We’ve all seen the pictures from the Kansas City Royal’s World Series rally at Union Station. Everyone remarked about how large of a crowd assembled, and how it was such an oddity. Well it was not the first time in Kansas City history that a massive crowd assembled near this site. If you were able to travel back to 1921 you would behold another massive gathering near these grounds. It may not have been 800,000 people, but considering the travel conditions of those days it was still an impressive event. This large mass of humanity gathered to witness a once in a lifetime event commemorating the dedication of the first World War I Museum to be built in the United States.
Kansas City has the distinct honor of being home to the National World War I Museum. The museum is dedicated to showing the war through the stories of the people who experienced it. The war began in the summer of 1914 and continued through the fall of 1918. It ended on Armistice Day, November 11, 1918. World War I took the life of more than 9 million soldiers with 21 million more wounded. Civilian casualties are estimated at around 10 million. It would later be called “The War to End All Wars” by those who lived during those years.
Soon after WWI ended, leaders from Kansas City formed the Liberty Memorial Association with the purpose of creating a lasting monument to those who served in the war. In 1919 they raised more than $2.5 million in just 10 days. This shows the public passion for a project, which commemorates the impact the war had on the entire world.
The museum, originally known as the Liberty Memorial Museum, began collecting artifacts in 1920. These came from all of the nations involved in the war. In 1921, more than 100,000 people gathered to witness the commanders of the troops from the Allied Nations dedicate the site. This would be the first time in history that these five leaders were at the same location together. Almost 100 years later the museum is still home to the largest collection of WWI items.
It is the official World War I of the United States, and it tells the stories of the war in a comprehensive fashion. Not only are all of the Allied countries represented, but also the belligerent nations, as well. The stories include those from the battlefront, as well as the home front. The displayed items range from a soldier’s field supplies to national treasures, medals, and awards. The Main Gallery sits beneath the Liberty Memorial Courtyard and holds the permanent collection. There are documents, artifacts, interactive tables, and even recreated trenches to explore.
The WWI Museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. with extended hours during the summer. Admission is $14 for adults, $12 for Seniors, and $8 for children 6 to 11. The have World War Wednesdays with all tickets for just $7. A visit to Kansas City’s World War I Museum will open your eyes to this life changing time in our history. It was a different generation and a different way of life.