Learn about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the Google Cultural Institute

This August marks the 68th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. Working together with the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, we’ve launched seven new online exhibits on the Google Cultural Institute that help tell the story of the two cities and their tragic fate.

Explore four collections from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum that illustrate the bombing from different perspectives: a pocketwatch stopped at the exact time of the detonation, diaries of young women cut off abruptly on August 6, and panoramic photos of the hauntingly barren city center days after. While most of the materials document the harrowing devastation of the bomb and its aftermath, the gallery “Recalling the Lost Neighborhoods” helps archive the old Hiroshima that vanished off the map.
Pocketwatch showing 8:15, the time of the atomic bomb drop (from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum)

The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum meanwhile curated photos, videos, and drawings in three exhibitions. One collection focuses on the famed Urakami Cathedral—the largest cathedral in East Asia where 15,000 Japanese Catholics once worshipped. The church completely collapsed after the bombing, but thanks to a post-war reconstruction effort, the Urakami Cathedral now stands triumphant as a symbol of the city’s rebirth.
Urakami Cathedral exhibition (from the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum)

Speaking at an unveiling ceremony for the exhibits in Hiroshima today, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui said, “Through the Google Cultural Institute exhibitions, we hope that people around the world would learn about the terrible experiences of the Hibakusha, or A-bomb survivors, and wish for peace.”

The Cultural Institute was created to help preserve the world's history and heritage. Given the average age of the Hibakusha is now past 78, we're honored that our digital exhibit can help keep the memories from both cities alive for the future.

Scaling the heights of the Eiffel Tower

Since its construction in 1889, more than 250 million people have visited Paris’ iconic Eiffel Tower. The highest monument in the world for more than 40 years (today that title is held by Burj Khalifa in Dubai), the Eiffel Tower remains the most visited monument globally. But not everyone has been or can hope to go—until now. If you’ve ever wondered what the view is like from above the City of Light or wanted to learn more about the Tower’s history, now’s your chance to find out.

The Google Cultural Institute and the Eiffel Tower Operating Company have teamed up to create three immersive online exhibitions which blend fascinating historical material with a sprinkling of technological magic. In order to capture the imagery, the Street View team followed in the footsteps of 7 million annual visitors and ascended multiple floors of the Tower. Using the Street View Trolley (designed especially for monuments and museums) they filmed 360-degree views of the monument’s architecture and its views over Paris.

These modern-day Street View panoramas sit alongside nearly 50 archival images, plans, engravings and photos telling the story of the Eiffel Tower’s development and social impact in the 19th century. Some of the archive material is quite rare and precious such as a recording of Gustave Eiffel’s voice by Thomas Edison.

The first exhibition presents the birth of the Eiffel Tower from the initial idea until its realization. You can then follow the construction of the monument step-by-step through photos and sketches. Details on the inauguration and the first visitors lie in the third exhibition, with photos of people admiring the Paris vista on the opening day leading into today’s Street View imagery from the top floor. Did you know that during the Tower’s inauguration for the Universal Exhibition of 1889, the elevators were not yet in service but 12,000 people per day rushed to climb the 1710 steps leading to the top?

As a product manager and designer, it’s been awe-inspiring to get to see the spectacular vision and the detailed architectural capabilities exemplified by the plans more than 100 years ago. It required tremendous knowledge of special planning and physics to ensure that 18,000 separately made pieces would come together as one. So if you’ve never visited the Eiffel Tower before, want to get insider knowledge or simply want to re-discover it in a new way, visit our site and immerse yourself in one of the most well-known attractions on the planet.

From Sutton Hoo to the soccer pitch: culture with a click

Museums, libraries and galleries are a tourist staple of the summer holiday season. Often they’re the first place we head to when visiting a new city or town in order to learn about the heritage of that country. Though only a lucky few have the chance to travel to see these treasures first-hand, the Internet is helping to bring access to culture even when you can’t visit in person.

At the Google Cultural Institute, we’ve been busy working with our partners to add a range of new online exhibitions to our existing collection. With more than 6 million photos, videos and documents, the diversity and range of subject matter is large—a reflection of the fact that culture means different things to different people. What the exhibitions have in common is that they tell stories; objects are one thing but it’s the people and places they link to that make them fascinating.

The British Museum is the U.K.’s most popular visitor attraction and the 4th most visited museum in the world. It’s well known for housing one of the most spectacular archaeological discoveries ever made—the 1,400 year old Anglo-Saxon burial from Sutton Hoo, untouched until its discovery in 1939. Their online exhibition “Sutton Hoo: Anglo-Saxon ship burial” explores the discovery of the ship, featuring videos of the excavation and photos of the iconic helmet and a solid gold belt buckle. All this tells the story of how the burial and its contents changed our understanding of what Anglo-Saxon society was like.

From archaeology we take you to sport, which is integral to the culture of many nations, including Brazil. In the lead-up to Brazil's hosting of the 2014 World Cup, the Museu do Futebol has told the story of how the “beautiful game” came to Brazil. The photos, videos and posters in “The Game and the People” track the social impact of the sport and its transition from a past time for the wealthy (with their pleated pants and satin belts) to the modern game.

Science remains a perennially fascinating topic and the Museo Galileo in Italy has put together a series of three exhibitions looking at the link between art and science. The Medici Collections, the Lorraine Collections and the Library Collections examine the beginnings of science and technology 500 years ago and chart developments from the discovery of the sun dial to the Google Maps of today. As well as being informative, the exhibitions include beautiful objects such as the Jovilabe, which was used to calculate the periods of Jupiter’s moons.

So if broadening your cultural horizons through travel isn’t in the cards this summer, settle down in your armchair and browse through through some of the world’s heritage and history online. Keep up to date with new material on the Cultural Institute Google+ page.

Marking the fall of the Iron Curtain

There are certain events in history that are momentous enough to make you remember where you were at the time. This Friday is the 23rd anniversary of one of those moments—the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989.

To mark this turning point in history, we’re releasing a collection of online exhibitions under the theme of The Fall of the Iron Curtain. Partners, including The DDR Museum in Berlin, Polish History Museum, Romanian broadcaster TVR and Getty Images, have created 13 exhibitions containing documents, videos and photos telling the stories behind how events unfolded.

Independent historians have also contributed their expertise. For example, Niall Ferguson, professor of history at Harvard University, provides video commentary on events as part of his exhibition The Fall of the Wall: Revelation, not Revolution.

Some of the other exhibitions include:
  • Solidarity & the fall of The Iron Curtain - the creation and evolution of the Solidarity trade union leading to Lech Walesa's election as President of Poland in 1990
  • Visions of Division - Professor Patrick Major, a specialist in Cold War history, gives an account of life in a divided Germany and the everyday human cost of the Wall
  • Years of change - diary of a fictitious author documenting events in Berlin such as the staged elections, the first protests and David Hasselhoff's concert at the wall
  • The Berlin Job - a personal account of life in East Berlin made by independent curator Peter Millar, one of the only non-German correspondents in East Berlin in the 1980s
  • Romanian Revolution - a series of four exhibitions containing more than 50 videos documenting the live TV transmission of the overthrow of Romanian dictator Ceausescu

The Fall of the Iron Curtain is the latest chapter in the work of the Google Cultural Institute, following the launch last month of 42 online historical exhibitions telling the stories behind major events of the last century. You can explore all the exhibitions on www.google.com/culturalinstitute and follow us on our Google+ page.

If you’re a partner interested in working with the Google Cultural Institute to turn your archives into online exhibitions, we’d love to hear from you—please fill out this form.

(Cross-posted from the Google Europe blog)