Completion of emergency measures to rescue damaged artworks of the Rikuzentakata Municipal Museum

Carrying damaged works out of the Rikuzentakata Municipal Museum
Cleaning the backside of canvas

 The Great East Japan Earthquake that hit Japan on March 11th of this year resulted in a tsunami that caused extensive water damage to the entire collection of the Rikuzentakata Municipal Museum in Iwate Prefecture. The Museum exhibited and stored cultural artifacts and natural science specimens. It also stored oil paintings, calligraphy works, and block prints done by local artists. After the disaster, these artworks were transported from the site to facilities under prefectural control in the City of Morioka by curators dispatched by museums belonging to the Japanese Council of Art Museums. Emergency measures were then taken to rescue these works.
 At the site of the Rikuzentakata Municipal Museum, most of the surrounding buildings had been washed away, and only part of the damaged frame of the museum remained. On July 12th and 13th, curators surveyed and packed the works in the collection under a hot sun and then transported them to facilities under prefectural control in the City of Morioka. Many of the works were quite large (sizes 200-500) and some works were severely damaged by mold since the air temperature had risen after the works were exposed to seawater, so the works had to be fumigated prior to emergency efforts. Works were fumigated from August 9th to 16th and emergency efforts began on August 21st. Close to 700 curators and conservation specialists from Hokkaido to Kyushu came from the Japanese Council of Art Museums to participate in the efforts. They worked non-stop to clean paintings and plaques and mold-proof works so that they would be able to survive interim storage in museum repositories. In total, 156 works were fully treated and delivered to the Iwate Museum of Art repository on September 29th. Plans are for the City of Rikuzentakata to deposit these works with the Iwate Museum of Art in the future. Rescue efforts were undertaken by the Japanese Council of Art Museums, the Iwate Prefectural Board of Education, the City of Rikuzentakata’s Board of Education, the Iwate Museum of Art, and the National Museum of Art. Efforts were supported and coordinated by the Cultural Property Rescue Program Committee (of the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo).
 Works survived this massive disaster and were cared for by numerous individuals so that they can be protected and handed down to future generations. Fervent hopes are that these works will not lie dormant in museum repositories but that they will have the opportunity to entertain the public.

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