Half-yearly report for Second Half of 2013


Part 1 Rescue Operations
Since the rescue operation we conducted on 23rd June 2013 (reported in Newsletter No. 198) for the C Family in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Shiryou Net has conducted the following activities.

1) 23rd June 2013, Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, A Family
Leader: Saitō Yoshiyuki. Conducted preservation work on the historical documents (modern period) and artifacts damaged by the tsunami.


 Salvage operations in Ishinomaki, 23rd June 2013

2) 24th July 2013, Watari Town, Miyagi Prefecture, F Family
Leader: Satō Daisuke. Took into temporary keeping a hanging scroll.

3) 30th July 2013, Onagawa Town, Miyagi Prefecture, C & D Family
Documents which belong to these two families and were spared tsunami damage, were brought to our main office by a member of the Onagawa Town Cultural Properties Protection Committee to be digitally recorded (photographed). Recording was completed on 16th December.

4) 30th July 2013, Kesen'numa City, Miyagi Prefecture, Kesen’numa Primary School
Leader: Ōhira Sastoshi, Amano Masashi.
School records discovered after 3.11 were packed and transported to the Tōhoku Historical Museum for preservation.

5) 6th September, 2013 Higashi Matsushima City, Miyagi Prefecture, K Family
Activities conducted in cooperation with the Uehiro Endowed Chair in Preservation of Historical Materials of Tōhoku University.
Removed the documents held by this family for temporary safe-keeping and digital photographing, with the permission of the person responsible for the keeping of the documents. Photographing of this collection has been completed.

6) 11th September, 2013 Kesen’numa City, Miyagi Prefecture. Kesen’numa Primary School
Leader: Ōhira, Amano. School documents which had been fumigated at the Tōhoku Historical Museum were delivered to the former Kesen’numa Municipal Tsukidate Junior High School for temporary storage.

7) 15th September 2013, Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture. S Family.
Leaders: Hirakawa Arata and Satō. Took care of several hundred historical documents which had been spared tsunami damage.

8) 26th November 2013, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture. I Family
Activities conducted by Satō and members of the Editorial Office of the History of Sendai City.

9) 4th December 2013, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture. S Family
Leaders: Ebina Yū’ichi and Yasuda Yōko.
Conducted preservation work on Edo and modern period documents held by this family. The family holds documents formerly belonging to the O Family of Iwanuma City.

              Of the above 9 operations, 6 are from tsunami-affected areas, which means that we are averaging one rescue operation a month in the areas affected by the tsunami of 3.11. I have not included in the above list other operations and activities which are not directly related to the disaster of 3.11. I will report on these later.

              I would next like to introduce some examples of the rescue work that we have been conducting both within the tsunami-affected areas, and also in inland areas

2 Operations within the Tsunami-Affected Areas
Case 1: Watari Town, K Family (2)
              This family used to make and sell sweets in their own store. They had a large collection of documents and moulds used in making their sweets, but all of this collection apart from the hanging scroll was lost in the tsunami. According to the owner, this hanging scroll was a very important record in the history of the family. The owner searched frantically for the scroll in the accumulated debris of their former house, and cried for joy when (s)he found it.
              The owner had taken the scroll to the current temporary housing and dried it out. However, the owner was concerned about the damage caused to the scroll by the tsunami and how this would affect its preservation. The owner requested us to find a way to restore the scroll. Fortunately, the scroll has not been badly affected by mold and we are currently collaborating with a specialist in restoration of art works to answer the owner’s request.

Assessing damage to the scroll from the K Family, 224th July, 2013.

Case 2: Ishinomaki City S Family (7)
              The S family lives near the mouth of the Kitakami River (Oppa River). The ground floor of the main house suffered immersion in the tsunami, but the historical documents stored in the household altar above head level were spared immersion. The documents provide an unreplaceable record of commercial life in the fishing village  during the Edo Period.
              However, this hamlet has been designated as a disaster danger zone. This means that the former residents can continue to use the area as a workplace, but that they cannot live there from now on. This has created a crisis for the local community.
              The owner of the documents asked us to decipher and analyse the contents of the documents so that people of the hamlet could know about their own history. We are being asked not to just preserve documents, but to participate in the task of communicating the history of this hamlet to future generations.

Case 3: The Documents of Kesen’numa Primary School (4 & 6)
              School documents provide a unique vignette of the history of their school zone. Due to the efforts of Ōhira Satoshi after the disaster of 3.11, this collection of documents was entrusted to the prefectural Tōhoku Museum of History for defumigation, and the Kesen’numa town administration has provided interim storage for the collection. This case provides an example of different kinds and levels of local government providing support in efforts to preserve part of the historical heritage of the region.

3 Operations in Inland Areas
Case 4: Sendai City, I Family (7)
              The Editorial Office of the History of Sendai City had visited the residence of this family prior to 3.11. However, we received information from a person with connections to the owner of the collection that there was cause for concern about damage due to rain leaks in the roof of the warehouse where the documents were stored. During our visit to the family house this time, we were able to locate and identify some several hundred documents from the modern period which had been previously catalogued but which could not be located when the Editorial Office staff previously visited. Furthermore, we found a large number of previously unknown documents and artifacts inside the leaking warehouse. We plan to conduct preservation activities anew here in 2014.



Assessing the collection of the S Family, 26th Nov. 2013.













Case 5: Sendai City, S Family (9)
              The main house and warehouse owned by this family in Sendai were badly damaged by the earthquake of 3.11. The buildings had to be demolished, and as part of this process, the family incinerated most of the documents that they held. This case is probably only the tip of an iceberg of similar cases occurring in inland areas where unrecorded documents are lost when the buildings which house them are demolished after a major earthquake. This kind of case shows that we still cannot lower our guard in working to save endangered documents from damage and destruction even this late after the disaster. 


4 Informants
              When planning for future activities to save historical materials, it is very important that we take the time to consider who are the people who provide us with information about endangered materials. With the exception of Kesen’numa Primary School and Onagawa Town (3), our informants were as follows.
              In the case of the A Family of Ishinomaki (1), the Vice Chair of the Miyagi Shiryou Net Saitō Yoshiyuki had known the family prior to 3.11. In the case of the I Family of Ishinomaki (7) and the I Family of Sendai, the informants had known the owners of the collections prior to 3.11, and it was this existing network of inter-personal connections which led to us being informed of endangered historical materials and their rescue. These examples highlight the importance of being involved in local history and society as a means of fostering this kind of network.
              In the case of the K Family of Iwanuma (2), the owner saw media reports on the activities of Miyagi Shiryou Net and contacted us directly. The K Family of Higashi Matsushima found the Uehiro Endowed Chair when searching on the internet. These two cases illustrate the importance of using a wide variety of sources to disseminate information about our activities in order to elicit further information about endangered historical materials. 
              In the case of the S Family of Sendai, the informant was a student volunteer helping in our main quarters. This student heard about this collection by chance from an acquaintance and informed us. This case illustrates that other than using various forms of media to disseminate information about our activities, by engaging a wide range of people in the activities themselves we can both increase interest in these activities and widen our network of possible informants
(Satō Daisuke)

Part 2 Ongoing Tasks at the Network’s Main Office
              Salvaging endangered historical materials is only the starting point of what is needed to preserve such materials for posterity.
              Preserving documents which suffered tsunami damage (prolonged immersion in seawater) is a long and painstaking task. Moreover, a huge quantity of documents used as padding in the paper sliding doors of traditional buildings has been salvaged from buildings which being demolished due to earthquake damage. Furthermore, it is not enough to just restore and repair the documents themselves. In preparation for the ‘next’ large scale disaster it is important that we also create a record of the documents by photographing them with digital cameras.
              In Part 2, we will explain a little of the various tasks that we conduct on an ongoing basis at our Main Quarters.

1 Cleaning Documents Damaged by the Tsunami
              In the second half of 2013, we have conducted cleaning operations on the following four collections. We usually conduct this work from Monday to Wednesday every week.

1) Ishinomaki City K Family Documents (Salvaged in January 2012, Newsletter 159)
              This collection of documents is being treated by Takehara Kazuo and his students from the Tōhoku University of Art and Design, Yamagata City. The dry cleaning of the documents has been completed, and they are now in the stage of digitally recording the documents with digital cameras and re-ordering the collection.
              The collection is voluminous, filling some 60 large cardboard boxes, but the task of cleaning, recording and re-ordering the documents if proceeding slowly but steadily due to the unstinting efforts of Takehara and his students.

2) Ishinomaki City T Family Documents (Salvaged in March 2012, Newsletter No. 164)
              It was this collection on which we concentrated our efforts in the second half of 2013.
              These documents were salvaged a full year after they suffered immersion in seawater, and were both physically badly damaged and suffering extensive mold damage. The first thing we had to do was to identify documents where separate pages/documents had congealed together and start to slowly separate them where possible. This is a painstaking and time-consuming task. The next stage after emergency treatment is repairing the documents. Depending on the state of the documents, we have to take apart paper bound into registers in order to repair the pages. In this case, we have to record the order of the individual pages as we proceed.
              It is very moving to see documents which first looked at if they were beyond saving gradually recover to a state where it is possible to discern what is written on the page. Unfortunately, however, there are documents which are damaged beyond repair, and these account for probably about half the total of this collection. There are documents which are damaged beyond recognition, and some which we did not even want to touch.
              At the time of writing, we have completed treatment of all the documents which can be saved. We are now in the process of recording the process of our repair work and simultaneously creating a catalogue of the surviving parts of the collection, and conducting basic repairs as we go.

3) Minami Sanriku Town Tokura Primary School Documents (Salvaged June, 2011)
              We rescued this collection of documents after being notified by Ohira Satoshi, a member of Miyagi Shiryou Net. After this, we contacted the Tōhoku University of Art and Design in neighbouring Yamagata Prefecture through the introduction of the Yamagata Shiryou Net, and asked the University to use their freeze-drying facilities to dry the documents.
              The University delivered the dried-out documents to us in April of 2013, and we commenced dry-cleaning of the documents. Although the documents have been dried out, they still have the distinctive rotten stench from the tsunami sea water, and in 2014, we plan to cleanse the documents one by one in fresh water.

4) Onagawa Town Headsman Documents (Salvaged in March 2012, Newsletter No. 164)
              This collection of documents was entrusted to us for treatment by the Board of Education of Onagawa Town. By the time we took delivery of them, the collection of some 600 documents had congealed into a single lump. Fortunately the documents had not suffered serious degradation, and it was comparatively simple to take them apart piece by piece, after which we dry-cleaned and then washed them in fresh water. After drying, the documents were then placed in acid-free envelopes for protection, and the only remaining task is to complete a digital record of the collection.

              Although almost three years have passed since 3.11, many more documents are still in the state in which we took charge of them. Despite the difficulties we face, we are making slow but sure progress towards preventing any further degradation of these documents. We are able to achieve this thanks to the support and advice that we have received from a very wide number of people. I would like to take this opportunity to express our thanks to everyone who has provided support to us.
              In the course of our restoration work, we have had to classify very many documents as damaged beyond repair, given the present level of our technology. However, we hesitate to designate these documents as ‘rejects.’ We subject them to either vacuum or chill preservation and hope that by keeping them in their present state it might be possible to use them as research materials in the study of preservative science sometime in the future.
              Furthermore, although these documents may have lost their original historical value as written records, one possible rereading of their historical worth may lie in re-assigning them the role of serving as testimonies of the results of 3.11. Either way, we consider it important to preserve for the moment not only the historical documents that we have saved, but also those which we cannot restore.

(Amano Masashi)

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