A dozen paintings hang from the white walls of a gallery at the Museum of Modern Art in Hayama, Kanagawa Prefecture. Mostly prewar works by artists involved in the Proletarian movement, who focused on depictions of factory and farm laborers, the paintings are like many others on display at the museum — except that alongside each is a small photograph showing the same works cracked, scratched and, in many cases, caked in dirt and paper pulp.

It turns out this isn’t just any exhibition, but a happy report to the people of Japan that this series of oils, once the pride of Ishinomaki Cultural Center in Miyagi Prefecture — an institution that was almost completely destroyed by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011 — have been restored to very nearly their original condition.

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