‘Miyagi Network News’ vol.127

~The Rescue Operation of Cultural Properties in Ishinomaki Cultural Centre~

 Hiromitsu Seki, a postgraduate student in Tohoku University

On May 15th, although the sea breeze strongly blew, the weather was fine. On this day, 21 members of the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials participated in the rescue operation in Ishinomaki as voluntary workers. The outline report is as follows.

Removing the debris

Ishinomaki Cultural Centre is located near the estuary of former-Kitakami River whose water is pouring into the Ishinomaki Port, it is within easy reach of the sea. Around its building, debris such as lumber, building materials, and vehicles were still scattered everywhere, although 2 months passed after the earthquake. The Tsunami had destroyed the windows and doors in the ground floor, not only removing the utensils, books and materials, but also washing sand and earth, lumber and light vehicles in to the building. As we observed the present situation of the building, it seemed that the inside of the Centre was almost untouched condition after the quake, and we could presume that this building was flooded 3 metres high by the traces on the glass windows and the walls. According to the officer who was in this building when the disaster occurred, it took nearly 4 days to ebb away. Even now, the lifeline networks have not been reconstructed yet. We were forced to carry out our activities in such situation.

The prior purpose in the rescue operation is to transfer the damaged cultural properties to the safe places which are protected. For this reason, what we should put before everything else is to remove the debris, sand and earth from inside and outside of the building for securing the pathway, ant to grasp the existence and the extent of damage to the historical materials.

The rescue operation

This operation also started removing the sand and earth which were piled up in the building. Nearly 10 centimetres of debris were in front of the repository, and they made the doors difficult to open and close. The sediments which were transferred by the Tsunami is usually involved the earth and rubbish, and they are changed into the slime as they are parted from the sea though, fortunately here is near the sea, therefore almost all that deposited is sea sand. Although we had to work without light, the ground was almost dry, so our operation went relatively well. After removing the sand and earth which were piled up in the lobby in the ground floor, we rescued the books and materials which had been preserved in the secretariat office and library, and took them to the first floor.

In the afternoon, our operation advanced to temporary transferring the folklore materials and artefacts which were strained with seawater, sand and earth, and pulp from the repository to outside of the building to be dried. The pulp and sand which included salty water were stuck to many materials, especially metallic artefacts and were progressively rusting up. Although they urgently required washing by pure water to remove the salt, it was difficult to obtain water and also to secure the preservation space in the present state. We of course considered that they finally had to be transferred to such spaces and to carry out the proper operation, because we couldn’t rescue all the materials, they ended up having to be preserved in the building again. Many materials still remain in a serious condition, so there is no doubt that it requires more help and time for the upcoming operation. As we keenly felt the necessity to continuous voluntary work hereafter, the operation was finished.

After that, we could visit to the Honma family’s whitewashed warehouse which had stood against the Tsunami (please see ‘Miyagi Network News’ vol.118). Although the scars remained on the walls and the roof was in a pitiful state, the warehouse had a dignified air among the heaps of debris which was reassuring. We keenly desire that the whitewashed warehouse will be preserved as a symbol of reconstruction in Ishinomaki City.

 [The Excursus] As for the damaged materials of Ishinomaki Cultural Centre, afterwards they were transferred to each museum in Miyagi Prefecture, and urgent measures being carried out. (written by Daisuke Sato, as a secretariat officer)

NB: The photos are all from the homepage of the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials.

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About Nerwork for Historical Materials
A volunteer group for preserving Cultural Heritage suffered from natural disasters

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