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How Over 90,000 Photos Were Salvaged From the 2011 Japan Tsunami

Imaging and electronicS company Ricoh helped return 90,000 photos to their owners.

The 9.0 magnitude earthquake that hit Japan in 2011 caused a monstrous tsunami, the power of which the country had never before seen. The disaster completely devastated Japanese infrastructure and took almost 16,000 lives. To this day, families still continue to search for loved ones who went missing. When the dust cleared, victims of the earthquake went sifting through the rubble in search of salvageable belongings. But in a disaster zone, rescuable objects are prioritized by their utility, and sentimental items, like photos, seem a frivolous luxury when lives have been lost.

It’s for that very reason, however, that personal photos acquired more meaning and sentimental value in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami, especially for people who had lost friends and family to the disaster. Japanese photo imaging and electronics company Ricoh set out to recover these photos and, in effect, help preserve the memories of lives lost and happier moments of the past. The company created the Save the Memory Project, a four-year long endeavour to retrieve, repair, and return the photos damaged and scattered across the country by the tsunami. The company officially put the project to bed this month and, as of March 8th, are responsible for the return of 90,128 photos to their grateful owners. Click through to the slideshow to learn about the long and challenging process of recovering lost memories.

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