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Salvaging memories from Japan

The Lost & Found Project displays photos recovered from Yamamoto, a small town in Japan ravaged by the tsunami last year. Sako Shimizu, a project volunteer, describes how each picture was cleaned, digitized and catalogued.

By Steven Louie and Elyse Perlmutter-Gumbiner
NBC News

In the aftermath of the tsunami that devastated Japan in March 2011, emergency responders recovered roughly 750,000 photos in the small town of Yamamoto.  The photos were damaged by mud, oil and water, leaving many unrecognizable.  A group of volunteers came together to begin the task of organizing, restoring and digitizing the photos.  It’s called the Memory Salvage Project and their goal is to return the lost photos to their owners.

Still, nearly 30,000 photos were too badly damaged.  Instead of throwing them away they decided to create an art instillation, displaying the photos on a white wall from floor to ceiling. The exhibit, called the Lost & Found Project, uses sunlight to create a natural setting. The hope is that the images of weddings and birthdays -- common things -- will help people empathize with the victims of the tsunami.

The Lost & Found project concluded its West Hollywood, Calif., exhibit on March 25, and on April 2 they opened a new exhibit at the Aperture Foundation in New York where it will be on display until April 27.