One year after a devastating triple disaster rocked Japan and shocked the world, UBC Library is commemorating the event with a multifaceted exhibition, providing context, reflection and healing.
Retell, Rethink, Recover, which began on February 20 and runs through April, consists of three phases on display in different parts of the Library system. Each offers a unique take on the earthquake, tsunami and ensuing nuclear crisis that struck Japan last March.
One goal is to move beyond the headlines and provide a deeper consideration of the disaster and the people whose lives it affected.
“In North America, UBC Library is one of the best-equipped places to tell this story,” says Shirin Eshghi, Japanese-language librarian and exhibition organizer. “Because we have such a rich Japanese collection, we can provide context for this tragedy, and I think we have a responsibility to bring this to light. What is the history of this place and its residents? How has Japan dealt with and overcome previous disasters? We have the opportunity in the Library to fill these gaps.”
The Retell section highlights disaster prints and historical maps produced during the Edo (1600-1867) and Meiji (1868-1912) periods. All materials are from the Library’s exceptional Tokugawa maps collection, housed at Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC).
Rethink includes materials gathered from members of the UBC community who were in Japan during the disasters, or otherwise impacted. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant incident is discussed, and photos and social media archives figure prominently.
Recover, meanwhile, features items from UBC’s Asian Library collection, as well as contributions from community members and alumni. This section highlights Japan’s history of recovering from adversity, and includes information on the support between Canada and Japan during times of crisis.
“I hope to raise awareness about this incredible disaster and the damage it inflicted on Japan,” says Asato Ikeda, who is curating the exhibition along with Eshghi and Katherine Kalsbeek, an RBSC librarian. “Also, I think the nuclear issue is relevant to everybody who consumes nuclear energy.”
Ikeda, a PhD student in UBC’s Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory, came to Canada from Japan seven years ago. Her family was in her homeland during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Her father-in-law was rescued by a helicopter, and her mother-in-law escaped a mudslide that claimed several lives. Ikeda’s brother-in-law, a firefighter, joined the rescue forces.
On March 10, a free one-day conference co-sponsored by UBC’s Department of Asian Studies will feature talks from scholars on Japan, and personal accounts from UBC students, faculty and alumni.
Kozue Matsumoto, a Vancouver-based UBC alum who completed her MA in the Department of Educational Studies, had family in Japan during the disaster
(she wasn’t able to contact them for a week), and her Twitter feed archives from that time will be featured in the exhibition.
Matsumoto hopes the show will help people reflect on nature and the way natural disasters are viewed by different cultures.
While the 2011 emergency is now past, many pressing concerns remain, such as the mental health of survivors.
“How can we as a global community support and cooperate to take care of these long-term issues?” she asks.
Matsumoto is involved with the BC Japan Earthquake Relief Fund
http://bc-jerf.ca, and is helping plan an anniversary benefit concert to be held at Burnaby’s Nikkei Centre on March 11.
Retell is at Rare Books and Special Collections, located on level one of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre; Rethink is located in the main lobby of the Learning Centre; and Recoveris at UBC’s Asian Library. Ike’s Café in the Learning Centre will also feature portraits of earthquake survivors, a project sponsored by the Japan Foundation and Shiseido, the cosmetics company.
The one-day conference will be at the Dodson Room, located on level three of the Learning Centre.
To register, and for more information on the exhibition, please visit
Related topics: arts