Hiroshima and Nagasaki on display


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Atomic bombs have taken over for action heroes in the Main Library’s exhibition lobby.

The Comics and Culture exhibit was retired Nov. 9 to make way for a new exhibit, Material Witness: Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which memorializes the two cities bombed August 1945 by U.S. forces.

“I have just a textbook kind of knowledge about Hiroshima,” said UI Libraries publicrelations coordinator Kristi Robinson-Bontrager. “The exhibit makes that whole piece of our history not history anymore. It makes it real.”

The exhibit includes the Hiroshima-Nagasaki poster collection donated by the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

“It is kind of interesting how the visual images tell the story about the bombing,” said Cassi Forbes, a UI student studying health promotion, as she scanned reproductions of drawings made by survivors.

Beneath the posters, books and pamphlets were propped open.

“The purpose of the exhibits is to highlight our collections,” Robinson-Bontrager said. “To pull out pieces of our collections that people might not know we have.”

Ideas for the library’s displays come from librarians, students, faculty, and outside museums.

Each exhibit featured in the Main Library is allotted $1,000, although many do not require that much because most materials come from library collections, Robinson-Bontrager said.

In a case at the foot of the library staircase, UI senior Benjamin Kaplowitz studied a book through the glass case.

“The pictures drew me in,” he said, pointing to a series of black-and-white snapshots of a man making motions to describe the bombing.

“The exhibit’s a lot different from the comic books last week,” he said.

Though the Hiroshima bombings occurred more than 6,000 miles away from Iowa City, UI librarians said they tried to include local angles.

“Even if the theme is big and wide, we normally consider adding a connection to the university,” UI Japanese studies librarian Chiaki Sakai said about planning for exhibits.

The current display includes a large, “nuke-free zone” sign donated by Iowa City, information from related classes on campus, and the Sept. 11, 2008, issue of The Daily Iowan featuring a visit from a Hiroshima survivor.

The glass display cases also feature red origami cranes perched amid the books and posters.

“In Japan, we make 1,000 cranes to make a wish,” Sakai said, and the Hiroshima Memorial Park has an area dedicated to paper cranes that people donate.

The Main Library will host an origami crane-making event on Dec. 3.

“I am hoping we can send 1,000 to Hiroshima, too,” said Sakai, who is also the exhibition committee head.

At the closing of the exhibit, the Main Library will host a live webcast from Hiroshima with a survivor of the bombing.

“Considering how old they are getting, we don’t want to miss this opportunity,” Sakai said. “People in Hiroshima and Nagasaki are making tremendous efforts to store the presentations, but it just isn’t the same. You can’t ask questions. It loses something.”

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