Elizabeth Martineau and Stephanie Yeamans address Rotary Club on Los Alamos Historical Society’s outreach to Japanese museums – Los Alamos Reporter

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Elizabeth Martineau, Executive Director of the Historical Society of Los Alamos at the August 17 meeting of the Rotary Club of Los Alamos. Photo by Linda Hull

Stephanie Yeamans, registrar of the Los Alamos Historical Society, speaks to local Rotarians on August 17. Photo by Linda Hull

BY LINDA HULL
Vice president
Rotary Club of Los Alamos

“It was a cultural exchange more than a political one,” said Stephanie Yeamans, registrar of the Los Alamos Historical Society (LAHS), as she addressed the Rotary Club of Los Alamos on August 17.e with LAHS Executive Director Elizabeth Martineau. To recognize the 76e anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during WWII, Martineau and Yeamans were invited to Rotary to talk about the LAHS museum’s awareness of Japanese museums and the Hiroshima Green Heritage project.

In the spring of 2016, Yeamans traveled with Judith Stauber, then director of the LAHS Museum, and Kallie Funk, an intern at the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Museums to establish museum-to-museum relationships between Los Alamos and Japan. With cherry blossoms in full bloom as a backdrop for the tour, the trio visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. Yeamans found museum staff in these cities to be very receptive to open conversation; the dialogue aimed to build understanding around shared global stories. She observed that the Hiroshima Museum tells its stories of the atomic bombing from the “point of view of the Hibakusha, the atomic bomb survivors ”and describes the side effects of the bomb in four categories:“ heat, explosion, fire and radiation ”.

Yeamans also noted that museums in general portray the experiences of the bombings through exhibits of photos of victims, burnt clothes and household remains that help illustrate the personal effects of their stories. Among the most poignant artefacts is a child’s tricycle found in its wake.

For the background, a few exhibits also present the vibrant stories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki before the bombings. Hiroshima, founded as a walled city in 1598, had grown into an industrial center and a major urban center in the 1940s. It sits at the southwestern end of Honshu Island, the largest of the five main islands. from Japan. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nagasaki, meanwhile, was founded by fishermen in 607, nearly 1,000 years before Hiroshima. From the 16the century, it was the main port of entry for international traders and was renowned in the 20e century for its shipbuilding. It lies southwest of Hiroshima on the northwest coast of Kyushu Island, another of Japan’s five main islands that also includes Hokkaido, Shikoku, and Okinawa.

In their meetings, LAHS museum staff and Hiroshima and Nagasaki museum staff shared their “respective museum goals” and have kept in touch since their visit together.

Elizabeth Martineau then spoke of the Hiroshima Green Heritage project, founded in 2011 to “collect seeds from 160 trees that survived within two kilometers of the main impact of the bomb”. These surviving trees, or Hibaku-Jumoku, are “officially registered with the city of Hiroshima” and “carry a message of resilience, hope, survival and recovery”. One of the surviving trees in particular, a 300-year-old gingko, has become “a symbol of hope”.

Seeds and saplings from the 30 surviving tree species have been sent to authorized parks, gardens, schools and institutions in 32 countries and travel as “ambassadors of peace”. In 2017, LAHS received ginkgo seeds from Hiroshima Green Heritage in recognition of his Los Alamos-Japan museum project. Planted in pots and currently at home in the Hans Bethe house, the seeds have grown into two slender saplings that should be part of the landscape of the Oppenheimer house when it is renovated. They will serve as gentle reminders of friendship and goodwill.

Stephanie Yeamans, registrar of the Los Alamos Historical Society, holds a bachelor’s degree in history from New Mexico State University at Las Cruces. She is the third generation of her family living in Los Alamos and says she has “a passion for preserving and telling the stories” of her hometown through her work in the Historical Society archives.

Elizabeth Martineau “grew up as an army ‘kid’ exploring the world. She arrived in Los Alamos in 1986 and was “enchanted by its natural landscape and the deep history of the region”. Martineau holds a master’s degree in educational leadership and has devoted the first part of his career to teaching. She entered the museum world in 2005. After many years of collaboration and volunteering with the Historical Society of Los Alamos, Martineau became its Executive Director in June 2019.

The Rotary Club of Los Alamos meets in person on Tuesdays, from noon to 1 p.m., in the community hall, Cottonwood on the Greens, at the golf course. A Zoom option is available by contacting Linda Hull, Vice President of the Rotary Club, 505-662-7950. Hull is also happy to provide information about the Club and its humanitarian service.


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