Positive impressions and high expectations for new exhibition at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

by Junji Akechi and Miho Kuwajima, Staff Writers

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, located in Naka Ward, previewed its newly-renovated exhibition space on March 8. The main exhibit of the section “Devastation on August 6,” which shows the catastrophic aftermath of the August 6 atomic bombing, features a collection of personal belongings of students who had been mobilized to work for the war effort as well as larger items that include an iron door that was deformed by the A-bomb blast.

The main building has been redesigned to convey the “Reality of the Atomic Bombing,” caused by the A-bomb attack by making use of authentic artifacts which suffered damage at that time. This section which shows the horrific effects of the atomic bombing serves as the introduction to the museum.

In preparation for the reopening of the main building on April 25, the members of the exhibition advisory committee evaluated the exhibition methods and made several recommendations for conveying the A-bomb devastation even more effectively.

Exhibited together in the same large glass case are a number of items that once belonged to mobilized students, including school uniforms worn by girls that were scorched by the bomb, a pair of monpe work pants, a water bottle, and a lunch box. These artifacts convey to visitors the daily lives of the students that were instantly snuffed out by the American bomb. Speaking about the methods used in the exhibition to help visitors grasp what occurred on August 6, Kazumi Mizumoto, the vice chairperson of the advisory committee and the vice president of the Hiroshima Peace Institute at Hiroshima City University, said, “Displaying the items in this way will stir the imagination of all visitors, regardless of their nationality. The exhibits effectively convey the inhumane nature of the atomic bomb and the disastrous damage done to human beings.”

Satoru Ubuki, a former professor at Hiroshima Jogakuin University, commented that the exhibition method is effective at conveying the aftermath of the atomic bombing to students who are the same age as those killed by the atomic bomb and are visiting the Peace Memorial Museum on school trips. But it is important, he said, for the adults who are guiding the students “to provide explanations about why such personal belongings have survived and why they are being displayed at the museum, as well as the thoughts and grieving feelings of the family members of these mobilized students, in taking good care of the belongings before eventually donating them to the museum.”

Displayed on the walls of the main building are vivid photos of people who were severely wounded in the bombing, including a man who suffered burns to his entire body and someone receiving medical treatment for an eye injury. Drawings of the atomic bombing created by A-bomb survivors, which depict people fleeing from the approaching firestorm and discolored corpses, convey the inhuman scenes that have been seared into the minds of the survivors.

Norioki Ishimaru, the head of Hiroshima Shoji, at the Institute of Researching Hiroshima and-or-of Severals AND Area Reviving, shared his appreciation of the new exhibits, saying, “Although some of the photos are very difficult to look at, they implore visitors to think seriously about whether they should permit such a disaster to happen again.” In order to convey to visitors that many people once lived within the grounds of the present-day Peace Memorial Park, Mr. Ishimaru asked museum staff to create a link between the museum exhibition and the remains of the former Nakajima district. The City of Hiroshima has been surveying the park to locate such remains.

Prior to the inspection tour of the renovated museum, the advisory committee, which had examined and discussed the renewal plans and the items to go on display, held a final meeting at the International Conference Center Hiroshima in Naka Ward. During the meeting, museum staff explained the museum’s intent of exchanging the personal belongings every year or two in order to display as many materials and items as possible and to protect these authentic artifacts from deterioration. It was decided, as well, that special exhibitions on specific themes will be held on an ongoing basis.

The exhibition advisory committee was formed in 2010 and its final gathering on March 8 was its 25th meeting. Wataru Imanaka, the chairperson of the committee, said, “We have had various discussions of scientific and objective views. I think that the new exhibition will encourage visitors to think about peace and take action in their own way.”

(Originally published on March 9, 2019)