From the Museum of Faculty of Letters to the University Museum

- History of the collection methods of historical cultural materials -

The former Museum of Faculty of Letters, where a lot of historical cultural materials are located, changed to the Kyoto University Museum. It is the oldest of Japan's few university museums. It has remained active throughout its history, and is widely known in scholarly circles throughout the world for the diversity of the collection and the high academic value of the items available.

A museum for the Division of Letters was planned from the founding of Kyoto Imperial University; the collection of materials was begun under the direction of the first chancellor, Kinoshita Hirotsugu. Activities began even before the opening of the history department, when Miura Hiroyuki, archivist of historical materials appointed by the government, was entrusted in May 1907 with the acquisition of source materisls for Japanese history. The first museum building was completed in 1914 and was enlarged three times before reaching its final form in 1929.

At that time all faculty offices of the history department were moved to the new building, along with specialists from the philosophy department on aesthetics and art history. In this way, the museum carried out collection and display activities in close relationship to research and teaching. Its outstanding collection of historical documents and records pertaining to Japanese history, ethnological materials and old maps relating to the study of geography, etc. is well-known. In particular, the course in archaeology established in 1916 was not only the such department in Japan until after the Second World War, but also became a major center for the study of East Asia: an extensive collection of archaeological materials was gathered through scholarly investigation in Japan, Korea, and China.

Through these activities the museum drew the attention of specialists in Japan and overseas, with many researchers and students visiting the collections, so that shortly after the building was completed the need was felt for an even larger premises. After the war, this lack of space was aggravated by the ageing of the building and its facilities, so that it became difficult to use the materials that had been collected.

Then the Faculty of Letters was fully aware of the importance of these materials in its possession, one of the best collections of its type; in 1955 this facility was designated as a museum by the Ministry of Education. In 1959 efforts were made to revive its functions as a museum and to undertake new activities: the name was changed from chinretsukan [exhibition hall] to hakubutsukan [museum], and a catalogue of holdings was published, along with historical documents in the collection. However, during this period, the facilities had become so obsolete that the first task was to construct a new building. The western and northern sections of the former museum were torn down and the surrounding area prepared. The new building was completed in August 1986.

The former Museum of Faculty of Letters changed to the Kyoto University Museum on the first April 1997. Not only will former brilliant scholarly tradition continue but it will also aim with a view to further development within the new system.