Firing Line Museum - Museums Association

Firing Line Museum

Revealing the secrets of the Japanese flag

The Firing Line Museum received funding from the Welsh Museums Federation to deliver a project to reinterpret Japanese flags from the Royal Welsh Regimental Collections.

As a starting point, Tamayo, a Japanese translator and student from Cardiff University, was recruited to investigate an artefact within the museum; a single Japanese flag that had been captured by the Welch Regiment in Burma.

As Tamayo skilfully researched and revealed the name of the original owner of the flag, identified the community it originated from and identified official stamp marks that had been left on the flag, it quickly became apparent how much of the artefact’s symbolism and emotional resonance had been lost in its transition from captured flag to museum artefact.

Working collaboratively with the Brecon Regimental Museum of The Royal Welsh, access was provided to similar artefacts. These Japanese flags were historically signed by members of a Japanese soldier’s community as they embarked into conflict.

The act of translating signatures gave new life to these artefacts, making sense of how the Japanese flags relate to each other and allowing us as museums to create new interpretations based on Japanese narratives that contextualise the traditional (and very limited) regimental meaning placed on them.

This has been a new approach to curatorial projects for both museums leading to new interpretative strategies to widen the audiences who engage with our collections. The Covid-19 pandemic may have temporarily postponed these redisplay projects but this project has helped to pave the way for how the stories of regimental artefacts are interpreted in the future.

The funding also enabled us to produce a short documentary film that followed the progress of this project.