Extracts from the Miyagi Network News XXIb

Preservation of the regional history at Sendai City Museum

Published on 20 May 2011

Author(s): Network for Historical Materials/Shinichiro Kurihara

Type:  Blog/Situation report Vol 121 Part 2

The preservation activity of the Compiling Room for regional history of Sendai City Museum~

Some investigations had been carried out at one third of the places before. As we researched tens of owners’ houses, we strongly felt that almost all families had cherished and preserved their historical materials very carefully from the original times. A family whose archives had been inspected by us forced to live elsewhere because their main house were seriously damaged by the quake.

However, although they were in such a difficult situation, they transferred their archives to the warehouse which wasn’t damaged so seriously, and preserved them. Moreover, as for the historical materials which were newly discovered from the main house and turned out to belong to the early modern and modern times, when we explained their worth, the family told us that they tried to preserve them, too.

People who realise the contents and the worth of their owned materials surely have interest in the preservation of those materials. Although this has already been discussed thoroughly, we sincerely understand that continuing this activity for preserving and investigating about the regional, historical and cultural heritage from the ordinal times is the shortcut to protect those precious things.

Furthermore, at the houses which we first visited, there were many cases where we could newly find the historical materials and then the owners decided to preserve them. An old family who had been engaged as the community manager in the early modern times, the master of the house had wondered that he would understand his ancestors and household’s history from the ancestral archives which he possessed, however he thought that he couldn’t interpret them by himself.

For this reason, when we suggested to tidy them in our museum, he seemed to have great interest with it. Also, another old family who were considered that they had worked as the village officers, they ended up to have a strong feeling that required us to investigate their old folding screens and archives.

There were also some unpredictable accidents in our patrol. The house which we mistook for another old family’s house was notable for producing the village mayor in the Meiji Period(*1). The master of the house is exerting himself to preserve the traditional life utensils which had been particularly used in this community, therefore, he said there were some old archives and utensils in his house.

Additionally, according to a person who offered us the parking space when we went around the devastated area, his family produced the village mayor in the Taisho Period(*2), so we got information from him that his family had modern time’s archives concerned with the construction of the elementary school at that era. We consider that we have to ask them to investigate their historical materials in another time.

However, our patrolling investigations were not entirely going well. Because we didn’t contact with them previously, so some families were absent, and some families showed unpleasantness or wariness of our sudden visits. A family in a house which was recently reconstructed never opened the door so our conversation had to be through the Entryphone, and at another notable family whose old stately gate was very impressive refused to see us in front of the gate.

Furthermore, when we interviewed the old family about the degree of damage and took some photos with their permission, whereas another family member turned back to the home and castigated our activities, therefore we couldn’t continue our operation.

Each person has their own views about their own historical materials, so their attitude to us depends on the people who meet us, for example, whether s/he was the master of the house or not, or elderly people or not. Moreover, even in the usual times, some owners have antipathy for showing and talking about their possessions or having photos taken.

We suppose that such owners probably feel so strongly in the situation as they became sufferers of the quake. Although there is a risk that we bother the owners right after the quake, yet the later we visit, the greater the risk the historical materials would be scrapped. In such a situation, we keenly recognised the difficulty of our research, for example, timing of appealing for preservation and how to establish the concrete method to visit the owners.

However, if we are afraid of a failure, we can’t rescue the historical materials which are facing the danger of disappearing. We will try to continue our patrol investigation and gather information about the damaged materials. It depends on the circumstances, we will have to carry out some rescue activities.

In case of such a situation happen, we appreciate the Miyagi Network to cooperate us. In addition, some members of the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials participated this activity.

*1 Meiji Period(明治時代): A division of Japanese history which spanned from 1868 to 1912.

*2 Taisho Period(大正時代): A division of Japanese history which spanned from 1912 to 1926.

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