Experts from Japan are in Dublin to carry out conservation work on painted scrolls at the Chester Beatty Library.

Hundreds of painted scrolls and books from Japan figure among the Chester Beatty Library’s collection of 22,000 objects from the Middle East and the Orient. Dating from the 16th to the 20th century, most were bought by Sir Alfred Chester Beatty in Japan in 1917. The library says that some of the items are among the finest examples of their kind anywhere in the world, but they need to be looked after.  

Two expert restorers from Japan are in Dublin on a three week visit, to work with the manuscripts.  They are also passing on some of their skills to Irish conservators, who may ultimately carry out some of the work.  

Mr Tatsuji Handa runs the restoration studio at Tokyo’s National Museum, and some items will be sent to him in the future for further work.  The problems include the mountings of the scrolls, some of which have cracked. Special attention is paid to the materials used to repair any damage. 

The scrolls are due to be exhibited in the United States, and Yoshiko Ushioda, curator of the library’s Japanese collection, explains why they require such specialised conservation work,

If you show them for the public, I think it’s some kind of pollution effect...and the rolling and unrolling, always make a little bit damage, so I think from time to time, they should be restored, otherwise I think the damage will be much worse every year.

The Chester Beatty Library does not comment officially on security, it is understood that arrangements have been reviewed since a number of items were taken in recent thefts. 

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 1 August 1992.  The reporter is Walt Kilroy.