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Akichi – a place embracing practices of sharing

Watanabe and Homma introduce akichi concept.
Homma and Watanabe

What is akichi, an open and creative space? What does this concept apply to address the challenges of community collections? Let’s discuss the akichi concept.

In this step, we will discuss the concept KeMCo proposes, termed akichi. In Japanese, literally akichi means “vacant” (aki) and “a place” (chi).

To understand what akichi means, it might help to envision the vacant lots where we played as children in Japan. These places weren’t furnished like parks. Yet, they were safe, not like playing on roads. Importantly, they weren’t owned by anyone in particular, but rather shared by everyone. It’s a space that’s neither fully public nor completely private. It comprises a vague membership, not a closed group, but one where there’s a sense of familiarity among members.

There are two primary characteristics of akichi that we believe are particularly effective for the community-collection issue we’re contemplating. First, there’s no predefined purpose. The activities evolve creatively based on the members present and the tools or items available at that moment. People share resources they have, fostering innovation and creativity. Second, while it’s a shared space, individual autonomy is respected. One can choose not to join the majority and play alone. In akichi, while there’s a collective aspect, the backgrounds and contexts each participant brings are valued. There’s no forced assimilation.

In the previous step, we discussed the need to position collections within people’s relationships to realign the relationship between community and collection as communities evolve. Do the two above-mentioned characteristics of akichi effectively address this?

Using akichi as a model, when contemplating activities involving collections, we envision members gathering and sharing various intellectual resources and collections. What’s crucial is that these activities don’t have fixed rules or fields, like established sports do. Activities emerge based on the current situation. Everyone’s autonomy and original community values aren’t compromised. They can participate and experience new encounters and creativity. There’s no need to conform to any predefined structure. Anyone is welcome to bring anything (or just themselves) to start or take part in any activities. In akichi, people often display their treasures, share them, and build activities around them. It serves as a space where our collections are revealed and shared externally.
Participants can then discover connections with collections from communities they don’t belong to, and begin sharing them.

So, the key in akichi activities is to share collections and related resources that were previously confined within a community. Are akichi activities something special?

Akichi signifies a location or activity that isn’t predetermined but provides opportunities. Thus, activities aligned with our akichi philosophy don’t necessarily need an actual akichi; instead, it’s about reinterpreting various activities from an akichi perspective. This approach can provide a fresh direction for exhibitions, learning, and activities centred around collections. While items from collections may always be there, presenting them to specific members or on particular occasions casts them in a new light. Ideas might emerge about how items can be utilized in akichi. Perhaps a tool that’s been at home for ages might inspire a fun activity if shared in akichi. The outcome might be different from expectations, with unexpected developments. This unpredictability and excitement are inherent to akichi activities. Regarding collections, it’s about finding enriching touchpoints within what we have, delighting in that unforeseen.

At KeMCo, various activities are being developed based on our akichi concept. Starting next week, we would like to delve deeper into the practical applications at KeMCo, exploring how akichi activities can enhance community collections.

We hope our conversation helped you understand the akichi concept in community collection.

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Akichi in Collections Management: Perspectives from a Japanese University Museum

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