This fall, a conference in Boston and New York will bring together Japanese and American high school students, atomic bomb survivors (hibakusha), and the general public. The sessions will explore innovative digital archives on the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Professor Hidenori Watanave of Tokyo Metropolitan University, who is now a Visiting Scholar at the Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard University, developed the online Hiroshima and Nagasaki Archives in 2010-11. The Archives superimpose firsthand accounts from hibakusha on maps of the cities. Viewers can watch survivors’ testimonies and understand exactly where they were in the moments they are recounting. Users can learn about how different areas were affected by the bombings and how local people reacted, and view maps of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki areas to compare changes over time. Visitors can also leave messages reflecting on these testimonies. The program can be accessed from a home computer or on smartphones or tablets.
The Hiroshima and Nagasaki Archive programs are based on the work of Japanese high school students who have conducted interviews with survivors. The Archives are updated annually with new interviews. Most of the material is in Japanese, but is beginning to be translated into English. Watanave has produced similar programs on the Battle of Okinawa and the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The conference, scheduled for the end of September, will introduce attendees to the Archives and encourage dialogue between American and Japanese high school students about the impact and legacy of the atomic bombs. Students will visit museum exhibits and meet hibakusha living in the United States. Watanave has conducted many similar conferences in Japan, and hopes that bringing such a conference to the United States will allow for special reflection and the creation of a truly global “memory community” as the number of people who experienced World War II firsthand decreases.
Watanave has conducted a successful crowdsourcing campaign in order to secure the necessary funds to bring students from Japan to the United States. Using the power of firsthand accounts, the conference and digital archives promise to be important ways to encourage global reflection on the history and legacy of nuclear weapons.
We will continue to provide updates on the progress of this initiative as they become available. More information is available on the conference website.