国立公文書館 生の歴史に触れられる施設に

The Yomiuri Shimbun
New national archives should help visitors learn real aspects of history
国立公文書館 生の歴史に触れられる施設に

Public records and archives that pass down Japan’s history are precious treasures belonging to the people. It is an important duty of the government to upgrade the National Archives of Japan in Tokyo, which collects and preserves such assets.

A panel of experts set by the Cabinet Office has compiled a basic concept to construct a new building to house the national archives. On the basis of the plan, a subcommittee of the House of Representatives Rules and Administration Committee will start the process of selecting the construction site. We hope the selection should be made quickly.

Listed as proposed sites are a plot of land where the Parliamentary Museum is located near the Diet Building, and a parking lot used by buses for visitors to the Diet.

Of the two, what is considered as a reliable option is to demolish the aging Parliamentary Museum and construct a new facility to house the national archives together with the museum. The biggest factor in the site becoming a likely candidate is that it can secure ample floor space.

The main office of the National Archives of Japan, located in the Kitanomaru Koen area of Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward, is cramped, with a total floor space of 11,550 square meters. The existing national archives’ storage space, when combined with its annex building in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, is expected to reach full capacity by fiscal 2019.

Should the construction of the new national archives be delayed, the government will be forced to study the possibility of temporarily renting shelf space from the private sector. Will it not lead to concern over the management of public documents and archives?

The existing national archives compare extremely poorly to those of the United States and European countries in both hardware and software. The total bookshelf length, when the two national archives are combined, is only 72 kilometers. This is far short of the United States, which has a total length of 1,400 kilometers, and Britain, which totals 200 kilometers.

Foster archivists

Taking these points into consideration, the basic concept has recommended that the new national archives have floor space of 40,000 to 50,000 square meters.

It is also important that the basic concept has called for securing exhibition space where the temperature and humidity can be rigorously controlled.

At the current national archives, the original texts of valuable public records and archives such as the Constitution of Japan are usually displayed only in the form of replicas. If the original items were displayed constantly, they could suffer damage due to poorly controlled air-conditioning and other functions.

If visitors were able to view the original public records anytime they visited, opportunities for them to come into contact with important phases of history would increase markedly.

It is also desirable to introduce an official qualification system, as proposed in the basic plan, to foster archivists, experts specializing in the management of public records and archives.

The national archives will become more interesting to people if improvements are made in having staff plan riveting exhibitions by utilizing their expertise and catering appropriately to requests from visitors.

Digitalizing documents at the new national archives and building a search-and-access system linked with related facilities in local communities would also help enhance the convenience of users.

Under the tight fiscal situation, however, it would be difficult to expand the functions of the national archives immediately. The government should steadily advance plans that respect the principles of the basic concept.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 4, 2016)

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