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World War I Museum


I did want to mention before too much time passed that I visited the World War I Museum in Kansas City a couple of weeks ago.

It’s a very popular museum and largely a good one. The two videos are really outstanding. I mean first rate. The first explains what is happening in Europe up to the point of the war and the second the U.S. story up to 1917. The first one especially was quite remarkable–do you know how hard it is to explain communism and nationalism to a bunch of yahoos who came in to see some big guns? It’s not easy! The videos used every word very effectively. The U.S. one was pretty well mandatory before entering that side of the museum.

As for the museum displays themselves, I’d say they were more OK than great. There was a lot of what you’d expect. Of course, there are tons of WWI posters and those are always cool to see. I saw an exhibit of them at the MFA in Boston a few years ago and what I didn’t know until then, though it didn’t surprise me once I thought about it, was that the visual style was basically the same everywhere, so they all look the same no matter if it is Germany, Russia, France, or the U.S.

What the museum really shows though are guns. And tanks. And guns. And more guns. Let’s face it, this is why the vast majority of people go to this museum. For me, I really don’t care about this. Obviously, you expect to guns in a war museum. So while this might sound like an odd complaint, I’m making it anyway. The one thing these did, in total, was remind me of how stupid this war was. Hey, see those gigantic guns? Go run toward them! Uh……..

The exhibit displays themselves were very busy with text and I didn’t spend a ton of time with them. I’d probably prefer a bit more curation and fewer objects with better ways to explain them. There was a really first rate temporary exhibit on French fashion during the war, which both demonstrated how the fashion industry transitioned for wartime activities and that no matter what women did, it was wrong in the French media. Too manly, too wasteful, too feminine, not supportive enough of the war. Because of course. That was very well done.

I also really liked the booths you could slip into and listen to music and fiction and poetry from the war and its aftermath. Although just snippets, it was an excellent way to spend 15 minutes in contemplation at the end of the museum.

There was also the big Art Deco tower you could pay extra for and get the best view of Kansas City, but why would someone pay for a big view of Kansas City?

So overall, a solid museum that I probably would not need to go to back to the next time I am in KC barring a specific temporary exhibit I needed to see.

I am sure many of you have been there, so have at it with your thoughts.

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