First Aid for Salvaged Materials

Why is it Necessary to Treat Water-Immersed Materials?

              Many of the historical materials that we salvaged in this disaster had suffered extended immersion in water. This creates a problem, particularly for paper materials, such as documents and paintings, scrolls. In particular, since seawater contains salt, the paper absorbs the salt and other minerals and becomes very difficult to dry out. If left untreated and in a wet condition, mould grows on the paper and damages it.

Getting Rid of Salt and Mould
Cleansing Historical Materials
              After members of Miyagi Shiryō Net identify and salvage water-immersed documents and bring them to the our head office, volunteers who gather from all over Japan start the task of cleansing the documents etc. In this panel, you can see volunteers cleaning mud off documents, and carefully turning the pages of documents where the paper has become stiff and unpliable. After this, they use fresh water to wash the salt out of the documents.

              Water-immersed documents which have been badly damaged require specialised technology and techniques. Art objects, such as paper folding screens (‘byōbu’) also require a different kind of specialised skill. Documents and materials requiring these kinds of specialised treatment are sent to the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, the Kyōto University of Art and Design, or the Tōhoku University of Art and Design to be dried out or cleansed. We work in cooperation with both research institutes and volunteers from all over Japan in order to save and repair water-immersed materials.




 Books salvaged from the library of the Miyagi Agricultural High School. After prolonged submersion in sea water and mud, mold has started growing on some of the books (25th April, 2011).

Emergency treatment of books from the Miyagi Agricultural High School 25th April, 2011).

 Cleaning mud from books (same as above).

 Documents badly soaked in water are frozen at minus 30 degrees Celsius in the freezer of the Tōhoku University Archives (7th May 2011). 

 Documents in temporary storage in the freezer storage facilities of the Nara City Markets while awaiting drying treatment (Courtesy of the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties).

 The largest vacuum freeze dryer machine in Japan, owned by the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties. Water remaining in documents is frozen, sublimated, and then vaporised, leaving the documents completely dry (12th August, 2011).

 A private collection of documents salvaged from Ishinomaki. The documents have suffered prolonged immersion in tsunami water (Oct. 2013)

Cleaning documents (April, 2013)

 Realining a damaged document (Oct. 2013)

 After realining, the damaged document is immersed in a solution of raw Japanese paper. This process is the same as that used to imbed leaves and other material into Japanese paper for decorative effects, and imbeds the damaged document inside a new sheet of Japanese paper (Oct. 2013).

 Drying out the newly created sheet of paper with the damaged document imbedded inside.

Rebinding together repaired sheets from a ledger into their original form (Oct. 2013) 

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