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Chapter 2. Overview of the Save the Memory Project

Explains the basic flow from the recovery of photos from the disaster site to their exhibit and return.

Clean photos

Clean photos

Scan photos

Scan photos with digital copiers to store on cloud


You can search your photos on PC browser


Your photos (original and digital) are returned

(1)Recovery of Damaged Photos

A staggering amount of photos were washed away by the tsunami. The photos became mixed in with rubble, covered in mud, and scattered violently. A considerable number of photos also likely disappeared in the ocean. However, the photos that were scattered on the ground were generally collected by the Self-Defense Force troops, firemen, and police officers who conducted the initial search for missing persons or clearing away of rubble, and those photos were then left on the roadside.
Photos that were left on roadsides were gathered at one location by people from government organizations, private sector NGOs and NPOs, and other volunteers involved in initial recovery support activities. In addition, activities were launched to clean and exhibit photos at local sites even when electricity and water services had not fully been restored.
Temporary photo exhibits were setup as emergency measures, and numerous disaster victims visited those exhibits to search for lost memories. However, it took a significant amount of time to walk around and view the vast number of photos that were exhibited over entire floors and walls, and thus there was a need for a simpler method.
In addition, the number of photos collected from amongst the rubble continued to increase day by day, and speedy, reliable treatment to prevent the photos from becoming even more damaged became a pressing issue.

In order to clean and digitalize the huge amount of photos as quickly and efficiently as possible, we began by first securing a dedicated location to work on the photos. We searched for a location with a certain amount of space that was as close as possible to the regions that were damaged by the tsunami, and where necessary infrastructures such as electricity, water, and transportation had been restored. We ultimately decided to use one corner of a distribution warehouse operated by the Ricoh Group.
The warehouse is located in the city of Natori in Miyagi Prefecture, close to downtown Sendai, the largest city in the Tohoku area. It was re-named the “Natori Save the Memory Factory”. Later, the Save the Memory Factory was expanded to include the “Tokyo Save the Memory Factory” (base for cleaning and digitalization work) located in the Ricoh Omori Office in Ota-ku, Tokyo, and the “Ebina Save the Memory Factory” (base for cleaning operations) located in the Ricoh Technology Center in Ebina, Kanagawa Prefecture.

Photos gathered from the disaster-stricken areas were gradually brought to the Save the Memory Factories. During the time that package delivery services were not yet fully restored, we used a rental car to deliver the photos to the factories and also shipped the photos via a makeshift post office. After delivery services were restored, we then used those services.

Photos gathered at the roadside

Photo albums damaged by the dirt

Photos are gathered at the warehouse

Some photos are damaged by bacteria

Recovered photos are displayed (Minamisanriku Town)

Recovered photos are displayed (Watari Town)

Photos are carried by a rental car

Photos arrived at Factory Natori

Save the Memory Factory Natori

Save the Memory Factory Natori

Save the Memory Factory Tokyo

Save the Memory Factory Ebina