Nagasaki curator works alone to preserve atomic bomb artifacts

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NAGASAKI – At the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum every August, Yoshinori Ide puts his hands in prayer in front of an exposed air raid hood.

It was carried by his brother, Yoshitsugu, who died in the atomic bombing of the city on August 9, 1945, when he was 2 years and 7 months old.

With no more photos of his brother, the hood is the only “proof that he lived”.

“At the very least, I want visitors to know that such a small child was the victim,” said Ide, 75, of Nagasaki, who experienced the atomic bombing while still in her womb. mother.

The hood is one of 15,000 artifacts in the museum’s collection, excluding photos and paintings, but only a small portion of them are on display.

Yoshinori’s mother Yae used to stand in front of the hood to pray for at least 30 minutes with a rosary in her hands until her death in 2010 at the age of 91.

His face and arms were badly burned at the time of the bombardment. She was left with a painful memory, telling Yoshinori that her brother couldn’t recognize her face and died without being able to call him.

Artifacts and other materials stored by the museum are kept in a storage facility, except when displayed for permanent exhibition, at special events to showcase newly added items and offered for rental at institutions outside of Prefecture.

The hood was excluded from the permanent exhibition when the museum opened. But in response to Ide’s request to return the item if it wasn’t on display, the museum decided not to exhibit it until August.

THE SINGLE COMMISSIONER FIGHTS THE RAVAGES OF TIME

Seventy-six years after the second atomic bomb was dropped, the city’s Hiranomachi Quarter Museum celebrated the 25th anniversary of its establishment near the hypocenter.

Shotaro Okuno, 35, the museum’s sole curator, looked for ways to prevent the deterioration of the atomic bomb artifacts and to satisfy the survivors who provided the artifacts.

Around 2012, Okuno realized that something was wrong with some pants hanging in the permanent exhibition hall.

The threads were starting to unravel.

The pants were worn by Susumu Tsunoo, then president of Nagasaki Medical College (now Nagasaki University School of Medicine) about 700 meters southeast of the hypocenter at the time of the bombing. Covered with a large number of shards of glass after the explosion, the pants have countless tears and tears and are covered in bloodstains to show the ferocity of the bombardment.

The garment was donated to the museum’s predecessor, Nagasaki International Culture Hall, in 1985.

Okuno considered mending the pants using traditional Japanese “washi” paper and other materials, but he was concerned about the risk of making changes. After considering all the options, the curator decided to put the pants down for display rather than hanging them up.

Okuno was appointed the museum’s first curator in 2008.

Shotaro Okuno, left, the only curator of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, observes construction work at Nagasaki’s Hypocenter Park on June 10. (Mizuki Enomoto)

He was studying at Kumamoto University, specializing in medieval history. But he returned to his hometown after being encouraged by his teacher who told him that hundreds of thousands of visitors would come to see the exhibits.

“I was raised by the hibakusha,” Okuno said, referring to the victims of the atomic bomb.

The museum had not hired any curators, citing that it was not established under the Museums Act. But with the advanced age of the survivors, the city government decided to recruit Okuno.

Another curator hired in 2015 resigned his post in the spring of this year, leaving Okuno sole curator until a replacement was found.

Although Okuno has made various efforts to prevent deterioration, including introducing LED lights to reduce damage to exhibits, he still has many concerns.

“It’s impossible to keep paper and fabric from changing over time. I’m caught in the dilemma of doing nothing and adding irreversible changes,” he said.

LAST CHANCE TO COLLECT PERSONAL ARTIFACTS

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum has eight curators. After it reopened in 2019, it also drew up a plan to replace exhibits every year to prevent deterioration of A-bomb artifacts.

The Nagasaki Museum, meanwhile, added new photos and introduced map projection technology in 2016. However, around 420 artifacts on display remain almost unchanged since it opened.

Envisioning a coming “age without hibakusha”, the city government is scrambling to collect new materials.

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An anti-aircraft hood worn by Yoshitsugu Ide is usually kept in a storage facility at the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. (Mizuki Enomoto)

Last year, authorities sent letters to around 25,300 residents who hold the official designation of hibakusha, asking them to donate related items.

They received various documents such as disaster certificates showing the deaths of six family members.

The curator’s field of action is widening outside the museum.

In 2016, the hypocenter, the former national primary school in Shiroyama, and other ruins were designated by the central government as historic sites.

Okuno is responsible for preserving and maintaining these sites, in addition to conducting research for additional designations of other sites and studying trees that survived the bombardment.

“Now is the last chance to study with the hibakusha and share the values ​​that should be passed on to the next generation,” Okuno said. “I want to sow a lot of seeds.”

During fiscal year 2020, the city government decided to increase the number of curators to three to enrich and transmit the exhibitions.

“The role of conservatives will become increasingly important as they must continue to learn display methods that reach those who have no experience with atomic bombing,” Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue said. “We will recruit them properly and take back the inheritance.”


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