Atomic bomb exhibit opens at Portland State

    Portland Mayor Tom Potter welcomed delegates from Hiroshima and Nagasaki Thursday night as a traveling exhibit chronicling the World War II atomic bomb disasters made its Portland debut at the Littman Gallery at Portland State.

    ”We are honored to welcome the delegation to our city,” Potter said, noting the city’s strong ties to Japan. “Our responsibility is to ensure this [disaster] never happens again.”

    The traveling exhibit has visited 27 other cities in 11 countries before its stop in Portland, the first time the exhibit has been shown in the Pacific Northwest.

    ”We hope the people who visit this exhibit will understand the cruelty of the atomic bomb,” said Saito Tadaomi, chairman of the board of directors for the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation.

    The exhibit will provide an un-tampered view of the atomic bombings that devastated the two cities at the end of World War II, and will include artifacts, photographs and videos. The traveling exhibit has covered the globe since 1995, traveling from Washington, D.C. to countries as far away as Russia and Austria.

    Created by the citizens of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the goal of the exhibition is to create awareness about the devastation caused by nuclear weapons, as well as to develop a sense of empathy for the victims of the 1945 atomic bombings.

    ”We’re hoping for awareness, empathy and political savvy,” said Laurence Kominz, director of the Center for Japanese Studies, the group that is hosting the event, “so that one can take an attitude of non-proliferation into consideration as a citizen.”

    The principal speaker of the event, Sasao Akira – a survivor of the bombing of Nagasaki and a naval cadet at training school during the time of the bombings – will be giving a talk, entitled “The Personal Account of a Survivor of the Nuclear Attacks,” on Friday, Nov. 3 at noon in Smith Memorial Student Union, Room 228.

    ”I’m afraid if I don’t speak up all those memories will be forgotten,” said Akira, who lost both parents in the bombing.

    The material seen in the exhibits will be entirely complete, and though some people may have seen pictures and artifacts before, they will be unhampered by media restrictions at the PSU exhibition. Many famous photos will be on display, and there will be artifacts from the bombed cities, including articles of clothing worn by victims, household items and a large array of horrific images.

    ”We started planning a year ago,” Kominz said, “and the exhibition will be timely because of North Korea’s timetable, which was unknown when we started planning last year.” Kominz said it is very important that people know what happens when nuclear weapons are used. “They will learn that from this,” he said.

    The one unique thing about the exhibit, according to Kominz, is the level of compassion shown by the display. “The exhibition will not vilify the country that dropped the bomb,” Kominz said.

    According to Kominz, the United States is home to a very small minority that would not want any pictures of the victims of American military action to be displayed. He said the Smithsonian Museum’s own 1995 exhibit on the nuclear attacks was subject to controversy, and right-wing activists were eventually able to close down any pictures of suffering on the ground.

    These particular exhibits, however, will show the real suffering felt by citizens of the two cities, and will not censor what happened or take any jabs at the morals behind the nuclear attacks. “Free media is so absolutely essential to our democracy,” Kominz said.

    The largest number of visitors the exhibition has seen was in Atlanta, Ga., totaling nearly 15,000. According to Kominz, numbers seen in the exhibition’s history have ranged from only 3,000 to the Atlanta total of 15,000.

    Kominz said he hopes that because of PSU’s central location, a high number of people will visit the exhibits. “Volunteers will count the number of people attending per day,” Kominz said. “We’ve had already 70 to 80 students volunteer. It’s wonderful to see so many students involved so soon.”

    The exhibit will run through Nov. 29, and is open on Monday through Friday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. and on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Those running the exhibit recommend that most children under 12 not attend because of its graphic nature.

    In addition to the speech given by Akira, Lisa Yoneyama, from the University of California, San Diego, will present “Competing Views on the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima” on Friday, Nov. 10, at 6 p.m. The film Black Rainwill be the third part of the event and will be shown on Monday, Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. at Fifth Avenue Cinema.

?”Additional reporting by Owen Smith