Miyagi Network News vol.139

—About the rescue operation by the Compiling Room for Sendai City History

1.The Investigation of Damaged Historical Materials in Sendai City Area

This is Shin’ichiro Kurihara, a member of the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials. As I told you before, the Sendai City Museum is now tackling the preservation activity of historical materials co-operating with the Miyagi Network. We are patrolling around each area in Sendai City (especially, the outskirts around the old castle town), visiting the old families whose properties had been investigated and are presumed to possess historical materials, inspecting the extent of damage and appealing to preserve them (as for the research methods and the situation of our activities, please see the Miyagi Network News vol.121). After we started on 20th April, as of the 14th July, the total number of workdays has reached 30 days and we have already visited 244 places of old families, temples and shrines. The following is the report of our activities over the last 2 months.

In terms of the recent patrol, we are mainly visiting the old families which we haven’t investigated before. The participants in these activities were the officers of the museum, and writers of the ‘Sendai City History’, and some secretariat officers of the Miyagi Network. Because a number of enquiries about the damaged historical materials in Sendai City have reached the Miyagi Network, we are sharing information and investigating in cooperation with them. As well as that, we were supported by the citizens and the local historians who have researched the community’s history, as they gave us useful information concerning the old families in each community and the owners of the historical documents so as to select the visiting place.

From the middle of June, we patrolled each area in Sendai City for the second time. Regrettably we had to confirm that several historical materials had been already scrapped due to the impact of the Tsunami though, on the other hand, we could grasp that half of the old families which we had visited possessed and preserved some of their historical archives. Among them, there are many families which we will want to ask for further investigation in the future. Furthermore, we could have some cases, where we newly discovered the old documents which couldn’t be found in the previous visit. According to the family, they found them so they had preserved without question as a response to our appeal. Until now, we had mainly appealed to preserve to as many families as possible, so we had just carried out the survey on each family though, we would like to investigate the materials in detail hereafter.

In the coastline area, there were cases where we could discover the waterlogged old archives in the old houses and temples damaged by the Tsunami. Those were kept in our museum, and some of them were passed to the rescue project for the cultural properties by the Government Agency after carrying out measures such as spraying them with ethanol. In terms of these waterlogged documents, please refer to the following report by Ms Kurahashi.

Separating from the patrol activity, we dispatched the letters which appealed for the preservation of historical materials to the owners who had been investigated before, not only the people living in Sendai, but also in the whole of Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima Prefectures. With regard to the people living outside of Sendai City, because we expected that Sendai City Museum might not be able to respond to all of their requests, we announced that they should ask the Miyagi or Fukushima Network instead of the museum. As a result, our appeal could persuade some owners not to scrap the documents, and some consulted with us on how to treat their arts and old archives.

In addition, in terms of the activities by Sendai City Museum, the exhibition about the history of the earthquake and the Tsunami in Sendai Plain and the rescue activity in response to the East Japan Earthquake is now taking place on the 28th August. Fortunately we have gotten many people’s approval for this exhibition. Through the patrol investigation, our appeal and the exhibition, we would like to let as many people possible recognise the value of the historical materials around our community, and let them consider the upcoming preservation so as to pass them onto the future.

 2.The Rescue Operation of the Historical Documents Waterlogged by the Tsunami by the Compiling Room of the Sendai City History

This is Maki Kurahashi, a member of the Miyagi Network. I’m participating in the rescue operation which was mentioned above by Mr.Kurihara. My role in the Compiling Room is to tidy up the historical materials. Through the recent trend that informed us of the concrete cases about the preservation activities at the natural disasters, I recognised that I would have a responsibility to the historical materials if a great natural disaster struck Sendai City. In my own conceit, I had got enough information as I had confirmed the reports and papers concerned with that and as I had joined the workshop to learn the preservation methods for waterlogged documents, however when I actually dealt with the damaged materials whose condition was entirely soaked by seawater, spotted in mud, and adhered to each other, I spent days as I wavered about which measure would match them or which manual we should obey.

Fortunately, the lifelines in Sendai City Museum have never been suspended since the earthquake occurred, so we know our circumstances were very lucky. However this fortune brought us a huge amount of damaged materials and also we had limitation in terms of manpower and space, eventually a large part of those materials ended up being passed onto the rescue project for cultural properties by the Government Agency as the number of materials were increasing.

Because the case caused by the Tsunami was an unprecedented one, so the essential information was hard to obtain at first. Nevertheless, as the circle of support has expanded nation-wide and I was getting to be able to consult with the rescue project by the Government Agency, or the concrete methods for treating damaged historical materials were updated on the web page of the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties or some voluntary groups, so now I can carry out the operation with some confidence.

At the moment, although the number of responses for the request from the Sendai City area is gradually settled down, the investigative operations are still continuing, so our preservation activities for historical materials is midway. As we appreciate the people who examine how to manage those innumerable materials damaged by the disaster and introduce to us the latest skills, we would like to prepare for the upcoming operations.

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

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