SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO – A group from Los Alamos, once the building site for an atomic bomb, is making an unprecedented trip this month to a country that was devastated by the weapon.
Los Alamos Historical Museum representatives are traveling throughout Japan to gain that country’s perspective on the impact of nuclear warfare for a planned exhibit. Museum director Judith Stauber, along with a museum registrar and a student intern, flew to Japan Thursday. The team will visit Tokyo, Kyoto and the two cities that were targeted with the bomb — Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
They will meet with a bomb survivor, researchers and leaders from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, Stauber said.
The trip has been in the works for two years. It is partially funded by a $10,000 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported. It also has gotten support from the New Mexico Japanese Citizens League.
The planned exhibit will open in December. Aside from visiting Japan, Stauber plans to collaborate with Japanese-Americans on a display on World War II internment camps in New Mexico.
Los Alamos, known as Atomic City, is home to the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The community is considered one of the wealthiest in the U.S. because of an economy tethered to one of the nation’s largest science laboratories. It’s a city where colorful symbols of atomic energy are displayed almost everywhere.
Bo Jacobs, a researcher at the Hiroshima Peace Institute who will meet with Stauber, said the history surrounding atomic energy is not a story of scientific discovery in Japan. Instead, it’s a story of “people who were killed, who lost family members, who were injured.” In an email, Jacobs said the bomb’s invention took a human toll of anywhere from 129,000 to more than 200,000.
“The differences between the U.S. and the Japanese narratives of the attack — they couldn’t be more different,” Jacobs said.
Stauber said she hopes this visit will help build an exhibit that can bridge that gap between narratives.
“What do we know, and how do we know it?” she said. “And how are we remembering?”