Miyagi Network News vol.147

~The Journey to Nara, the Dry Freezing Measure for Damaged Materials~

This is Daisuke Sato, as a secretariat officer of the Miyagi Network for Historical Materials. On 12th August, I visited the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties and its cooperative company, the Nara Market Refrigerator Company.

The vacuum freeze-dry machine

At this earthquake, the most outstanding issue is how to respond to the old archives or historical documents damaged by the Tsunami. One of the solutions is the ‘vacuum freeze-drying’ measure. First of all the vacuum freeze-drying machine freezes waterlogged materials at around minus 30 degree, following that, the machine directly vaporises the water thus drying them.

Usually, this machine is used for drying the wooden products which are discovered in the excavation survey. Against this disaster, the Institute of Conservation for Cultural Property in Tohoku University of Art and Design and Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties gave us an offer to provide the machine for drying documents. We the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materialsalready sent 7 groups of documents, and requested the freeze-drying measures. In each institution, the staff and the voluntary workers are carrying out the measure at present.

Confirming the condition

I received contact from Mr Hironari Takatsuma of the Nara National Research Institute, which said the drying operation for Onagawacho Kimura Family’s achives had finished. For this reason, he requested confirmation of each documents’ condition, therefore as I represented the secretariat office of the Miyagi Network, I went to Nara on business.

Before stating my journey, I will introduce you to the sequence of events. In the second half of April, the Miyagi Networkdirectly received contact from the Nara National Research Institute, and they offered their cooperation in providing their biggest vacuum freeze dryer machine in Japan, which is kept in the research centre. On the other hand, how to carry out the freezing operation for a large amount of damaged materials became a big problem for the Institute. Whilst the Institute discussed the shortage of freezing repository space, the Nara Market Refrigerator Company offered their cooperation. According to them, upon hearing that the article stating that there was a lack of freezing storage space in the Institute was pendingbeing published, the company suggested their space to the Institute.

The freezing repository in Nara Market Refregirator Company

At the first time, when I visited at the Institute, I impressively encounter the vacuum freeze dry machine. This machine with a diameter of 1.6 metre is available to manage approximately 120 container boxes all at once, and on the day of my visitation, the drying operation was indeed being  carried out. At this time, my main purpose was confirming the condition of the Kimura Family’s Archives. Observing the progress of the drying operation, the measure for the other damaged historical materials which had been transferred from Kesennuma and Sendai City had also been done, and were  piled up in the boxes. With regard to the Kimura Family’s Archives, when they had been rescued from Onagawacho on 12th May, they had been literally soaked by the seawater; however they were now completely dried up thanks to this measure. In preparation for returning them to Sendai, I confirmed and packed them one by one.

After that, by Mr Takatsuma’s guidance, I visited Nara Market Refrigerator Company in Nara Central Wholesale Market, Yamatokooriyama City in the evening. Mr Shinji Urashima and Mr Tamaki Ito guided me around the freezing repository. In the situation which forklifts actively took luggage in and out, I found that the damaged historical materials which had been treated such as by anti-mould disposition in Sendai were piled up nearly 3 metres high in the corner of the repository where the frozen foods were kept. Those materials will be dried one after another.

The historical materials in cardboard boxes, in the freezing repository

Although those historical materials have been dried, the component parts of the seawater still remain on the documents. At present, it is uncertain how they will effect the documents which are made from the Japanese papers, so their repair will be essential through the salt removal measures or another process. Some of the historical materials which have been dried in Nara National Research Institute have already been cleaned; however we still need to discuss with people concerned how to repair them.

According to Mr Takatsuma and Mr Ito, there was a lot of goodwill and effort from the people concerned when they established the system for managing the historical materials. As the reports of the previous Network News vol.145(by Mr Masashi Amano) and vol.146(by Ms Ikuyo Nomura), the various urgent measures are advancing gradually, but steadily in the devastated area, through the work of the secretariat office and each place in the whole country with support from the many people such as repair specialists and voluntary workers.

Simultaneously, we could obtain the common sense to establish the system which works for repairing and conserving the cultural properties at ordinary times involving the preparation for the emergencies such as great disasters. Moreover, we also have to set up the system which is enables the historical materials endure the long-term safekeeping by the cooperation between the institutions which carry out the preservation activities in the field and the people who have expertise in conservation and repair. We have often mentioned in the Network News about the necessity to construct the system which doesn’t only rely on the goodwill of others. We will require that as a major factor in the upcoming preservation activities for the historical materials.

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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