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E1420e – Report: Symposium Commemorating Official Launch of the Great East Japan Earthquake Archive

The original article published in Japanese ( )

Current Awareness-E No.235

11 April, 2013

Report: Symposium Commemorating Official Launch of the Great East Japan Earthquake Archive

On March 26, 2013, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications and the National Diet Library (NDL) hosted “Symposium Commemorating Official Launch of the Great East Japan Earthquake Archive: The Records, the Will to Preserve Them and the Effort to Hand Them Down to Future Generations ” at the auditorium of the annex of NDL Tokyo Main Library . Approximately 230 people participated in this symposium.

Tetsuo Yamaori, scholar in religious studies first gave a keynote speech titled “Living Memory and Wearing Memory. ” Referring to two messages that have survived across generations – “disaster strikes when you least expect it” and “forewarned is forearmed” – Yamaori argued that in order to overcome weathering of memories, simple record keeping is insufficient. He claimed that we must learn and absorb the view of life and death as well as view of nature that our ancestors had in living through anxiety and fear in Japan, an island country prone to disasters.

Secondly, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications and NDL introduced “NDL Great East Japan Earthquake Archive (nickname: Hinagiku)  released on March 7, 2013 (see E1413). Described were the purpose of the archive and its system.

This was followed by case reports on collection and preservation of records, where three organizations including libraries introduced their efforts in responding to the Great East Japan Earthquake. Japanese Consumers’ Co-operative Union (JCCU)  described their activities to support the affected people as well as efforts to transmit information about their activities. It was claimed that the best support possible is to continue to report the current situations of disaster-affected regions. Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (JANIC)   noted the importance of recording activities of nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that have enhanced their role in disaster management and response at the frontline of support activities. JANIC highlighted the cost needed for recording, and claimed that the third year after the disaster will become the turning point as human resources, budget, as well as interests will fade away. Based on the experience of collecting materials on evacuations centers at the Mid Niigata Prefecture Earthquake  in 2004, Historical archive section of the Nagaoka City Central Library  reported its effort to collect documents and materials that were discarded as unnecessary at evacuation centers while carefully considering the burden on those who had evacuated to Nagaoka City at the time of the Great East Japan Earthquake. It was also reported that materials were collected in partnership with relevant departments at the city hall as well as private and civil society organizations.

In the panel discussion, Daisuke Tsuda (journalist/media activist)  served as a coordinator in facilitating active discussion among experts with experience of collecting records on the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, the Mid Niigata Prefecture Earthquake , and the Great East Japan Earthquake, on the importance of preserving records, role of archives, and future visions. Arguments made include: “archive development should not be considered independently but rather as part of the overall effort to support reconstruction,” “wisdoms that emerged in the process of recovery and reconstruction should also be archived and be included in a knowledge data base to be used in combination for recovery and reconstruction in future disasters,” “partnerships among industries, academic, governments, and communities are necessary to sustain the archive, and the NDL is expected to be the hub in connecting these actors.”

The symposium was one of the few opportunities for those engaged to discuss in detail the significance of preserving records. Panelists suggested that the next step is to organize a symposium on “wisdom to utilize, efforts to expand” and to enhance “Hinagiku” through reports on developments from various institutions. The NDL hopes to respond to this suggestion, and to continue to make commitments so that the archive is utilized for reconstruction projects as well as disaster management policies.

Handouts from the symposium can be retrieved from the NDL website as well as the “NDL Great East Japan Earthquake Archive.”  Videos from the symposium will also be available in the archive.

Written by Nakamura Wakao
Digital Information Department, Digital Information Distribution Division

Translated by Okada Aya