Peace Memorial Museum begins experience program for young people to clean A-bombed exhibits

by Junji Akechi, Staff Writer

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum located in Naka Ward, kicked off a trial program for university and high school students to experience cleaning A-bombed artifacts on display at the museum. Since A-bomb survivors are growing older, the program was designed to provide young people with an understanding of the importance of the A-bombed artifacts collected and displayed at the museum. For the time being, the museum will coordinate with universities and high schools that show interest in the program, and provide students with the opportunity to clean exhibits on an irregular basis.

The students will clean the materials on display in the “Devastation on August 6” section of the museum’s main building. This section exhibits larger A-bombed materials not in glass cases. These items include the brick wall, the distorted iron frames, and the chunk of metal molten by heat rays. These artifacts are directly displayed in this section so the visitors can feel the materials firsthand, but dust tends to accumulate on them easily. Currently, the curator cleans the section once a week after the museum has closed.

At the beginning of this month, a cleaning trial was undertaken for the first time. Chinatsu Ikeda, 20, a resident of Asakita Ward, and Terumasa Maru, 20, a resident in Asaminai Ward, took part in the program. Both are second-year students at Hiroshima City University who joined the university’s extracurricular program entitled “Ichidai juku (Hiroshima City University’s academy).” Receiving advice from Yukimi Dohi, the museum’s curator who said, “...this part of the material is brittle, so, be careful...” the two students carefully removed dust from artifacts with dusters, and vacuumed them.

Mr. Maru said, “I felt nervous because I thought once the material was broken, it wouldn’t be restored to the original condition again.” Ms. Ikeda said, “I was able to gain hands-on knowledge about the museum’s attempts and efforts to convey the damages of A-bombing to the visitors and protect the materials on display.”

In April, the museum renewed the exhibits that put more focus on the real A-bombed materials. As 74 years has passed since the atomic bombing, and with the survivors advanced in age, the museum staff has struggled how to convey the sorrow embedded in the artifacts of A-bomb victims to visitors more effectively. Shuichi Kato, Deputy Director of the museum, said, “I hope young people will imagine how the family of victims felt, and understand the value of these A-bombed artifacts by experiencing themselves what those who preserve the museum’s collection do.”

Since the exhibit space is narrow, only a few people can experience the cleaning at one time. The trial will continue in consideration of the participants’ impression, and the workload of the curator who gives advice to the participants. Mr. Kato said, “We want to institutionalize the cleaning experience program in future. We wish we could establish a process in which young people can support the operation of the museum.”

(Originally published on December 16, 2019)