Tokyo National Museum
Precision Planning

Tokyo, Japan


One of the largest art museums in the world, the Tokyo National Museum holds a stunning collection of more than 110,000 items, primarily of Asian provenance, including numerous artifacts designated national treasures in Japan. Alongside its active collecting program, the Museum’s remit also includes research and public education.

Such a large, varied collection inevitably means that it is not possible to have everything on public display simultaneously. As a solution, Goppion is working with the National Museum on a planned program of rotating displays that will allow more treasures to go on public view for a limited period of 3–4 months each.

The first stage of this cyclical display program has been the creation of two new showcases, commencing in late 2022. Both are very large, wall-anchored models, airtight with relative humidity control and a continuous lighting system.

Maximum legibility was a high priority, so Goppion has worked closely with designs by Yoshikazo Yano, architect with the Museum’s Design Office, to provide very large fixed doors and glass panels. Together, they provide a totally transparent front surface that does not interfere with the legibility of the works displayed inside the showcases. Importantly, the doors are also motorized, opening up to 90% thanks to our “pull and slide” mechanism, allowing easy access for the installation and removal of objects on a regular basis.

Inevitably, certain logistical challenges come hand-in-hand with showcases of such scale: in construction, transportation and final installation within a confined space onsite. Careful planning and complex co-ordination were required for the project, and as part of this, Goppion was joined at our HQ in Italy by two members of the Tokyo team, where they received training on assembling the showcases. We assembled an entire module of one showcase together before dismantling it again for shipment – a valuable ‘test assembly’ process that checked everything was working properly and also identified critical points and solutions.

To allow the showcases to enter the Museum safely, we designed and built in collaboration three metal trestles, including a tilting version. These allowed the large panes to pass through the different entrances of the building, one at a time. An internal crane was also set up to manoeuvre the glass into place on the floor.

Inaugurated in May 2023, the two impressive statement showcases are a test bed for the gradual renewal of showcases across the entire museum’s public display areas in future.