Art April 11, 2012 By Aiya Ono

Courtesy of Salvage Memory Project

Courtesy of Salvage Memory Project

headerlostandfoundnew Lost and Found
March 11th, 2011 was an unforgettable day for those who witnessed their homes, their schools, and their neighborhoods get swallowed by a massive tsunami. All things familiar disappeared in just a few minutes, leaving people in utter shock. In the town of Yamamoto in Miyagi prefecture, 50% of its surface area was flooded, damaging more than 4,000 buildings. Lying in the mountains of debris were years and years of personal photographs, physical archives of memories that were once taken for granted.

Two months after the quake, research students of the Japan Society for Socio-Information Studies. traveled to Yamamoto and began to collect these photographs and albums. The “Salvage Memory Project” quickly caught the attention of professional archivists and photographers through Twitter and other social media sites, and they offered to help. The task was extremely cumbersome and tedious. The volunteers discovered 750,000 photographs, which were cleaned and put into Google’s image archive service Picasa. With Picasa’s technology, the Salvage Memory Project was able to create a system in which photographs could be searched by either facial recognition or keyword. As a result, out of 750,000 photographs recovered, 19,200 were returned to their owners.