Overview of the Cultural Heritage Disaster Risk Management Center

At a Glance

The National Institutes for Cultural Heritage founded the Cultural Heritage Disaster Risk Management Center to protect cultural heritage from all types of probable disasters. The Center works on nationwide initiatives for cultural heritage disaster risk management. The Center also collaborates with many organizations and experts to aid in effectively rescuing cultural heritage as quickly as possible when disasters strike.

Our Three Missions

  • Take every possible precaution to prevent damage entirely.
  • Minimize the severity of damage when it does occur by getting the right information, making the right decisions, and responding quickly.
  • Prepare and maintain the functionality of a disaster response network to effectively support and carry out rescue operations for cultural heritage when severe damage occurs.

Our Five Functions

Building Regional Disaster Risk Management Networks

Establishing and Streamlining Regional Networks
The Center is working to create regional networks that can quickly share information on the nature and extent of damage to cultural heritage when disasters occur. To do this, our members participate in meetings across Japan to promote regional collaboration. These efforts also include conducting interviews and research concerning cultural heritage held by prefectural and metropolitan governments; museums, libraries, archives, and related institutions and associations; as well as regional networks concerning historical materials.
Researching and Proposing Cultural Heritage Considerations Required for "Local Disaster Management Plan"
Under the "Basic Disaster Management Plan," each prefecture must establish their own "Local Disaster Risk Management Plan" that contains a section on "Cultural Heritage Disaster Risk Management." Local Disaster Management Plan came under review following the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, and the Center has been working to help each region improve their plans' contents related to cultural heritage disaster risk management. Our work in this area is to give support to regional organizations that utilize findings from research on government bodies that are building advanced networks, to present different patterns for strengthening organizations before disasters strike, and to create initial response systems for use during disasters.

Preparing Disaster Guidelines

Cultural Heritage Disaster Risk Management Network Promotion Council
The Cultural Heritage Disaster Risk Management Network Promotion Council is made up of organizations that handle a wide range of cultural heritage. The council's activities include: information sharing, protecting cultural heritage from disasters through preventive action, and building networks to effectively support and carry out rescue operations after disasters occur. List of Organizations on the Council
Creating Disaster Response Guidelines
The Center created guidelines on appropriate actions to take when natural disasters strike unexpectedly. The guidelines provide insights about how groups and specialists handling cultural heritage can work together and make the most of inter-organizational and regional networks to take quick and effective action.

Developing Technologies for Rescue, Storage, and Exhibition

Working to Build Technological Networks for Cultural Heritage Disaster Risk Management
The Center investigates ways for each of Japan's regions to secure holding facilities, cold storage, and vacuum freeze-drying equipment that can be used to temporarily store cultural heritage damaged by disasters. We also work with transportation companies to secure appropriate transport for quickly evacuating cultural works from disaster sites.
Creating and Publishing Research and Guidelines on Conservation Measures and Storage Environments for Cultural Heritage Damaged by Disasters
Cultural heritage is subject to different types of damage depending on the scope and nature of each disaster. Having a ready-made guideline on hand can be a useful tool for organizations. Our guidelines enable organizations to rescue damaged works and take critical conservation action as soon as possible. Many organizations and specialists have already created several such guidelines for all kinds of disasters, but existing methods may not be readily relevant depending on the type of damage. We also know from observation that, in some cases, initial conservation measures can grow into separate problems over time. In addition to its own full-time specialists, the Cultural Heritage Disaster Risk Management Center is staffed through joint-postings of researchers and conservation science specialists from the national research institutes on cultural properties and the national museums. The Center also works with external specialists to research critical topics, such as ways to apply conservation treatments and ways to maintain appropriate storage environments at temporary holding facilities.
Researching Protective Measures for Exhibiting and Storing Objects in Museums and Religious Institutions
Earthquakes are a frequent occurrence in Japan. Historically, the ability to withstand vibrations has been a desirable trait when designing buildings and other structures. After the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995, museums studied the damage it caused and have been tirelessly developing new and improved devices, notably seismic isolators. In some cases,the age of the building or budget restrictions make it impossible to introduce the latest equipment.The Center conducts research to identify the optimal protective measures to accommodate each site's needs.

Raising Awareness

Training Programs
Taking action rooted in expert knowledge is essential when natural disasters damage cultural heritage. To ensure this is possible, we hold trainings for cultural heritage caretakers working with local government bodies.It is also beneficial to provide training for firefighters engaged in disaster relief and transport personnel who transport cultural heritage.The Center actively participates and sends lecturers to international training programs and symposiums to ensure our country's experiences contribute to cultural heritage risk management all over the world.
Symposiums & Workshops
The Center holds symposiums to promote greater understanding of the importance of protecting cultural heritage to people across Japan and simultaneously increase awareness of our activities. We also hold workshops to help domestic specialists improve their knowledge of available technologies and deepen their understanding of the key principles of protecting regional cultural heritage. Additionally, the Center hosts international symposiums to learn from the experiences of overseas specialists and further improve our technical knowledge.
Sharing Information on Our Website
We regularly post information on our website regarding the Center's activities.In addition to showcasing the activities of organizations related to cultural heritage disaster risk management, we also highlight the importance of everyday precautions when protecting cultural works from disasters, as well as the importance of collective cooperation when things go wrong. The purpose of these posts is to raise public awareness of these activities. The website is also a means for us to collect information quickly when disasters strike.

Collecting and Using Information on Cultural Heritage Disaster Risk Management

Collecting Information on the Activities of Organizations that Protect Cultural Heritage
Recently, public concern has been increasing in Japan about protecting cultural heritage from disasters. Multiple organizations have taken on a wide range of related initiatives. Such organizations include: government bodies and cultural heritage groups on local levels; organizations on the Cultural Heritage Disaster Risk Management Network Promotion Council; and regional historical networks--comprised mainly of specialists affiliated with museums, libraries, and universities that conduct historical research in their region.The Center also collects and posts information on its website related to these groups' research forums, symposiums, and publications.
Advisory Committee for Cultural Heritage Disaster Risk Management
The Center established the Advisory Committee for Cultural Heritage Disaster Risk Management as a means to assemble proposals for building cultural heritage disaster risk management networks. The committee also collects opinions from experts working in diverse fields concerning cultural heritage and disaster risk management, making use of their rich experience and academic knowledge. The committee currently has eleven members and meets twice a year.
Sharing Databases on Cultural Heritage Locations
The Center proposes ways to optimize cultural heritage databases in the future by researching and creating databases that contribute to disaster risk management. These databases also help with rescue and conservation activities when natural disasters occur.
Collecting, Cataloging, and Sharing Database Information on Cultural Properties with Regional Designations
Cultural properties that have been granted national designations are cataloged in databases managed by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, including Cultural Heritage Online and the Database of Nationally-Designated Cultural Heritage. However, cultural properties with regional designations have yet to be sufficiently integrated. We are proposing building a consolidated database of the locations of cultural properties in each region, including movable, immovable, tangible, and intangible properties. This database will contribute to developing risk management measures before disasters occur and will act as a platform to quickly grasp the nature and extent of damage when disaster strikes.
Building the Historical Disaster Evidence GIS Database(HDE-GISdb)
The Center is building a database of evidence of past natural disasters based on data sets from over 10,000 archaeological excavations and over 800 indications of natural disasters.This database could aid in future disaster risk management by shedding light on the history of disasters that were not mentioned in historical documents along with natural disasters from significantly earlier periods.
Compiling a Collection of Past Incidents of Cultural Heritage Disaster Damage
Each disaster visits unique damage to cultural heritage, and a single manual would not likely be able to cover all contingencies. However, compiling a collection of past incidents of cultural heritage that was damaged in natural disasters would allow users to review what kind of damage occurred in each case and how the object was recovered and restored at the time.