WILMINGTON — Barbara Reynolds’ family witnessed firsthand the horrible effects of radiation poisoning in the years following the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima and set sail in in a small yacht to protest nuclear weapons throughout the world.
Wilmington College students, two years ago, created a poster exhibit documenting their incredible story of traveling 54,360 nautical miles and stopping at 122 ports on a peace mission.
This spring, a class in Public History Practice gathered artifacts and original videos, and created an interactive display on an iPad to complement the dramatic posters.
This new exhibit, a sort of “Voyage of the Phoenix 2.0,” will run weekdays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., May 8 through Aug. 1, at WC’s Peace Resource Center (PRC) at 51 College St. An opening reception with refreshments will be held 6-8 p.m.
Rachel Ellison, the adjunct faculty member whose class created the exhibit, said she assigned her students tasks “as if they were actually working in the field.”
Kyle Short, a senior education and history major from Trenton, serves as marketing director. He has been publicizing the exhibit while also assisting in its production.
“It’s been cool to work with the artifacts and learn the stories,” he said. “It’s been especially interesting to get hands-on with the exhibit.”
They’ve secured from the Reynolds family and other sources such artifacts as the Phoenix’s compass and sextant, a melted vase and charred roof tile from Hiroshima and original maps of nuclear testing sites from the 1950s.
“We believe the roof tiles were among the items actually collected by the Reynolds family when they were in Hiroshima,” added Bryn Kelley, a junior from Montgomery with a self-designed major in historic preservation. She serves as director of collections.
“By including these artifacts with the posters, we’re trying to make the exhibit more real to the audience, and to relate it to what’s going on today with regard to the threat of nuclear war.”
Ellison was impressed to learn the close affiliation Barbara Reynolds had with Wilmington College. She established the Peace Resource Center at WC in 1976, a place she selected as the depository for materials on the atomic bombing that hastened the end of World War II, yet left 140,000 dead and dying.
“This has ben a great opportunity for these students to learn public history hands-on, through these artifacts and primary sources,” Ellison said.
In 1954, Reynolds and her family began a four-year “Peace Odyssey” in which they sailed around the world in their yacht to protest the development, testing and use of nuclear weapons in the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima.
The poster exhibit highlights the family’s global journey between 1954 and 1958 that propelled them to antinuclear and peace activism. WC students who produced the posters include senior Maraya Wahl and juniors Ellyse Herr, Hillary Mitchell and Jessica Fair.
Following World War II, Barbara Reynolds’ husband, Earle, was a scientist with the U.S. Atomic Bombing Casualty Commission in Hiroshima who studied the impact of radiation on the child survivors of the August 1945 atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
After the three-year study on the harmful effects of radiation, Barbara, Earle and two of their children, Ted and Jessica, decided to leave Hiroshima and sail around the world.