New exhibit at Dayton’s International Peace Museum focuses on cluster bombs, Vietnam War

Special related events are scheduled Thursday through Saturday.

A new exhibit at Dayton’s International Peace Museum spotlights Southeast Asia, the Vietnam War and the use of cluster bombs and munitions by the United States.

“The Secret War: UXO in Laos” combines photos, drawings and artifacts to raise awareness about the deadly effects of the hundreds of thousands of non-detonated cluster bombs and landmines in Laos.

“I think people don’t realize that when a country like the United States gets involved in wars and they drop cluster bombs, people think when the bombs hit, they do what they do,” Kevin Kelly, executive director of the International Peace Museum, said.

Bombs that have been sitting in fields or stuck in the ground since the Vietnam War can cause severe injury or death for those who find them. They are often found by children who think the bombs are toys.

“I want people to stop and think about why are we still using such a primitive weapon that will undoubtedly cost a lot of children their lives later,” Kelly said. “It may be effective in the short-term militarily, but eventually and for decades, it could be killing people and oftentimes, it’s children.”

Kelly said this exhibit draws some parallels to what is happening in the war in Urkraine. According to the Associated Press, President Joe Biden agreed to provide cluster munitions to Urkraine in July. Alice Young-Basora, director of education at the museum, said that solutions to the issue are something the exhibit should highlight.

“So often, we hear about just hopeless scenarios in other countries, and that should be part of the focus, but what can we do to make it better,” Young-Basora asked. She suggests people use their collective power — view the exhibit, speak up and maybe have some second thoughts about what’s going on.

The exhibit is a collaborative effort with the Peace Museum, University of Dayton Human Rights Center and Legacies of War, an organization that raises awareness about bombings in Vietnam during the war and the unexploded devices that remain.

Several events are related the the exhibit are scheduled for this week. The exhibit runs through Oct. 7.

“We’re bringing in partners on this and presenting three different days. Thursday will an enjoyable evening learning about this. It will be interesting to hear her (Legacies of War Director Sera Koulabdara) perspective,” Kelly said.

The museum will be open Friday, Sept. 8 from 2-5 p.m. and tours will be given by Kelly and Koulabdara. On Saturday, author George Black will speak about his new book “The Long Reckoning,” which addresses the issue the exhibit portrays.

The events are free and open to the public, but donations are always accepted. The museum also offers Peace 101, which is a program for students and teachers for grades for and up. This includes a tour of the museum and its exhibits and focuses on problem-solving, setting goals, nonviolence, and creating compassionate and caring communities. Young-Basora said that the program can be transformative for young people.

“Our goal is to do things and make it fun with sly learning. We use a lot of peace through art and the way I see kids interact and get collaborative with each other is pretty powerful,” she said.

The museum also caters to churches, synagogues, kids with special needs and other disabilities. They eventually want also to offer services to first responders and other groups.

“Everybody needs to be heard and listened to and have a chance to say something and talk about these things. And a lot of the problems can go away in some respects by just being heard and expressing it,” Kelly said.

The museum is located at 10 N. Ludlow St. It is open Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Group tours and scheduled events take place Tuesday through Thursday. Contact the museum at 937-227-3223 or visit

How to go

What: The Secret War: UXO in Laos exhibit runs at the International Peace

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday or by appointment through Oct. 7

Where: International Peace Museum, 10 N. Ludlow St., Dayton

More info:

Related programming

7 p.m. Sept. 7: Legacies of War Director Sera Koulabdara leads a gallery walk of artifacts, art, and photographs from the secret war in Laos in the 1960s and 1970s and the aftermath of cluster munitions that continue to kill and maim civilians today.

2 to 5 p.m. Sept. 8: Reception and tours.

2 p.m. Sept. 9: George Black, author of “The Long Reckoning,” speaks about his new book, signs copies, and holds a Q&A. Dr. Paul Morrow of the University of Dayton Human Rights Center will join Black in connecting the historic events of the past with the recent decision to use cluster munitions in the ongoing war in Ukraine.

About the Author