Thursday, 20 July 2017

Miyagi Shiryō Net on Youtube

Miyagi Shiryō Net is on Youtube

A 15 minute documentary on the work of Miyagi Shiryō Net and the original Kōbe Network is now available on Youtube. The original documentary is in Japanese, but this version has English-language subtitles. In 28 minutes, the documentary tells the story of the founding of these networks in Miyagi and in Kōbe, how we reacted to the disaster of 11th March 2011, and shows how our work in preserving the historical and cultural heritage of a disaster-hit region can help survivors set about rebuilding their lives and communities. Overall, it provides a cogent but very concise introduction to our organisation.

Miyagi Shiryō Net would like to thank the producers of the documentary for their permission and unstinting cooperation in making this documentary available with English subtitles.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Miyagi Shiryō Net Goes to the US

A group of 5 historians from Miyagi Shiryō Net will participate in workshops on disaster and resilience at Drexel University, Philadelphia, and Ohio State University, Columbus, on 7th (Drexel) and 9th (Ohio State) of September.

One of the highlights of our presentations will be the paper presenting the preliminary findings of a group of clinical psychologists who have started a project to evaluate the psychosocial effects of the work of historians on preserving local heritage. The preliminary findings are exciting, and suggest that interdisciplinary co-operation of this kind can lead to discoveries significant to both sides, and  suggest new ways of looking at how professional scholars can more effectively use their expertise to help disaster recovery.

The members of our group and the titles of their presentations are as follows:

1) Time Matters: A Psychometrical Evaluation of the Effects of Salvaging Historical Heritage of Tsunami Survivors
KAMIYAMA Machiko (read by John Morris) 30 mins

2) Psychosocial Support and History:: Preserving Heritage, Preserving Communities SATŌ Daisuke, Associate Professor, Tōhoku University 20 mins

3) Preservation of Historical and Cultural Heritage by Local Government within the Area Affected by the Fukushima Nuclear Reactor Accident
MONMA Takeshi, Tomioka Municipal Government 20 to 25 mins

4) Social Outreach in Historical Conservation Work: Giving Feedback about What We Learn
TAKAHASHI Yō’ichi , Assistant Professor, Tōhoku University 20 mins

5) A Case Study of the Significance of Preserving Historical and Cultural Heritage in the Evacuation Area after the Fukushima Accident: the Case of the Izumita Family, Futaba Town, Fukushima.
IZUMITA Kunihiko, Graduate Student, Tōhoku University 20 mins

6) Research and Responsibility: Personal Experiences with Historical Documents before and after the 3-11 Disaster
SAITŌ Yoshiyuki, Professor, Tōhoku Gakuin University 20 mins

For more details, please follow the Events sections of the History Departments of each university.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Miyagi Shiryō Network On YouTube

Miyagi Shiryō Network, Fukushima Shiryō Network, and Kōbe Shiryō Network are introduced in a television series now available on YouTube

At the time of writing (April 2016), this programme is only available in Japanese, but it provides a very well-balanced introduction to the work that each Shiryō Network has done and is continuing to do, and what this means to the people we serve. 

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Miyagi Shiryo Net 5 Years on from 2011

Miyagi Shiryo Net 5 Years on from 2011: A Retrospective

After a long silence, we bring you a series of 4 essays on where we are today five years after the 3-fold disaster of March, 2011. We also have some new titles to announce in our 'Historical Regeneration' publishing series.

Five Years On: a Retrospective
No 1 Ishinomaki and the Honma Family Warehouse

No 2 Returning Lost Documents to their Owners

No 3 A Task with No End in Sight

No 4 Preserving Historical Documents and the Role of 'Ordinary People'

No 5 Translator's Afterword

New Titles Published
The new titles published in March 2016 bring this total number of booklets in this series to 12, and the series has been concluded.
New titles in the 'Historical Regeneration Project'  July 2015

New titles in the 'Historical Regeneration Project' March 2016

Thursday, 21 August 2014

A New Addition to the Miyagi Shiryō Net  Series 'Historical Regeneration' 

We are happy to announce that No. 4 in the 'Historical Regeneration' Series has been published.

The new volume by Takahashi  Yō'ichi is entitled "Bringing Back the Steamy Mists: Recovery from Famines in the Edo Period."

In the Edo Period, the greatest cause of mass deaths was neither earthquakes nor tsunami, but famine. In the Tenmei Famine in Sendai (1782 to 1788) some 200,000 people are estimated to have died. People faced with the sudden depopulation of the towns and villages had to set about rebuilding their communities by themselves. One way they did this, where possible, was to use local hot springs as a way to revitalise their community.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

New Publications in the Miyagi Shiryō Net  Series 'Historical Regeneration' 

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Miyagi Shiryō Net Announces its First Publication in a New Series 'Historical Regeneration' 

Read more

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Miyagi Shiryō Net: 
Part I Who we are, What we do, and Why we do it
Acting to Save Our Heritage in the Face of Natural Disasters and Human Intervention

Part I The Birth of Miyagi Shiryō Net

The Serial Earthquakes of 2003

The Wholesale Destruction of People’s Livelihoods and ‘Historical Materials’

              Miyagi Shiryō Net was founded in 2003, after the inland northern regions of Miyagi Prefecture suffered a series of direct hit earthquakes. The core of its members are faculty,and students specialising in Japanese history, art history, archaeology, and professionals from related fields such as architecture and museum curators, and employees of local governments within Miyagi Prefecture. To cope with the overwhelming increase in our salvage and restoration activities since March, 2011, we now employ on a part-time basis local volunteers to do the continuing tasks of cleaning and restoring documents, and also cooperate with universities and institutions with specialised skills throughout Japan. Volunteers from all over Japan, and occasionally from overseas participate on an ad hoc basis in individual salvage operations.
            When we started conducting salvage operations for historical materials within the boundaries of the 5 municipalities (at the time) affected by these earthquakes, in the 192 old families we visited we found that many irreplaceable items, for example old tools, implements and furniture, and historical documents and paintings, all of which form a unique part of the historical heritage of each region, had been either burnt or thrown away when demolishing old houses and warehouses which had been badly damaged by the earthquakes.
              On arriving at these old-established families and being told that they had thrown away their historical heritage, we were repeatedly asked ‘if these items were so valuable, then why had we not arrived earlier to tell people about their worth.’

Caught Unprepared
Learning to Prepare for Disasters Before They Happen
              Before the serial earthquakes of 2003, we had barely any information about ‘where’ and ‘what kinds’ of historical materials were held privately by families throughout Miyagi Prefecture. This was the single largest reason why we had arrived too late on the scene after this disaster. Moreover, at this stage, we already knew that there was an 80% probability that another large scale offshore earthquake would hit Miyagi Prefecture within the next 20 years.
              It was clear that the best way to prepare to save historical materials in any future disasters would be to find out where such materials were held, and to record these materials before disaster struck. Looking back on our failure in 2003, we decided to embark on a long term project to save historical materials from natural disasters, and to do this, we knew that we would have to work in cooperation with local governments and local people.

What Are ‘Preservation Activities?’
              There are 2 main different tasks that we do as preservation activity.
(1)  ‘What’ and ‘where’: Combing an area to identify and locate materials
              We go through a certain whole area, usually either a unit of local government such as a ‘town’ or ‘village,’ or else a smaller area that was formerly an independent ‘village’ about a 100 years ago, to identify where and what kinds of historical materials are held throughout the area.
              In this kind of task, our members divide up into several separate teams to comb the area, usually in a single day, to locate and identify historical materials. By cataloguing and preserving this data, we can identify where all important historical materials within the area are located before a big natural disaster occurs.

(2) ‘Pinpoint’ recording: photographing a whole single collection
              In the process of combing an area, we often discover a large collection of documents or materials held by a single family or institution, and which is invaluable in order to understand the history of the area. In this case, we revisit the family or institution on a separate occasion and photograph the whole collection. We also provide the materials (e.g. acid-free envelopes) and advice necessary to preserve the items in the collection and save them from any further deterioration.
              To photograph this kind of collection, we use digital cameras. This enables us to create a digital record of the whole collection held by a single family/institution in a very short period of time. The digital record we create provides the people of the area with a readily accessible tool to learn about their own history, and in the unfortunate case of the original collection being lost in a disaster, it provides a valuable record of the original historical materials.
              The methodology that Miyagi Shiryō Net has developed over our years of experience in locating and also recording local historical materials in a very short period of time has attracted attention from all over Japan as a practical model for disaster prevention practice for invaluable local historical materials.

Going Public
Miyagi Shiryō Net Becomes an NGO and our Second Experience of Disaster
              In order to make our structure and activities more visible and open, in February of 2007, Miyagi Shiryō Net became an officially registered NGO.
              On the 14th June 2008, the Iwate and Miyagi Inland Earthquake struck, and this became our second ‘baptism of fire’ in a real large scale disaster. However, this time, we could draw upon our experience accumulated over the intervening 5 years, and were able to start salvage work in Kurihara and Ōsaki Cities, the 2 areas worst affected by this earthquake, soon after the disaster struck. In all, we conducted salvage activities for historical materials for items in the possession of 31 families.
              Of these 31 cases, some were totally unexpected and new finds. For example, in the earthquake, a wickerwork case fell down from where it had lay hidden in the ceiling of a warehouse, and when the owners opened it they found bundles of documents inside which no one knew anything about. In another case, when the owners started clearing away the debris of a warehouse which had totally collapsed in the earthquake, they discovered a treasure-trove of Edo Period (1600-1868) documents.

              As time passed by, the probability of the expected Miyagi Offshore Earthquake inched higher and higher. In expectation of this next big test, by February 2010, we had conducted pinpoint data recording at a total of 415 families.

Part II Salvage Operations for Historical Materials after the Great East Japan Earthquake

Damage Assessment and Salvage Work within the Disaster Area

3.11. 2011: Disaster Hits for the Third Time

              At 2.40 p.m. on 11th March 2011, an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 on the Richter scale occurred offshore the Pacific seaboard of the Tōhoku Region (the northeastern part of the main island of Honshū). Soon after that, a gigantic tsunami hit the neighbouring coastline.
              The third major earthquake that we experienced, the Great East Japan Earthquake, was something that almost no one had predicted nor expected. It exceeded all prior estimates about the expected scale of the next Miyagi Offshore Earthquake, which occurs on an approximately 40 year cycle, and the tsunami that it caused wrought mass damage extending over 500 kilometres of coastline.

Documents Washed Away by the Tsunami
The Originals Have Gone, but the Digital Data Remains
              In the areas along the coast hit by the tsunami, countless historical materials were lost. The very first time we were able to enter the disaster area to visit a family in Ishinomaki City, the approximately 12,000 historical documents held there had all been washed away, along with everything else that the family owned.
              Despite this great loss to the historical heritage of the region, we had already photographed all these documents over a period of 10 years starting from 2000. It was a lesson learnt in the worst way possible, but this example demonstrates clearly the importance of conducting preservation activities for historical materials before disaster strikes.

Countless Historical Materials in Danger
Salvaging as Much as Fast as Possible
              From around the middle of April 2011, we started to receive urgent calls to come and salvage collections of historical materials, both from areas hit by the tsunami, and areas further inland. These calls not only came from people who held the materials, but also from people in local government and local citizens with whom we had established a working relationship in our years of activities throughout the region before the disaster.

              As of December 2013, we have conducted a total of 105 salvage operations in a total of 88 families and institutions throughout Miyagi and southern Iwate Prefectures (Note: the Wikipedia entries linked to here are highly unsatisfactory, but at least you can locate the prefectures on a map JFM). Notwithstanding the scope of this disaster, we have discovered many collections of historical materials which have miraculously survived, but which are in jeopardy, either due to immersion in seawater and silt from the tsunami, or by being housed in collapsed or condemned buildings damaged by the earthquake. It is a race against time to save as many of these materials as possible for posterity.

Read More:


Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Half-Yearly Report for June to December 2013 from Miyagi Shiryō Net


At the time of writing, over 1,000 days have passed since the events of 3.11. However, as time passes, the number of requests to conduct emergency rescue operation for endangered historical materials that we are receiving shows no signs of decreasing, and we are still receiving requests to provide emergency rescue operations.

              This report will be divided into three parts, respectively covering (1) Rescue Operations, (2) Ongoing Tasks at the Network’s Main Office, and (3) A Variety of Activities and Tasks. 

1) Rescue Operations includes a summary of the 9 different rescue operations we conducted between July and December of 2013. Six of these operations were in tsunami affected areas, and 3 in areas suffering earthquake damage. This part also includes a short analysis of the channels through which we gather information about heritage at risk. This section also includes a glimpse into the faces of the people who are the holders/owners of the various kinds of heritage we are working to salvage, and what our work means for them. 
Read more

2) Ongoing Tasks at the Network's Main Office contains a summary of the work that goes on after the initial salvage work is done. The main tasks of cleaning, restoring, digitally recording and cataloguing the mass of documents that we are recovering is a huge task involving large amounts of continuing work. This section gives a glimpse into the physical and technical challenges we face.
Read more

3)A Variety of Activities and Tasks covers the many salvage operations that we also conduct but which are not directly disaster-related, and the various educational, outreach and publicity activities in which we also engage.
Read more

(Please note that all linked sites marked  (J) are  in Japanese. Also, all Japanese personal names are given in Japanese order, with the surname first.)

Translation: J.F. Morris(J), Miyagi Gakuin Women's University
Member of the Board of Directors of Miyagi Shiryō Net

(NPO) Miyagi Shiryou Net(J)
Telephone/Fax (81) (0)22-795-7693/7546

Credits: Miyagi Shiryō Net would like to thank Dr Guven Wittenveen for suggesting to set up this English-language blog on our activities, and for providing invaluable advice on how to proceed with this.