Constructing A New Science Framework In Japanese Historical Studies Through Digital Infrastructure

poster / demo / art installation
  1. 1. Ayako Shibutani

    National Museum of Japanese History

  2. 2. Makoto Goto

    National Museum of Japanese History

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We are developing a new digital infrastructure to serve as a comprehensive digital network of Japanese historical resources. Using the system, we are constructing a new science framework for Japanese historical studies. This paper introduces our system, which is called ‘Knowledgebase of Historical Resources in Institutes (khirin)’ ( As one of the khirin’s prospects, we show that disseminating scientific information of historical resources can promote advanced collaboration between relevant Japanese and international research institutes. The English version of the khirin is also launched from April in 2019.
The khirin uses linked data and the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF). Metadata are described in each data source to connect relevant data with Resource Description Framework (RDF) in khirin. Using these links, the complexity of plural catalogues can be absorbed. Assigning a URL to each resource enables access to original resources so diverse data such as fact data and resources can be connected at the same time. Through a SPARQL endpoint, the system allows one to connect resources with anyone worldwide. Followed by the khirin, we are constructing a scientific information platform to support storage and management of metadata using RDF, IIIF, institutional repositories, and Digital Object Identifier (DOI) systems.
Regarding studies of historical paper materials, scientific data contains morphological features such as the thickness, weight, and ‘sunome’ (patterns of bamboo screens in paper-making) of papers, the formation of fibres, and the ‘tenryo’ (additives) used in paper making. Surveys of paper materials are essentially non-destructive; paper surfaces are observed with the transmitted and reflected lights of microscopes. Some researchers have already examined numerous historical paper materials; however, other researchers do not have easy access to numerical data that can be utilised in comparison processes. In addition, the preliminary morphological analyses in palaeography are carried out simply with visual examination by ‘specialised’ researchers without experience in scientific approaches (Shibutani, 2019). This type of study has very low reproducibility. In our study, applying scientific resource data to the khirin enables researchers to access original data conveniently when searching for primary evidence.
Here, we use a historical paper document, ‘Oda Nobunaga Shuinjo’, as an example. The document shows that Kamei (Shinjuro) Korenori might be qualified to be an owner of the Izumo province following his superior military valour on 7 September 1581 (National Museum of Japanese History of Inter-university Research Institute Corporation, National Institutes for the Humanities, 2013). When we search this document in the khirin, keywords to relevant materials regarding Oda Nobunaga are provided in the search results. On the detailed screen, the catalogue information for Oda Nobunaga’s materials provides links for accessing detailed scientific data. These links enable users to access other relevant documents that relate to the document ‘Oda Nobunaga Shuinjo’. If a link destination provides datasets of paper components, we can search for other materials with similar components. As the access path to data resources regarding historical paper materials, making use of the diverse information in the khirin enables users to access a wide variety of resource information. We can thus construct a new theoretical framework to use in advanced studies.
Our study is also standardizing the scientific methodology of historical materials research by conducting the following approaches: qualitative analysis of historical papers focusing on paper component details to compare our findings with the classifications granted to historical materials in previous studies; and reconstruction of papermaking methods from various production/consumption areas and time periods using DNA biomarker analysis. Objective classification and quantification of the morphological features of paper materials are required to interpret their origins. In addition, large datasets can improve the development of scientific studies of historical materials, providing a reliable dataset that may benefit researchers worldwide. We are examining a large number of digital images such as microscopic photos and catalogue information images. Through these results, our study can promote the advanced application of utilizing a database to cross-search historical research data and relate it to other historical paper materials in local, national, and international institutes.
The khirin system can access to original resources that follow other relevant resources from other institutes, together with their diverse datasets of scientific information such as morphological features and material components. Making this association between one resource and others is a way of using Linked Data. It enables worldwide researchers to access to primary evidence. Showing some examples, our poster shows how other projects and initiatives will be more advanced by our scientific framework with the khirin. Search results are also described with relevant information and materials in other institutes to our resource information and other collections.


Shibutani, A. (2019). Developing a methodology of mixture analysis to determine the origins of Japanese historical papers. In National Museum of Japanese History (eds),
Integrated Studies of Cultural and Research Resources. Michigan: fulcrum, University of Michigan Library. (accessed 4 April 2019).

National Museum of Japanese History of Inter-university Research Institute Corporation, National Institutes for the Humanities, ed. (2013).
Special Exhibition Documents from Medieval Japan: Functions and Styles. Sakura: National Museum of Japanese History of Inter-university research institute corporation, National Institutes for the Humanities, 221. (in Japanese).

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