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Kyushu Uni. historical furniture preservation crisis solved by crowdfunding efforts

Kyushu University associate professor Misako Mishima looks over the wooden desks, shelves and other rescued items, at Kyushu University in Fukuoka, on June 1, 2018. The desk in the foreground is believed to date back to the period of the university's predecessor, Kyoto Imperial University Fukuoka Medical College. (Mainichi)

FUKUOKA -- Wooden furniture seeped in history from Kyushu University's Hakozaki Campus in this city's Higashi Ward was in danger of being thrown out before crowdfunding efforts came to the rescue.

For roughly 10 years, the Kyushu University Museum had been collecting wooden desks, shelves, chairs and other furniture to prevent them from being destroyed, but with the Hakozaki Campus completing its relocation in September, there were just not enough funds to save all the furniture in the remaining schools from an unfortunate fate. In order to save the relics that have been handed down since before World War II, the museum turned to crowdfunding to come up with enough money to pay for the large shipment to save the wooden pieces of university history.

The Hakozaki Campus of Kyushu University was founded in 1911, but began a step-by-step relocation since the 2005 academic year, and the long-used wooden furniture was thrown out. This was because there was not enough space for all the items at the relocation destination of the Ito Campus in Fukuoka's Nishi Ward, or because the move had been used as an excuse to buy new items instead, along with other reasons.

But when Kyushu University Museum associate professor Misako Mishima learned that the historic furniture was being destroyed, she began independently collecting the endangered items. In 2009, she was able to save a large amount of wooden furniture from the School of Engineering. After that, joining forces with professors and other members of the School of Agriculture who shared her ambitions, she began a conservation and utilization project that has so far saved roughly 400 pieces.

Among them are many items that continued to be used after surviving fires during the war, and there is even a desk that appears to have been used around 1907 during the time of the university's predecessor, the Kyoto Imperial University Fukuoka Medical College. Some of the desks and chairs have been lent out and reused by retro-style shop Zakka & Cafe Orange in the city of Kumamoto, as well as the Fukuoka City Museum.

However, the Hakozaki Campus relocation entered into its final stage in May with the moves of the schools of agriculture and letters, and the amount of furniture to be saved looks to be roughly equal to the amount that has been collected over the last 10 years. Up until now, the furniture had been moved to empty spaces on campus, but the project hopes to preserve the pieces in a storage facility outside of the school. But this leaves the efforts with a huge transportation cost. While moving the furniture to the new campus would be covered by public university funds, the collection and preservation of the old wooden furniture is considered "recollection of disposed waste," and is thus ineligible for coverage.

That's where the preservation project's internet crowdfunding campaign came in this May. Before relocation concluded at the end of July, they needed 2 million yen to save the historic pieces. The set donation amounts were broken down into seven levels ranging from 3,000 yen to 500,000 yen, and depending on the amount, there are perks for donors such as being able to rent out the furniture or have a special tour of the university museum, and other bonuses. As of June 15, the project had collected over 3 million yen.

"Buildings are carefully renovated or registered as important cultural property, but things (like furniture) are just completely replaced," said Mishima. "Instead of just throwing something away because it's old, I want people to see the history and value in these items. I would like to lend out the furniture to like-minded people who will use it with care in order to preserve the items."

(Japanese original by Keisuke Muneoka, Fukuoka News Department)

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