Yale library symposium explores preserving history in the wake of disaster

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Ansei Kenmonshi (Record of observations in the Ansei era) about events of the time of the Ansei earthquake in 1855. It is the earliest donation of a Japanese book to East Asia Library, given by Myra Higgins, White Lake, Michigan in 1868.

Titled “Responding to 3-11: Preserving History in the Wake of Disaster,” the forum will take place 2:15–6 p.m. on March 27 in the International Room at Sterling Memorial Library, 120 High St.

Presented by the Yale Library’s Standing Committee on Professional Awareness, and with the support of the Council on East Asian Studies at Yale, the forum will explore the conservation of archives impacted by the disasters, as well as efforts to protect archives from future disasters.

“The utilization of information from past disasters, like the Kobe Earthquake of 1995, during more recent disasters reminds us that building a practical platform can be used to foster ‘preventive activity’ for future catastrophes,” stated Haruko Nakamura, librarian for the Japanese Collection, who is one of the organizers of the symposium. “With this in mind, we can turn to the question of how past knowledge was used in the 2011 disaster, and what should be done in order to prevent such dire consequences in the future.”

Symposium speakers will discuss born-digital archives (i.e., materials that originated in digital form) relating to Japan’s 2011 disasters. They will include Professor Helen Hardacre and doctoral student Konrad Lawson of Harvard, who will discuss that university’s Digital Archive of Japan’s 2011 Disasters Project, an important effort to preserve multi-lingual records relating to the disasters.

Okumura Hiroshi, a distinguished historian of modern Japan at Kobe National University, will also speak at the forum. Hiroshi has led efforts to create an archive of materials related to the 1995 Kobe earthquake. As head of Kobe University’s “Community Outreach Center” (Chiiki Renkei Sentā), he has spoken and written on a number of issues related to the preservation of historical materials after major disasters, and has compared records from the 1995 and 2011 earthquakes to help improve archiving and preservation methods.   

For more information, visit the event’s website.

In conjunction with the symposium, there is a small exhibition featuring Japanese language materials on the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami in the East Asian Reading Room (Sterling Memorial Library, Rm. 222). Visual materials on display have been selected from the Yale Library collections. The exhibit was prepared with the assistance of Tsunoda Takuya, a graduate student in film studies and East Asian languages and literatures. The East Asia Library at Yale University is committed to acquiring a variety of resources on all aspects of the disaster of March 11, 2011.

Yale University Library’s Standing Committee on Professional Awareness strives to encourage professional growth and the development of librarianship as a dynamic profession. The committee organizes a regular series of forums devoted to a wide range of topics concerning initiatives in Yale libraries and academic libraries in general. SCOPA welcomes suggestions concerning possible future forums.

For more information, visit http://www.library.yale.edu/scopa/.