Museum mannequins, depicting A-bomb victims, may be preserved after removal for special exhibitions

by Kohei Okata, Staff Writer

As it pursues a major renovation of Peace Memorial Museum, the City of Hiroshima is planning to remove the mannequins that depict A-bomb victims from the museum’s main building. At a committee meeting of experts on January 7 to discuss the renewal of the displays, the participants confirmed that the mannequins will be removed, but decided to request that the museum keep the mannequins in storage and perhaps use them for special exhibitions.

Ten of the 11 members of the committee attended the meeting at the International Conference Center Hiroshima, adjacent to Peace Memorial Museum.

The renovation work will be made in line with the idea of displaying real objects connected to the atomic bombing, such as the victims’ personal belongings. The chairman of the committee, Wataru Imanaka, said, “We plan to convey the devastation of the atomic bombing in better ways than displaying the mannequins. The decision to remove them need not change.”

The other members of the committee voiced no objections and reconfirmed the city’s plan to remove the mannequins from the museum around March 2016, when the seismic retrofitting of the main building is carried out.

With the assumption that the mannequins will be preserved in the museum’s collection, the participants made such proposals as using them at special exhibitions and creating an area to show the history of the museum’s displays. They will continue to discuss the matter.

As of December 24 of last year, the city had received 577 telephone calls and emails objecting to the removal of the mannequins. Akihiro Katsube, 43, a company employee and a resident of Saeki Ward, is leading a petition drive to protest their removal. “The mannequins must be permanently on display,” he said. “I can’t agree to the plan to hold them in storage.”

At the committee meeting, the experts also discussed how the exhibited items should be explained. Various suggestions were made to change terminology, such as “civilian use” of nuclear energy instead of “peaceful use.” Suggestions were also made about adding explanation regarding the psychological trauma suffered by the survivors.


Mannequins depicting the A-bomb victims
Located near the entrance of the main building of Peace Memorial Museum are three mannequins, depicting a woman, a girl, and a boy fighting to flee the devastated city with their burnt skin dangling from their arms, held out in front of them. These mannequins were put on display in 1991, replacing ones installed in 1973. The museum plans to complete the seismic retrofitting of the main building by fiscal 2017 and conduct renovation work for the whole museum, including the east building, in fiscal 2018.

(Originally published on January 8, 2014)