War & Museum Pieces Japanese Exhibits Modify World War II History

Article excerpt

Five decades after atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two museums devoted to the bombings are offering new context about the Japanese aggression that led to World War II.

A rebuilt museum opened Monday in Nagasaki, with new displays describing the background of the war from Japan's invasion of China in 1931 through the attack on Pearl Harbor a decade later.

The opening follows the expansion in 1994 of Hiroshima's A-bomb museum. Museums often become the focus of battles over a nation's history - as the United States found out in 1994, when the Smithsonian Institution ran into criticism over a planned atomic bomb exhibition. Critics said the Smithsonian exhibition portrayed the United States as the aggressor for dropping atomic bombs on Japan in August 1945. The critics argued it ignored the argument that the bombs hastened the war's end and saved American lives. Eventually, the Smithsonian scuttled most of the exhibition and simply displayed the plane that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. Likewise, critics said the exhibitions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki focused too narrowly on the victims and damage without explaining what Japan had done to cause the war. In June 1994, the city of Hiroshima added a wing to its A-bomb museum w ith exhibits describing Hiroshima's contributions to Japan's war effort and showing photographs of wartime slave laborers from Korea and China. …


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