In art research images such as photos are essential and it is therefore necessary to collect and accumulate visual resources of various kinds. At the same time, effective means of retrieval and use must be established. In the field of Western art studies, European countries and the United States have a history of image study, and photo archives exist to support it. They have also established description and classification systems, and effective retrieval techniques(1). To our regret, we do not have a fully-fledged photo archive of Western art, and have not yet come to f ull understanding of the above-mentioned European and U.S. systems and techniques(2). In the fiscal year 1992 the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, bought some fundamental ref erence materials including the Marburger Index(3), and in the following year, held a lecture meeting with Mr Jan van der Wateren, Chief Librarian of the National Art Library, Victori a and Albert Museum as speaker(4). In 1993 a representative of the research group (myself) made a short visit to France to study image database systems, get information-related refe rence materials from French counterparts, and to set up co-operative relationships with them(5). In addition, we are asking visiting researchers of fiscal years 1992 to 93 for advic e and proposals on information processing systems. Furthermore, conventional comparative study of artworks had been pursued by comparison of photo negatives, and handwork such as reproduction and en largement simulation of duplicated materials(6). This way of study was accompanied by problems of precision, efficiency and effect. Many researchers concerned have been expecting a real-size research support system using image processing and database systems.
Through the image stocks (microfiches and photos) so far built up in Europe and the U.S., the first objective of our study is to discuss the efficiency of the ICONCLASS(7)-based clas sification and language control method applied to the actual research environment. The second is to clarify various conditions and problems for promotion of the study, to open a new aspect of use of electronic image information, and to produce a model of visual resources and image information to be presented to a forthcoming Western Art Information/Reference Materials Research Seminar. The thi rd is to make a comparative study of the collections of our museum using image processing technology, and to make use of the image database in special exhibitions.
This kind of study has been conducted to a certain degree for Japanese and Eastern arts(8). For Western art, however, there has been little systematic study in Japan. Our research is characterized by co-operative study by a group of experts in the fields of art history, documentation and information systems. At the same time, this is the first full-scale trial to establish vi sual resources and image information specifically for the study of Western art. Researchers in our museum and in others have eagerly awaited a Western art information and materials system or center and our research is an essential basic step towards it.
In Japan, there have been some cases of artwork database creation for art including Western art but an overall image study system has not been created to cover photographic prints, microfiches, CD-RO Ms, X-ray photos, infrared photos, etc.
In this respect, the efforts to improve study and to update systems are worthy of special mention; for example, the photographic materials retrieval system pursued by the Witt Library, Courtauld Ins titute of Art, University of London(9); the painting and drawings database JOCONDE(10) in the French Ministry of Culture, Thésaurus iconographique(11); AAT (Art & Architecture Thesaurus)(12); the image classification system ICONCLASS developed by Leiden University; the image database related to scientific analysis image data NARCISSE(13); and VASARI(14).
The Japanese technical level of hardware for image databasing and image processing has acquired a high reputation in European countries and the U.S. How to make the most of it in the software field is the great problem now facing us. If the methods developed by Europe and the U.S. prove to be effective (or to have some limitations) through this research, a new step forward in the study will d efinitely be taken.
To pursue this research, a team of five members from different job categories has been created. The role allotted to the members, and the contents of the research are as follows:
Member A specializes in library and information science and art documentation. Members B,C and D are specialists in art history. Member E is a systems engineer. In fiscal year 1994, the system was mainly operated by member A under technical assistance from member E. In fiscal year 1995, the emphasis of the research will be placed on research by members B, C and D, and in fiscal year 1997 (fi nal year) the research will be submitted for analysis and general evaluation by member A.
The image entered is sent to the PC via Ethernet, and then submitted for image processing. The software used is DENGADENGA. Once processed the image is output as hardcopy by PICTROGRAPHY 3000, usin g the advanced technology called "Silver Halide Photographic Process Combined with LD Exposure and Thermal Development and Transfer."
To avoid duplication between image processing input and output and image database input, an IBM DOS/5 machine and MO device are included in the system (Fig. 1) so as to permit the latter job.
From the fiscal year 1995 onwards verification of the effectiveness of the system, data input, image processing, and application of an image database for research activities will continue to be pursu ed by the respective members.