Miyagi Network News vol.157

~Participating in the voluntary operation in the secretariat office of Miyagi Network~

Kosuke Kitamura, Postgraduate student in Chuo University

During 2 days from 20th to 21st of December, when the snowy night sky was impressive, Prof Yamazaki and 4 students in his seminar participated in the preservation operation for damaged historical materials held by the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials.

Mr Amano, who was a secretariat officer, carefully instructed us of the work sequence one by one. Because of him and the nice atmosphere of the Miyagi Network, we, who for the first time join the rescue operation, could enjoy the process without feeling lost.

Our operations were mainly dry cleaning, desalination, and the sterilization for waterlogged materials. ‘Do not damage any materials.’ This is common sense, which has been hammered into our heads since we were undergraduate students. However, our operations were an array of various procedures including removing the mud and dirt by pallets and brushes, cleansing materials with water, and spraying ethanol; we therefore always faced the risk of harming materials if we had a lapse of concentration. Time passed by like a flash from morning to evening, and the mental tiredness was more serious than physical tiredness, due to the work in a half-crouching position. Especially, the operation, which immersed materials underwater, acted completely counter to our ‘common sense’ which should avoid putting paper materials near water. For this reason, we were filled with a feeling of tension and hesitation, when we tried to treat historical materials without any harm, which involved very thin papers from early modern times, seemed to be easily torn. Throughout the operation, we not only admired the efforts by the members of the Miyagi Network, who carried out the preservation procedure for a huge amount of historical materials, but also keenly realised that the Eastern Japan Earthquake was an extraordinary situation to which any normal ‘common senses’ did not apply.

It was also a precious experience to communicate with people who voluntarily engaged in the rescue operations. During both days, the participants reached over 10 members including us. As we worked with people who assembled from the local area, outside of Miyagi Prefecture from young students to elderly people, we talked about the trigger for the voluntary work and the situation when the disaster occurred. Almost all people were serial participants, and we were impressed with their attitude in which they hoped to constantly join the preservation activities. I am ashamed to say that it was the first time to participate in the voluntary operations in the devastated area even though I also would like to join in their remaining activities in one way or another.

It was only 2-day-participation, we shared the feeling which tried to rescue and preserve the damaged historical materials with voluntary members, and worked together seriously and in a friendly mood. Moreover, on the first day, we could listen to Prof Hirakawa’s story, and it was extremely meaningful. We would like to express our deep gratitude to secretariat members, and hope that our efforts could reciprocate their courtesy. Thank you very much.

Editor’s postscript

The first article of 2012 was produced by Kosuke Kitamura, who joined our voluntary work at the end of last year. We are most grateful to Mr Kitamura for contributing his article and participating in our operation by a unit of Yamazaki seminar from Chuo University. (written by Daisuke Sato)

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


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

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