Miyagi Network News vol.155

 ~The rescue operation for books and materials in Ishinomaki Culture Centre~

The books and documents in lobby and staircases

 This is Daisuke Sato, a secretariat office of the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials. Over 2 days from 27th to 28th of December, we carried out the rescue operation for damaged books and materials in Ishinomaki Culture Centre.

Ishinomaki Cultural Centre is a complex facility containing a historical museum, art museum, and a big public hall. This centre is located at the estuary of Kitakami River, and the tsunami which occurred on 11th March flooded the ground floor, and some officers fell victim. Additionally, the tsunami also affected many collections such as archaeological and folk-cultural artefacts and old documents, which had been gathered by local historians. The ‘Mouri collections’ were also affected. Those artefacts had been taken out in order by the Governmental Rescue Committee as from May, and they are now being treated urgently in the temporary holding place. We, the Miyagi Network also participated in the rescue operation on 15th May (detail report is in Miyagi Network News vol.127).

In the Centre, there were many books about municipal history donated by each area in Japan, Archaeological survey reports and over 15,000 arts or local history books. Those had been left for over 9 months after the Earthquake and the Tsunami. Because the rescue activities by the people in the Ishinomaki Culture centre had limitations; we the Miyagi Network therefore held the rescue operation, as a response to their request. Participants reached 22 members in total, from home area, Tokyo, Yokohama, Kyoto and Kobe.

The working area was the lobby and the staircases to the first floor of the centre. Those were places where the members of the Miyagi Network had removed the cars filled with mud and sand, on 15th May when we had carried out the rescue operation here. During the operation, we took out the municipal history books and document collections whose conditions were relatively good, and did basic cleaning measures. The books which had already dried in shade were almost desiccated; however they were caked with sand, mould and pulps which had been flushed out from neighbouring paper factory. We got the dirt out of them one by one, by using brushes and scrubbers. The books and documents, which were cleaned, were transferred to the temporary holding space in the first floor beyond the long staircases.

Because the electric power still hasn’t been completely re-installed, we had to carry out operations during the daytime, although the season was immediately before winter solstice. Of course, the electric heaters run by private electric generator were prepared. Nevertheless, we felt quite chilly since the snow was falling from 16th night to 17th morning and the sun went behind the clouds in the afternoon. In such situations, we rescued approximately 1,500 books through our maximum effort. These books which were mainly about local history were very precious ones which were now very difficult to obtain. We would again like to express our gratitude to the people who participated in this operation.

When museums and galleries are affected by natural disasters, historical materials, artefacts and the documents will be extended a hand as rescued objects, because they are cultural properties and official documents. Actually, in the East Japan Earthquake, we and other institutions respond so. On the other hand, museums and galleries generally possess many books as the background material for officers and visitors. If those are affected, who will rescue them, and how? Many books still remain in the centre which we could not rescue during this time operation, and we sincerely worry about them. The budgets from the government are limited. Moreover, if the budgets are sufficient, some books must be difficult to obtain because municipal history books and reports are often published very few or already being out of print.

Although we have to survey examples of other museums affected by the East Japan Earthquake, personally, it was a learning experience because there could be a necessity to establish the system or network for rescuing those books collected as the background materials in museums and galleries.

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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