Photo of badly burned A-bomb survivor to be exhibited at entrance of renovated main building of Peace Memorial Museum

by Kanako Noda, Staff Writer

On November 7, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, located in Naka Ward, held a meeting of a committee comprised of experts at the International Conference Center Hiroshima. The committee members are providing advice for a review of the museum’s exhibits and they voiced their approval for the final plan for the exhibition space in the main building. The main building is now closed for renovations and is scheduled to reopen to the public in July 2018. The museum plans to exhibit an enlarged photo of an A-bomb survivor with severe burns on the wall of the first exhibition space so that visitors will see it when they enter the building. This approach to the exhibition, which seeks to highlight the catastrophic effects of the bombing on human beings, hopes to make clear what happened in Hiroshima after the atomic bomb was dropped.

Ten members of the 11-member committee attended the meeting. The museum staff explained their idea of exhibiting the photo of the man (now deceased) who was badly burned by the bomb and lying on a bed at the Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital (in today’s Naka Ward), saying that the photo could convey the tragic consequences of the atomic bombing on human beings without words. The photo, which is 2.4 meters high and 3 meters wide, was taken by the late Shunkichi Kikuchi, 1916-1990, a photographer whose images vividly captured the catastrophic devastation caused to Hiroshima by the atomic bomb.

One of the committee members wondered if it was appropriate to use the photo of this man as a representation of all A-bomb victims, given the fact that the man was actually a soldier of the Chugoku Military District Weaponry Division in Hiroshima. Other members, though, argued that even soldiers should be treated the same as ordinary civilians when they are injured and that this would not be problematic if a suitable explanation is offered to the question of why the photo of the soldier is used. The museum staff responded, “The photo itself, and the expression on the man’s face, are very striking. We would thus like to ask for the committee’s understanding with regard to our rationale for choosing this particular photo from a wide selection of other photos.” Finally, it was decided that the photo of this man would be used unless a better substitute is presented by the committee.

Other members expressed concern that photos and items that depict vivid scenes of the damage and destruction may shock visitors. However, the museum staff responded that, “It would be impossible to exhibit the photos and items in a way that is acceptable to all visitors. We feel it is important to show them so that visitors can fully grasp the true consequences of the atomic bombing.” They went on to say that they will seek to ease this concern by posting notes of caution at appropriate locations.

Other exhibit items will include the school uniforms and bags that A-bomb victims were wearing at the moment that the atomic bomb exploded above the city. Large items, such as a door damaged by the bomb blast, will also be displayed.

(Originally published on November 8, 2017)