanese graphics. I am proud to say that it was MAU that opened a new chapter in industrial design in Japan, with the teaching of Mr Katsuhei Toyoguchi and Mr Tatsuzo Sasaki, who laid the foundations for craft and industrial design as well as graphics. We have worked hard to allocate a tight budget, and we have chosen our libraries with a lot of effort. But again, that does not mean that we can accept the work unconditionally at the university, and I hope that journalists will not write up that we should.


 Eames and Corbusier maintained archives while opening their own residences. Would it be difficult to do so in Japan?


Nagasawa In times of high interest rates, they could have operated that way because they were able to turn a profit on interest, but this is not possible now. Schools have no money-generating devices; MAU has operated for 20 years without raising tuition fees. This is because if we raise them any higher, parents will not be able to pay. We cannot raise tuition fees for the archive. We must rely on donations and philanthropy. The best way is for the Agency for Cultural Affairs to create a system of subsidies for the maintenance of the collection.


 There needs to be a system that allows archive funds to be accumulated in a fund.


Nagasawa Yes, however, there is one aspect that is not easy. 15 or 16 years ago, there was a UK project to set up a graphics archive using government funding, and MAU was invited to pay for everything, from digital photography to everything else, so that they could connect to their own archive and share the resulting database. That would be tantamount to taking the work away virtually. Sharing exhibitions with artworks is fine. But we are not going to share the database itself easily. Where does all the sweat that went into building the database go? I think more and more examples like this will appear in the future.


 Is there a possibility of getting students to help organise and work on the database, or to handle it as part of the coursework?


Sawada That is expected from donors, but the reality is that nowadays students are unlikely to cooperate unless they are paid. In architecture, for example, it is essential to look at drawings in class, and students are expected to touch them more than graphics, but if you think about it from the perspective of whether today's students understand the meaning of touching prints, it is difficult to include them in the curriculum. However, from the point of view of whether today's students can understand what it means to touch a plate.


Nagasawa It can only happen if teachers have the conviction that it would be interesting to pass on to the next generation. That's why libraries organise special exhibitions to stimulate teachers. But nowadays, when there are many times more information than there used to be, there are fewer and fewer things that can be found on a website so that people can notice them at a special exhibition, which makes it harder to be creative. Today, as the president of a private university, I dare to speak out about things that the field cannot say. I believe that MAU has put its guts and soul into this project for the sake of Japan. Even so, we are approaching the limit of maintaining the capacity of our archive. We are really asking for a large donation.


 By learning about the situation on the receiving end, which we had not been able to ask about, we understood that we need to change our way of thinking. I learnt a lot, thank you very much.





Musashino Art University Museum & Library
1-736 Ogawa-cho, Kodaira-shi, Tokyo 187-8505, Japan



Design Cosmos: Sugiura Kohei Design Archive