Powerful New Video In Historical Museum’s Reflections Gallery Leaves Visitors Pondering Big Questions

The Historical Museum’s Reflections Gallery features a short viedo on the bombing of Hiroshima. Courtesy photo

By Heather McClenahan
Los Alamos Historical Society

What are citizens’ responsibilities regarding government secrecy? Has that changed from World War II to today, in the post-Watergate, post-Vietnam War era? What about in regard to nuclear weapons?

These are just some of the questions visitors at the Los Alamos History Museum are contemplating in the Reflections Gallery, where the staff has installed a short new video on the bombing of Hiroshima.

The video, produced as part of the museum’s 2016 renovation, explores the secrecy behind the Manhattan Project, as some of those featured in the film wonder if science has made the world a better or a more dangerous place. In this interactive activity, visitors are asked to think about the modern-day ramifications of the Manhattan Project and write down their ideas on citizens’ responsibilities in regard to government secrets.

For the last two years, the Reflections Gallery has displayed a video on the test at Trinity, and hundreds of visitors have left comments on the question: What responsibility do scientists have for how their work is used?

While many visitors answered the question as asked, many more used it as an opportunity to share their thoughts on the morality of the use of atomic bombs or to argue against or support what other visitors had already written. Just a handful the responses are shared here, as written:

With great power comes great responsibility. Perhaps no person or people should be with that responsibility outside of God.

They have the responsibility of shaping/changing/molding the future with their work. One wrong move we all die. One right move cancer is cured. Science is a deck of cards and the scientists are the dealers and they are responsible for what cards they deal whether it’s a wild card or a lucky one.

The bomb killed many Japanese but saved millions of Americans and millions of Japanese had the war escalated in Japan as they had planned for. Thank you scientists from Los Alamos!!

The fact that the nuclear option has never been used again speaks volumes. Mutually Assured Destruction is a powerful deterrent.

I am from Japan. Although I was born after WWII, the suffering of many innocent Japanese citizens underwent as a result of the A-bomb is astounding. (It still continues as of today.) I strongly believe that science should be utilized to preserve the planet’s well being and beauty for future generations and not be utilized for any destructive measures. We are citizens of planet Earth. I pray that we can all be mindful and caring of the earth for many generations to come.

We all bear responsibility for a safe global community. If we are not scientists or politicians we need to find an effective and collective voice to influence those…and to do the right thing—always.

If this project had not been completed, our country would be very, very different. These scientists were geniuses and devoted persons. God bless them and their families for being such patriots.

I admire the tremendous intelligence, sacrifice, and duty of these people of the Manhattan Project. History gives us time to reflect. At the time, it was the right thing to do. But today I regret that it became part of our military and political policy. But in the end, science has moved us forward and science will be the only thing to save us (climate change, alternative energies, medical cures, etc.) It’s complicated!

One child wrote: “I’ll use my bomb for going to space rather than destroying my world,” and included a drawing of a rocket headed toward the stars.

If you haven’t had an opportunity yet to add your voice to the discussion, visit the Los Alamos History Museum and join in. The museum, just north of Fuller Lodge, is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends.

Admission is free to Los Alamos Historical Society members, residents of Los Alamos County, young people 18 and under, and active duty military.


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