University of Southampton OCS (beta), CAA 2012

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From system to society and safety: Twelve months of Consortium for the Earthquake-Damaged Cultural Heritage of Japan
Yasuhisa Kondo, Takayuki Ako, Yu Fujimoto, Yoichi Seino, Hiroshi Yamaguchi, Tomokatsu Uozu, Akihiro Kaneda

Last modified: 2011-12-18


The Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011 caused immense damage to the cultural heritage and museum collections. Bunkazai Rescue Project, an initiative of the Agency of Cultural Affairs and affiliated institutions, has been providing emergency treatments for tsunami-damaged museum collections [1]. However, thousands of archaeological sites (legally referred to as ‘buried cultural properties’) and historical built structures are still endangered by construction works, which are being carried to (1) remove the earthquake and tsunami debris, (2) relocate settlements and urban facilities from coastal lowland to higher hinterland, and (3) remove surface soil contaminated by radioactive substances from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

In order to provide assistance in the activities for the protection of local heritage, a voluntary initiative––Consortium for the Earthquake-Damaged Cultural Heritage (CEDACH)––was founded by archaeologists, historians, information scientists, and cultural administration specialists after the earthquake [2]. CEDACH is preparing a geospatial information infrastructure, CEDACH GIS, in which local heritage maps and databases are stored and integrated into the nationwide archaeological site database of the Nara National Institute for Cultural Properties. The contents of this database are provided on demand, by means of the autonomous-decentralized Internet GIS, to local administrative offices, researchers, and NPOs for not only planning and executing heritage protection but also urban planning and other restoration processes. Archaeological predictive modelling is also used for consultation. Furthermore, the contents can be used for the education of disaster prevention of cultural heritage, for which an e-learning system will be employed. These activities have long been out of scope in heritage education, and will contribute to forming ‘disaster heritage studies’, a new, multidisciplinary field of research to theorise the way to inherit memories of tangible and intangible heritage lost and damaged owing to the disaster. Case studies are being planned and implemented in close collaboration with local municipalities in the tsunami-damaged areas of Iwate prefecture.

It is strongly felt in Japan after 3.11 that the meaning and significance of GIS has transformed from being geographical information system (GISystem) and related science (GIScience) to being the formation of a social infrastructure based on geospatial intelligence (GISociety) and being a way to secure individual’s safety (GISafety). This paper reviews the activities of CEDACH for twelve months since March 2011 and points out that the significance of GIS for cultural heritage management is also changing along with this trend.

[1] Matsui, A., S. Kaner, and J. Habu (2011) Rescuing archaeology affected by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Antiquity 85.

[2] Kondo, Y., A. Kaneda, Y. Fujimoto, Y. Seino, H. Yamaguchi, and T. Uozu (in press) The CEDACH DMT: a volunteer-based data management team for the documentation of the earthquake-damaged cultural heritage in Japan. CAA 2011 Proceedings.


Consortium for Earthquake-Damaged Cultural Heritage; GIS; society; disaster heritage studies