If we asked you what your five favorite World War II movies are, you’d probably have a much easier time answering us than if we asked you what your five favorite World War I movies are.
As a nation, it seems more of our attention is paid to the second of the World Wars, but here in Kansas City we have an amazing resource to help us remember the deep and lasting impact of the first Great War; the National World War I Museum and Memorial.
Why would such a memorial exist here in Kansas City? “It really comes down to the civic-mindedness of Kansas Citians”, said Lora Vogt, the museum’s Curator of Education.
2 weeks after the Armistice of 11 November 1918, which signaled the end of the Great War, the worst war the world had ever seen, a group of Kansas Citians raised over $2.5 million dollars to construct a memorial to honor the fallen. That amount would equal around $34 million dollars in today’s money.
It didn’t take long for those civic-minded Kansas Citians to get the job done. “The memorial was opened in less than ten years from the United States entering the war”, said Vogt. All these years later, the museum is still honoring the fallen in numerous ways.
“We have the most global collection of World War I artifacts in the world… everything from a South African kilt, to a Japanese uniform, to a variety of amazing artifacts right now from Russia that’s in our Revolutions 1917 exhibition,” said Vogt discussing the plethora of exhibitions and artifacts at the museum. “We really tell the world’s story.”
The World War I museum is so full of period artifacts and fascinating exhibitions that you might never be able to see them all. Less than 10% of the museum’s possessions are on display at any one time, according to Vogt.
The museum also takes measures to ensure the whole family can enjoy the experience. “I know the word ‘war’ is in the institutional name, but it really is a great place to bring kids”, said Vogt. “Once a month we look at different stories that connect somehow. Like in January, it’s Winnie the Pooh day. Winnie the Pooh actually comes out of World War I, so does Raggedy Ann, so we have some fun with that.”
The World War I museum is not a completely sad experience either, even though its subject matter centers on a war that created a huge death toll.
“Part of our job is to share the terrible things that were happening in the war,” said Vogt, “we also look at some of the amazing things that happened, and the heroes and stories that come out of that time frame.”
“With our public programs, we have told the story of how World War I changed tattoos and how society perceived tattoos,” said Vogt. Even societal views of fashion and undergarments were changed forever due in large part to World War I, which you can learn more about within the museum.
“There’s all sorts of ways that World War I has had an enduring impact on our nation,” said Vogt, “and many of them are quite unexpected, and not quite as heavy as looking at the death tolls.”
In 2004 the National World War I Museum and Memorial was designated by Congress as the nation’s official museum dedicated to World War I. This means that you have the nation’s best collection of tools to help you learn more about, or simply to honor, the people that lived through the Great War, right here in your own city. So, get out there and experience one of Kansas City’s iconic landmarks for a unique experience you can’t find anywhere else than right here in the City of Fountains.
To hear so much more about the National World War I Museum and Memorial, listen to our podcast interview with Lora Vogt on EPISODE TWO of Tim and Tom!
Also, check out the museum’s website at www.theworldwar.org for many great resources.
If you like Episode Two, check out more of our PODCAST EPISODES!