Post contributed by Michelle Wolfson, Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Intern.
This exhibit is based on a lot of things. Its main foci are the horrors and heroes of Hiroshima. Three out of forty-five hospitals remained standing after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, though greatly damaged still, and according to numerous resources, 90-93% of doctors and nurses were killed or injured. The medical staff who survived suffered from pain—physical, emotional, and otherwise—and extreme uncertainty and fear, but gave the best care possible to their community. Even with rumors of the atomic bomb making for unsafe conditions for seventy-five years, they did not leave; and some came from outside the city with offers of help and supplies.
But what are the actual things in this exhibit and what do they mean? For me, it is an exhibit based on letters. Letters to oneself in the form of a diary as seen in the Japanese manuscript written for the medical journal Teishin Igaku. A letter from an artist friend, relieved and grateful to hear of his friend’s survival, in the form of a beautiful scroll. The scroll’s contents were translated and sent by letter to eventually be included in the book that became Hiroshima Diary: The Journal of a Japanese Physician, August 6-September 30, 1945 . A letter—and it is one of many—about the book and the process of it, which serves as a window into the grace, gratitude, and genuine respect and friendship between two doctors. This even became a quest for a missing letter, perhaps Einstein’s last one before passing, still lost but, for me, an education in the world of archives anyway.
It is a story based on letters. This exhibit is my own contribution—a love letter to Hiroshima Diary and its creators, for teaching me about Hiroshima in a new way, and the medical staff and people who survived, as well as those that did not. This is what it is to me, and this is what I wanted to share with you. I hope you find meaning in it as I have.
The exhibit, The Horrors and Heroes of Hiroshima, will be on display from August 17 to October 1, 2023, in the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room. An online exhibit is also available here. This exhibition was curated by Michelle Wolfson, the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Intern. Wolfson is a graduate student in Library Science at East Carolina University and half-Japanese.