Half-yearly report for Second Half of 2013

Part 2: Ongoing Tasks at the Network's Main Office

Links to new place names: Kurihara CityWakuya TownOsaki City,


              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.

Stages in Restoring the T Family Documents
1. Before Restoration                       2. Restoration in progress (30.10.2013)

3. Realining (2.10.2013)                              4. 'Remaking' the paper
 
5. Drying (2.10.2013)                               6. Rebinding (20.9.2013)
7. Restoration complete (20.9.2013)

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)

2 Documents Recovered from inside Paper Sliding Doors (‘fusuma’)
              The documents that we have recovered from within paper sliding doors of buildings about to be demolished are as follows. We conduct work on these documents on Thursday and Friday each week.

1) The documents from the doors of the former Iwakiri Post Office (salvaged in June 2011, Newsletters No. 102 & 114)
2) Watari Town, M Family Documents (salvaged in June 2011, Newsletter No. 135)
3) Ishinomaki City, K Family Documents (salvaged in January 2012, Newsletter No. 159)

Carrying out paper sliding doors from the K Family (Jan. 2013)

4) Ishinomaki City, G Family Documents (salvaged in June 2013, Newsletter No. 198)

              Documents in this category include collections which suffered immersion in tsunami-borne sea-water which we have finished treating to prevent mold, and collections which did not suffer tsunami damage and which we will attend to at a later date.
              Recently, we have started using an enzyme solution which dissolves the starch-based glue used in making the paper doors. This has enabled us to increase our efficiency in peeling off documents pasted to the doors as inner padding. Furthermore, with this enzyme solution we can now peel apart wads of padding which we previously could not treat.
              As we peel off each piece of paper from a door, we number and record how it was pasted together. This is especially important for Edo Period (1600 to 1868) documents, since when these documents were used as inner padding, it was common to paste each page in according to order in which they originally were tied together as a ledger or pasted together as a long letter. Furthermore, when we discover a document where the text is illegible due to glue covering it, we use the techniques that we have developed for cleansing tsunami-damaged documents in fresh water to dissolve and wash the glue away and render the text legible again.
              In many cases, books owned by the family were taken apart and used as door padding. For example, the K Family of Ishinomaki were medical doctors, and the many old medical books were used as inner padding. In the case of printed and published books, we work in collaboration with specialists in early modern or modern history in order to sort and catalogue these works (Newsletters No. 173 & 207). In the case of a family of merchants such as the M Family of Watari Town, many letters and contracts related to their business have come out of their sliding doors. In this way, the inner padding of paper sliding doors hides a wealth of information about the history of the locality.
              We will not be able to complete the task of sorting the material that we have collected from paper doors in the near future, but we will continue this work so that we can make the wealth of material they contain available for future research.   (Ebina Yū'ichi)

The process of restoring documents salvaged from sliding doors

1. & 2. Soaking congealed documents in enzyme solution 

3. Photographic record of the documents before dismantling
4. Checking documents against the photo to ascertain order of progression




3 Photographing Documents
              The collections of documents that we have photographed with digital cameras in the last six months are as follows. We photograph documents on Monday, Tuesday and Friday each week.
1) Kurihara City H Family Documents. Salvaged in January 2012 (Completed)
2) Wakuya Town S Family Documents. Salvaged in July 2011 (Completed)
3) Ōsaki City M Family Documents. Salvaged in December 2012 (Completed)
4) Onagawa Town C Family Documents. Salvaged in May 2013 (Completed)
5) Onagawa Town S Family Documents. Salvaged in July 2013 (Completed)
6) Onagawa Town D Family Documents. Salvaaged in July 2013 (Completed)
7) Ishinomaki City S Family Documents. Salvaged in September 2013 (Completed)
8) Higashi Matsushima City K Family Documents. Salvaged in September 2013 (Completed)
9) Kurihara City S Family Documents. Salvaged in August 2011 (In progress)
10) Ishinomaki City G Family Documents. Salvaged in June 2013 (In progress)

              In any photographing session, we use between 3 to 6 digital cameras. The number of frames photographed for the last six months amounts to 75,128.
              The reason why the above list includes a large number of collections from inland areas (I,2,3,9) is that it takes longer to process water-damaged documents before we can photograph them. Furthermore, other individual factors such as degree of urgency also come into play, so that the order in which we photograph documents does not correspond to the order in which they were salvaged. Because photographing a whole collection is a very time-consuming task, there are still collections of documents we salvaged in 2011 which we still have not started to photograph.
              We proceed with the process of photographing documents according to our manual which is available on our website (http://www.miyagi-shiryounet.org/01/satuei04/satueihou04.htm and http://www.miyagi-shiryounet.org/01/satuei00/kanrihen01.html) . The work of actually photographing the documents done by volunteer staff finishes at 5.00 p.m., but after that we have to start the task of compiling that day’s results. On some days the number of frames taken goes into the order of several thousand, and the task of checking and sorting them all often extends into the early hours of the following morning. Furthermore, when the task of teaching classes or going on a business trip falls on the same day, then it usual for a backlog several days’ worth of SD unprocessed SD memory cards to pile up. Seismic activity has not settled down in Miyagi nor Japan as a whole, and we worry about what would happen if another megaquake caught us in this kind of state. On days like these, we feel as if we are always on a tightrope.                           (Satō Daisuke)

A backlog of SD cards awaiting data transfer
A photographic session in progress. Tohoku Historical Museum (25.8.2013)


4 The Manpower Involved
              The total number of manpower days involved in the processes of cleansing documents and removing them from paper doors for the second half of 2013 is as follows.

June                    227
July                     209
August                 182
September           243
October               225
November            223
December            159         Total number of manpower days 1468
( 1 manpower day = 1 person working for 1 day)


              The core of our staff is comprised of people employed using funds received in trust from Sendai City and Ishinomaki City. Conducting these various processes on a long-term basis means that we have had to develop new procedures and techniques not only for each task, but also for matters such as management of hours worked per person and equipment. In all, we are accumulating a wealth of experience which we hope will lead to new developments in the theory and practice of preservation science. Moreover, we have support from many volunteer participants, both on an individual and on a group basis from outside of Miyagi Prefeccture. I would like to take this opportunity to express our sincerest thanks to all these people who have worked to support our endeavours.            (Satō Daisuke)

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