Main building of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum reopens with 538 items on display

by Kanako Noda, Staff Writer

The main building of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, in Naka Ward, reopens on April 25 with a renewal of the exhibition space that emphasizes the personal belongings of A-bomb victims and a variety of other authentic artifacts. With this August 6 marking the 74th anniversary of the atomic bombing, the passage of time is making the challenge of handing down the A-bomb memories increasingly difficult and the new exhibits seek to move visitors by appealing to their senses.

The exhibition space in the main building is made up of four sections: “Devastation on August 6,” “Damage from Radiation,” “Cries of the Soul,” and “To Live.” The first section, “Devastation on August 6,” and the second section, “Damage from Radiation,” are designed to enable visitors to imagine the terrible damage caused to the city and its inhabitants. The next section, “Cries of the Soul,” seeks to convey the cries of the victims’ souls and the members of their bereaved families with photos of the A-bomb dead and their personal belongings. After this is the section “To Live” in which visitors can learn about the post-war lives of the A-bomb survivors. In all, there are 538 items on display, including 305 authentic artifacts (six of which are replicas), photographs, and drawings that depict the bombing which were made by survivors.

Opened in 1955, the museum has now undergone its third major renovation project. This time, the focus for the main building is on the “Reality of the Atomic Bombing.” The east building conveys such themes as the “Dangers of Nuclear Weapons” and “Hiroshima History,” highlighting the city’s reconstruction after the war and its efforts for “Creating a Peaceful World.” An advisory committee, comprised of experts, began holding discussions on the museum’s exhibits in August 2010. The east building reopened in April 2017 after renovations there were completed.

In fiscal 2018, the number of visitors to the Peace Memorial Museum totaled 1,522,453. The museum attributes the large number of visitors in recent years to the visit made by former U.S. President Barack Obama in May 2016 and the growing interest in the museum after the establishment of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in July 2017. The number of international visitors reached a new high of 434,838 and has risen to a new record for six consecutive years. The Peace Memorial Museum will close at 2 p.m. on April 24 to prepare for the opening of the main building on the following day.

Commentary: Role of the museum grows in significance, with need for stronger messages to be conveyed

by Kanako Noda, Staff Writer

This year marks the 74th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, carried out by the United States. The average age of those holding an Atomic Bomb Survivors’ Certificate is now over 82, thus making it ever harder to hand down the effects of nuclear weapons on human beings to the generations that follow. The role of the museum, which has just undergone renovations with an emphasis on authentic artifacts, will now grow in importance, with the need for even more powerful messages to be conveyed.

About 300 “silent witnesses” have been selected from the museum’s collection. Among these items are clothing and bags that belonged to A-bomb victims and bear scars from the bomb’s tremendous blast and fierce heat rays, as well as other artifacts like an iron frame that was bent by the force of the explosion. Many of the items had been carefully kept by grief-stricken families, as mementoes of their loved ones, then were later donated to the museum with the wish for peace in the world. These artifacts convey the message that each victim had a precious life that was lost as a consequence of the A-bomb attack.

This is the third large-scale renovation project involving the Peace Memorial Museum. The advisory committee tasked with reviewing the exhibits emphasized making use of authentic items, and the wax figures which depicted survivors in the aftermath of the bombing were removed from the exhibition space. The history of the museum is one of trial and error over time, seeking more effective ways to convey the devastation wrought by the atomic bombing to visitors.

The museum has had a surge of interest from abroad since the visit paid by former U.S. President Barack Obama and the establishment of the nuclear weapons ban treaty. In fiscal 2018, the number of international visitors to the museum reached 434,838, hitting a record high for the sixth year in a row. After the renovation, there will also be a newly created exhibit about non-Japanese A-bomb victims.

We must never forget the fact that present-day Hiroshima exists thanks to the survivors, who came through the horrors of the atomic bombing and brought the city of Hiroshima back to life. The museum is now entering a new phase in its efforts to create a space where visitors from home and abroad can contemplate the abolition of nuclear weapons and peace.


Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
The museum’s main building opened in 1955 and the east building opened in 1994. In March 2014, the City of Hiroshima began full-scale renovations of the main building, an important national cultural property, in order to make it earthquake resistant and have the museum as a whole be better able to convey the devastation caused by the atomic bombing and the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons in a way that would be easier to grasp. The east building was closed in September of that year to renovate the exhibition space and subsequently reopened in April 2017. At the same time, the main building was closed for interior renovations and earthquake resistance work. This work to fortify the main building against earthquakes is scheduled to be completed by the end of fiscal 2019. The entire project is expected to cost 7 billion 35 million yen.

(Originally published on April 24, 2019)