Miyagi Network News vol.160

~Participation in the preserving operation for waterlogged materials~

Hisashi Watanabe, Professor of Hitotsubashi University

 On 24th February, I participated in the preserving operation for damaged materials held by the Miyagi Network, with Professor Masaki Wakao and members of Hitotsubashi University, including my seminar students.

 Immediately prior to the day, over 22nd to 23rd February, I myself looked around the devastated area from Ofunato City in Iwate Prefecture to Ishinomaki City in Miyagi Prefecture, guided by Yoshiyuki Saito, Professor of Tohoku Gakuin University. By the Tsunami, some of the houses, which we visited, lost a huge amount of historical documents along with their warehouses which had contained those materials. Notwithstanding their tragedy, because Prof Saito’s research group had taken digital photos of all the documents, invaluable data was preserved. As I saw the people who sincerely appreciate their efforts, I again recognised the importance of daily operation for researching documents whereabouts, tidying up, and taking digital photos. And I acknowledged that this quiet dedication would pass these materials onto the future.

 The preserving operation on 24th was held in the lobby of Floor 11 in the building for all humanities research of Tohoku University, where we could have a great view. The contents of our operation were to clean up the waterlogged materials. We removed the mud by bamboo-made pallets and brushes, and sprayed ethanol onto the pages where mould grew. When the pages were firmly adhered, they were carefully peeled off by a bamboo-made pallet, after being sprayed with water. If they were not teased out, we did not take any chances and passed them onto the operations at a later date. According to the members of the Miyagi Network, these procedures were the first stage of the entire operation, so following that, they will be treated with  further measures such as washing with water and being dried.

 In the morning, because we preserved the materials whose extent of damage was not serious, we could smoothly advance with our operation, although we occasionally felt difficulty to judge whether the stains came from mould or other reasons. However, in the afternoon, the materials which we treated had severe problems, as a large amount of documents were curled up together, and they could not be separated because of the mud and seawater. We tried to tear them off one by one by bamboo-made pallets and water-spray though, very thin Japanese papers were tightly stuck to each other; we therefore required significant time, patience and attention. In the process of peeling off, we broke a part of papers, then I paused to realise the difficulty of how much effort and time would be required for preserving the materials intact.

 But we were able to finish the operations because Mr Masashi Amano and other members and voluntary workers of the secretariat office of the Miyagi Network closely took care of us. We would like to express our deep gratitude to all of them.

 Additionally, Professor Hirakawa explained the activities of the Miyagi Network and the actual devastation caused by the earthquake which occurred in the past, through the analysis of historical materials. It made us consider that we could discover the facts which we had never known, by rereading the materials from the viewpoint of the disaster and reconstruction. I myself keenly felt that we had to contemplate how the people in early modern times faced natural disaster, through reconsidering the village-owned documents by such points of view.

 These 3 days indeed let me think and learn many things. I would like to burn these moments into my memory and to do anything that we can do, by ruminating upon what we had experienced.

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

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