From Virginia to the Frontline

New exhibits explore the Old Dominion’s role during WW1.

Red cross jeep from WWI, part of the WW1 America exhibition.

Photo courtesy of the Virginia Museum of History and Culture

Marking a century since Virginia-born President Woodrow Wilson brought the nation into World War I, the Virginia Museum of History & Culture in Richmond (formerly the Virginia Historical Society) presents The Commonwealth and the Great War exhibition, commemorating the 100,000 Virginians who served, hundreds of nurses and homefront efforts, as well as the 3,700 men who did not make it back home. “History is about learning from the experiences of the past,” says Jamie O. Bosket, President and CEO of the Virginia Museum of History & Culture. “Certainly that is the case with the transformative events of one hundred years ago – a conflict that shaped the world, our nations, and our Commonwealth.”

The exhibit recognizes how instrumental Virginia was in supporting the American campaign abroad during what most consider to be the first “modern” war. Highlights of the exhibit include a look at Virginia’s valuable military institutions, including Fork Union Military Academy, resources like the Chesapeake’s shipbuilding industry and profiles of Virginian heroes—the stories of everyday Virginians, from Red Cross nurses based in Richmond to African American soldiers, gives visitors emotional insights into a war often overshadowed by the history books.

Featured alongside The Commonwealth and the Great War is the only East Coast stop of the WW1 America exhibit, part of a traveling commemoration to the Great War produced by the Minnesota Historical Society in partnership with the National Constitution Center, the National World War I Museum, the Oakland Museum of California and the Bullock Texas State History Museum.

Ambient sound greets visitors to the WWI America exhibit with ship whistles, voices of various storytellers and the melody of the wartime tune “Over There.” Full-size replicas of military automobiles and hometown storefronts give the impression that one being placed back in time with interactive elements, oral history collections and more than 100 historical objects, which invite visitors to explore the war from every American perspective of the period. “The war period, like much of our history, was not as simple as that described in our school textbooks,” says Andrew Talkov, VP for Exhibitions and Publications at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture. “This exhibition shows American history in all of its complexity—more as it was, than as we may wish to remember it.”

WW1 America runs through July 29, and The Commonwealth and the Great War is open until November 18. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, and $5 for children. Admission is free for veterans, active duty military and their families. VirginiaHistory.org

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