The Report of the Rescue Operation at the Library - Part 1

Rescue operation of books

Published on 5 May 2011

Author(s): Network for Historical Materials/Masakazu Matsushita

Type:  Blog/Situation report

This report is about the rescue operation of books owned by Miyagi Prefectural Agricultural High School from 25th to 27th of April.

The sequence of the rescue operation

On March 29th, Mr. Akinobu Goto who was a teacher at Miyagi Prefectural Agricultural High School had requested the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials about taking emergency measures because the Japanese books which had been stored on the ground floor of the alumni association hall had been damaged by the Tsunami. Mr. Daisuke Sato who is a secretariat member of the Miyagi Network had answered them about the rescue method which was updated on the Homepage of the Miyagi Network, simultaneously he contacted us whether they had any other ideas or not.

On 31st, I asked Mr. Sato about their electricity and water supply, and whether they could get ethanol, however he answered they had nothing. For this reason, I asked him to tell the high school that there was no other way but they had to continue drying those damaged books in the shade for the time being. 

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Meeting in the secretariat office

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The alumni association hall

On April 19th, the Miyagi Network contacted us again because Mr. Goto urgently asked them to rescue the affected books, so the Miyagi Network also contacted us to initiate the preservation activities as soon as possible. Therefore we immediately decided to rush to the devastated area on 25thApril and coordinated with Mr. Goto. After that, I negotiated with Mr. Sato of the Miyagi Network and Mr.Takahiro Kobayashi of the Yamagata Relief Network for Cultural Heritage about the arrangement for the members, cars for transportation, the necessary materials which we would be able to get in the field (ethanol, etc), the temporary space for safekeeping, freezing facilities, and the vacuum freeze dryer.

We could determine that the rescue operation would be carried out in the Tohoku University of Art & Design, we chose Mr.Kazunori Odate and Ms.Mio Kawano who had specific skills in preserving waterlogged documents, and Mr. Keita Yoshikawa who already had an experience of entering the devastated area, from the Network for Historical Materials of Kobe, as members of rescue operation.

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Confirming the present conditions

The activities on April 25th

We departed from Yamagata Airport by rental car at 10:30am, arrived at the secretariat room of the Miyagi Network at 0:30pm, and then met the members of the Miyagi and Yamagata Networks. After we had a simple meeting about the operation, we headed to the Miyagi Prefectural Agricultural High School at 1:00pm. At 2:00pm we got to the high school, and explained to the members of the high school and the alumni the outline of the rescue operation. Before starting, we confirmed with Mr.Goto about the evacuation route if an extensive aftershock would occur.

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Drying and cleaning the materials

First of all, we began to remove the damaged books at 2:30pm with 20 members of the school. In addition, we asked Ms.Kawano to record these operations on both photograph and film. After we checked the conditions of the waterlogged books which had been dried in shade on the first floor in the alumni association hall, we started the operation in 3 groups.

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Attaching tags

The 1st group removed dirt from the muddy books by brush on the balcony. The 2nd group put tags on the books after being dried and cleaned, and took photos of each title or imprint by digital camera. However, because the list had been already completed, and books had had labels attached for which library managed it, so identification was expected to be easy, moreover the books were too numerous to be completely treated in time, therefore we changed the plan to only attach tags and gave up taking photos of all the books.

In the end tags reached 460 in total, although the exact amount was not clear because some materials were adhered to each other and couldn’t be separated, so we counted those materials as one. As for the 3rd group’s operation, in order to finish attaching the tags, they dispatched them into the container boxes and every adhered book was bound with string. The waterlogged materials which were mainly agricultural books bound Japanese or Western style reached 50 container boxes in total. Those boxes were loaded onto the Miyagi Network’s wagon.

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Dispatching into the container boxes

In addition, we received information that the many waterlogged books still remained on the ground floor of the alumin association hall, so we urgently rescued them. A lot of muddy books were scattered on the bookshelves and the floor, and we carried out as many books with library labels as we possibly could. They were placed on the floor of the dining room, and would be dried in shade for a month. Because those books were left untreated, we could find that some of them were covered with mould. We removed mud to a certain extent, and after wiped them with kitchen paper sprayed with ethanol to sterilise them.

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Loading onto the wagon

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Rescuing books on the ground floor

After exchanging IOUs of those materials with the high school, we left there at 5:30pm, and transferred them to the Research Centre for the Conservation of Cultural Heritage in the Tohoku University of Art & Design by wagons. The members of the Miyagi Network, Yamagata Network and the university classified the Japanese books and the Western books, because each of them had different rescue methods. As for the western books which could stand by themselves, they were dried by electric fan. The members of our Network explained about the upcoming operation after arriving at the centre. With regard to the seriously waterlogged books, we started to dry them by fan.

We finished the schedule and dismissed at 8:30pm.

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

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Spraying ethanol

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The mould on the books

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Drying by the fan

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