Museum of Natural and Environmental History Shizuoka

Kazuyoshi Yamada

Professor, Curatorial Division, Museum of Natural and Environmental History, Shizuoka

Museum of Natural and Environmental History, Shizuoka

5762 Oya, Suruga Ward Shizuoka 422-8017 Japan

Shizuoka, Japan 

German Design Award for Excellent Communication 2018


A Thought-Provoking Museum




Shizuoka Prefecture is located in the centre of Japan, along the coastal line of the Pacific Ocean. The Prefecture has the highest mountain in Japan - Mt. Fuji (3,776 m.a.s.l.) - and the deepest bay in Japan - the Suruga Bay (approx. 2,500 m.b.s.l.). The difference in elevation exceeds 6,000 meters. This situation leads to a rich natural environment ; for instance, the highest number of areas of bio-diversity in Japan. The population in Shizuoka Prefecture is approximately 3.6 million, resulting in moderate economics (10th in Japan).

The Museum of Natural and Environmental History, Shizuoka, was opened on March 26, 2016 as a new prefectural museum at the site of the former Shizuoka Minami High School. The appearance of the museum renovated the closed school buildings. The museum has researched not only natural history, but also the anthropogenic impacts on the environment throughout history (environmental history), and exhibited more than 3,000 specimens of natural history to consider what "a rich life" truly means for future generations.


In the Museum Basic Plan, compiled in 2014, it was emphasized that there was a need to develop activities focusing on soft power, through museum functions such as research, collection, education, and exhibition. In response to this plan, the theme of the museum's activities was set to "A New Way of Life in Shizuoka". After opening in 2016, it became apparent that the museum has been positioned as a platform for "thinking" through the brilliant future of the earth and humanity.


Fujimu_photo_entrance area


Here, we describe some of the hallmarks of the museum.

1. A "thinking" exhibition
The concept of the permanent exhibition is "Thinking" Each exhibit room recreates a school setting (e.g., chairs, desks, blackboards) and aims to stimulate thinking by showcasing the exhibit theme indirectly. Also, signs that symbolize the exhibit themes are shown in the hallways. By using an integrated design for exhibit spaces and graphics, the entire museum becomes a space that encourages thinking. Using the old school premises and furniture lowered construction costs and reduced the environmental load. Therefore, the museum is a facility that symbolizes a new building stock era for a sustainable society.

In addition to the development of the installation exhibition, which is disadvantaged by the fact that the space available is only the small space of a classroom unit, we have expressed a story exhibition to encourage thinking and dialogue.

2. Setting middle yard area
In the museum, the middle yard area was set up as the inter-connected area between the front (exhibition area) and back (storage area) yards. In that area, not only is local nature such as plants, insects, fossils in Shizuoka Prefecture introduced to the younger generation, but also the visualization of how to make and treat specimens as an open kitchen. These activities in the middle yard area enable all visitors to understand the significance of keeping these kinds of specimens in the museum.

3. Mobile exhibition (Transport of the Museum)
From 2016, the museum has been running "Musuem Caravan" a mobile exhibition kit mainly for use at elementary and junior high schools in difficult-to-visit areas in the Prefecture. Shizuoka Prefecture has a wide area, 200 km in distance from east to west. Although the museum is located in the central area in the Prefecture, some of the students in elementary and junior high schools in the Prefecture will find it hard to visit the museum within a few fours. In order to enable all students to experience the museum , four mobile exhibition kits, on the topics of Plants, Fish, Insects and Fossils, were created and sent out to schools. The number of schools visited since 2016 is more than 130. Finally, it was able to visit all cities and towns in the P refecture. Also, during long holidays in school, it was exhibited at commercial facilities and station terminals for the promotion of the museum. This has resulted in awareness of the museum increasing year by year.

4. Human resource development by soft-power
The Museum has more than one hundred volunteers (it calls them "museum supporters"). Museum supporters take on such museum activities as guides for exhibitions, support for education events, performances of seasonal experienced events, total maintenance of the museum, the preparation of specimens and so on. Museum supporters encompass a broad demographic , from university students to seniors of approximately 80 years old. The museum has established a sustainable system to actively participate in museum management. Hence, not only visitors to the museum but also volunteers are promoting human resource development through such museum activities.

5. Local contribution
There are special rooms, such as the "Kid's room" and "Picture book café" in the Museum. These rooms are available even for infants and toddlers with parents. The Museum should be active in community contribution. Because the Museum can be a central place of commutations in local people as well as a place for education. The museum is totally open for all generations. For this, it aims to become a platform for "thinking" the brilliant future of the earth and human.



Exhibition Room 3 Marine ecosystems in Shizuoka (photo ©Nacása Partners Inc



Regarding the current situation, the number of visitors to the museum over the last year is approximately 80,000 people: that is the same level as 2016 (the first year), and an increase of 20% on the previous year . Also, visitor satisfaction in the last year reached 97%, according to the questionnaire survey. In addition, it is a clear fact that the display design of the museum has received many evaluations not only from Japan but also from overseas. This  evidence indicates that a new museum, which emphasizes soft-power and "Thinking" the museum theme of "A New Way of Life in Shizuoka", is widespread knowledge among people in the Prefecture. In the beginning, the Museum was noted only as a vacant school facility. However, currently, the museum is recognized as a gathering place of knowledge, and has  become a platform to create a new way of life which is sustainable for the future. Although there are issues with dealing with people with disabilities and inbound demand in the museum, we are also working on resolving these issues soon .

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