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Chapter 2. Overview of the Save the Memory Project

(6)Establishment of Photo Centers

While the photos had been cleaned and organized, and could now be searched by disaster victims using personal computers, there was a problem regarding the location where photos could be viewed. The disaster areas were still in the process of removing rubble, and were in a state of significant disorder, so a location for photo viewing could not be easily secured. In addition to returning photos, there were numerous other needs for recovery related activities, and land that had not been destroyed by the tsunami had become very precious in the coastal region. In these circumstances, we consulted with local government officials as we searched for a location that would meet the necessary requirements. The main requirements were as follows.

  • Ample space in which to place tables and chairs for multiple computers.
  • A power supply and an internet connection environment (mainly ADSL via telephone lines).
  • Shelves and space to store the cardboard boxes in which the original photos were stored.
  • Securing full-time staff to man the reception area and assist in returning photos.
  • A location with easy access so that photos could be viewed by numerous people.

We named the location where the photos would be returned the “Save the Memory Photo Center” (or Photo Center), and were finally able to open the Photo Center in a temporary tent and prefab building located on an open piece of land belonging to a public agency.
The staff managing the Photo Center included members of the Japan National Council of Social Welfare, volunteers, and temporary employees.
The Photo Center was equipped with numerous computers. Most of them were kindly provided free of charge by Fujitsu Ltd., while others were donated and some were rented by the local area. We also searched for computers that could be used within Ricoh as part of this activity, and those computers were provided as well.
A significant amount of shelving and other equipment was also donated by volunteer groups from around Japan.

In order to begin returning photos at the Photo Center, we first had to let all the disaster victims know about this activity. We coordinated our effort with local governments and various organizations, and conducted aggressive PR locally. We also prepared posters to notify people about the Photo Center, and issued a Ricoh press release when the Photo Center was opened. The issuing of the press release resulted in the project becoming widely covered by the mass media. Articles were written in newspapers and the project covered by television news programs, and as a result, even more people became aware of the photo return activity.

Minamisanriku Town Photo Center

Rikuzentakata City Photo Center

Onagawa Town Photo Center

Watari Town Photo Center

Poster of Photo Center

Shelves are built to organize recovered photos