Main building of Peace Memorial Museum expected to reopen in spring 2019 with new exhibits

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is now carrying out the third large-scale renovation effort on the main building since the facility originally opened in 1955. The main building, which has been designated a national important cultural property, was scheduled to reopen in summer 2018, but due to additional structural work that is needed, the reopening has been delayed until the spring of 2019. However, the new exhibition plan has already been determined: many more A-bombed artifacts, including personal effects of victims, will be displayed so that visitors to the museum will become more mindful of the individuals who perished that day.

With the new exhibition design, visitors will be able to clearly visualize the atomic bombing through photographs, including those taken by the late Yoshito Matsushige on August 6, 1945, the day of the bombing. Mr. Matsushige was a photographer for the Chugoku Shimbun. Some 40 school uniforms, work pants, and school bags that belonged to students who were mobilized to help tear down buildings in the city center to create a fire lane, and were subsequently killed by the atomic bomb, will all be brought together and displayed in one location. Surrounding these exhibits will be iron doors and handrails that were deformed by the massive blast released by the atomic bomb, and the floor will be covered with stones and roof tiles that were melted by the bomb’s intense heat rays. “The exhibition design is intended to help visitors clearly imagine the destruction of Hiroshima as they stand in front of the exhibits,” said Shuichi Kato, the head of the museum’s curatorial division.

According to Mr. Kato, the museum staff are selecting items from among the museum’s large collection, and widely-known artifacts, such as a charred lunch box, will be placed individually in glass cases, along with a photo of the person who once owned the item and notes of explanation. In this way, the exhibition design seeks to personalize each A-bomb victim and convey the fact that the atomic bomb deprived them all of their future.

In contrast, the previous exhibition design had a more fixed format. Based on a review of that previous design, the renewal of the main building will present a greater variety of items, and artifacts that had been put on permanent display in the main building will be exchanged with other items so that the condition of these artifacts can be better preserved. Horrific aspects of the atomic bombing that cannot be conveyed through personal possessions and photos will also be communicated through drawings of the atomic bombing that were made by the survivors themselves.

The passage that leads to the exit will become an open space where, at the end of their tour of the main building, visitors can reflect on their feelings and on peace while at the same time being able to look out at the Peace Memorial Park.

The Peace Memorial Museum was established as a peace memorial facility based on the Hiroshima Peace Memorial City Construction Law. In fiscal 2016, when then U.S. President Barack Obama visited Hiroshima, a record high 1,739,986 people visited the museum, and since that time the number of international visitors has continued to rise significantly. In conjunction with the start of seismic reinforcement work, the City of Hiroshima began reviewing the exhibition space and renovating the main building and east building, with the east building having reopened in April 2017.

(Originally published on January 3, 2018)