Centennial of US entrance into WWI lures visitors to museum In this Feb. 16, 2017 photo a docent walks past a French artillery piece at the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Centennial of US entrance into WWI lures visitors to museum
Lexile

Crossing a glass walkway that spans a field of 9,000 poppies, visitors to the official U.S. memorial to World War I are transported in time. That is when tanks and air warfare were new. Hopeful flowers sprang up on the barren, trench-dotted battlefields. That landscape is where hundreds of thousands of soldiers died.
 
But this place is a museum in Kansas City. It is housed under a tower that rises 217 feet into the Missouri sky. It is topped by a giant flame and was the site of a remembrance March 6. It marked the 100-year anniversary of the United States entering the war.
 
The poppies that visitors pass while entering the museum represent the 9 million combat deaths of the Great War. About 116,000 were Americans.
 
"In Flanders fields the poppies blow. Between the crosses, row on row," goes a famous poem about the Belgian battlefields. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers died there. It was the war's Western Front.
 
With the centennial of the fighting drawing more attention to the war, more than 200,000 visited the museum last year. That was an increase of about 50 percent from three years earlier. They included visitors from more than 70 countries.
 
The site's Egyptian Revival-style monument was erected in a burst of postwar patriotism after $2.5 million was raised in less than two weeks in 1919. That amount would be equal to about $35 million today. Children helped raise funds. They went door-to-door, collecting money in what was "an early 20th century story of crowdsourcing," according to museum spokesman Mike Vietti.
 
So noteworthy was the achievement that Allied commanders from Belgium, Great Britain, Italy, France and the U.S. gathered in 1921 to dedicate the site. It's located across the street from the Kansas City train station. More than half of U.S. troops passed through the station before being shipped overseas. When the monument was completed five years later, a crowd of more than 150,000 turned out. They heard President Calvin Coolidge speak at the dedication.
 
But years of deferred maintenance led the site to be closed in 1994. A massive $102 million transformation followed. It was funded by a sales tax, bond issue and private donations. The exterior was repaired. The design firm that was behind attractions such as Washington's Holocaust Memorial Museum was tapped to create a new museum that would tell World War I's story of assassination, empires swept away and new nations born. The site now is known as the National World War I Museum and Memorial. It was made official in legislation that President Barack Obama signed in 2014.
 
The museum's collection of documents and artifacts has a global breadth. It covers the period both before and after the U.S. entered the war. The conflict ended in 1918 with the Treaty of Versailles. But many historians believe the treaty's terms helped set the stage for World War II a generation later.
 
Among the items used to tell the complex story of the connection between the two wars is the tunic and cape of Paul von Hindenburg. He was a German commander and national hero. He later became Germany's president and in 1933 appointed Adolf Hitler chancellor.
 
Visitors can also see the rapidly evolving weaponry that led to widespread casualties. There's a British torpedo, a U.S.-made Naval mine, a life-size replica of a British biplane known as the Airco DH.2 and a French Renault tank. Vietti described the tank as a weapon of "terror as well as a weapon of war."
 
One exhibit highlights the damage an artillery shell would have done to a house in the French countryside. Another allows visitors to glimpse inside replicas of the trenches where soldiers fought and often died. In the Horizon Theater, World War I film footage plays on a 100-foot screen. It rises above a full-scale tableau of no man's land.
 
The site's original museum now hosts rotating exhibitions. The latest one highlights propaganda posters.
 
Matthew Naylor, the president and CEO of the museum, keeps his grandfather's wartime shaving kit on display in his office. While issued by the British, it was made in Germany. He noted that the two countries were trading partners before the war.
 
The "fragility" of world relations at the time, Naylor said, has parallels to today that "some would say are ominous."

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why were people so eager to contribute almost 100 years ago?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (7)
  • alis-har
    4/12/2017 - 02:59 p.m.

    People were so eager to contribute almost 100 years ago because they want to know how people are making a change in the world. Like how we act how we talk how we learn. People want to know more about our history also which means they want to make a contribute.

    • allisons-kul
      4/19/2017 - 03:37 p.m.

      I agree that people may want to learn more about our country's history. It is a good point you brought up about people wanting to know how people are making a change in the world. Great comment.

  • hayleel-ste
    4/19/2017 - 01:57 p.m.

    The people were eager to contribute 100 years ago because they wanted to know how people were back then and how the change what all it would result in.

  • allisons-kul
    4/19/2017 - 03:34 p.m.

    People were so eager to help as a tribute to those who risked their lives for us. Many people associate fallen soldiers with respect. Many people would be willing to help with things that are ways to repay fallen soldiers or veterans. Not many people are willing to risk their lives, but they are willing to repay the ones that are willing.

  • samanthas-1-ste
    4/20/2017 - 02:12 p.m.

    People were eager to contribute because they wanted to know what things were like back then. I would want to know, so I would help out.

  • garyttt-kul
    4/21/2017 - 03:26 p.m.

    I have always been interested in the history of weaponry and warfare. Weapons and warfare have come a long way in the past century. Nowadays, wars don't even have to be fought by soldiers on the ground because we have missiles and drones and satellites that can be controlled remotely. Next thing you know we’ll have robots like in the Terminator movies.

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