The National World War I Museum and Memorial is located in Kansas City, Missouri. This American museum originally opened to the public as the Liberty Memorial museum in 1926, but was designated in 2004 by the United States Congress as America’s official museum dedicated to World War I. The Museum and Memorial operate as a non-profit organization in cooperation with the Kansas City Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners.
In December 2006, the museum reopened to the public with an expanded, state-of-the-art facility to exhibit an extensive artifact collection that began back in 1920. The National World War I Museum tells the story of the Great War and related global events from their origins before 1914 through the 1918 armistice and 1919 Paris Peace Conference. Visitors enter the exhibit space within the 32,000-square-foot facility across the trademark glass bridge above a field of 9,000 red poppies, each one representing 1,000 combatant deaths.
The museum’s mission is to be “dedicated to remembering, interpreting and understanding the Great War and its enduring impact on the global community.”
History of the National World War I Museum and Memorial, Kansas City, Missouri
After WWI had ended, a group of 40 prominent Kansas City residents formed the Liberty Memorial Association to create a recorded legacy and memorial to those who had served in the war. They chose lumber baron and philanthropist Robert A. Long, as president.
In 1919, this group organized a fundraising drive that included 83,000 contributors and collected more than $2.5 million in less than two weeks, driven by what museum curator Doran Cart has described as “complete, unbridled patriotism.”
The museum’s groundbreaking ceremony was held on November 1, 1921, which included Vice President Calvin Coolidge, Lieutenant General Baron Jacques of Belgium, Admiral of the Fleet Lord Beatty of Great Britain, General Armando Diaz of Italy, Marshal Ferdinand Foch of France, and General of the Armies John Pershing of the United States, along with sixty thousand members of the American Legion.
Notable Museum Features
- Liberty Memorial, flanked by Exhibition and Memory Halls and the unseeing sphinxes.
- A Renault FT tank
- Uniforms such as Paul von Hindenburg’s Model 1915 Field Jacket
- A 1917 Harley-Davidson Model J motorcycle
- A 1918 Ford Model T ambulance
- General John J. Pershing’s Headquarter flag
- Maps & photographs
- International Propaganda posters
- Replica of trenches
- State-of-the-art interactive displays
- Sound booths with audio recordings of the period
- Two theaters that provide visitors with an educational narrative. One precedes the first gallery, and a larger one is passed through to enter the second gallery.
- The Edward Jones Research Center, carrying 75,000 archival documents, 9,500 library titles, and additional objects.
- R.A. Long Education Center: A multi-purpose conference room and classroom
- J.C. Nichols Auditorium for special events
- The Over There Café featuring flags, music, artwork, and menu items inspired by “the people and places of the Great War.”
- Museum store
The national design competition was managed by Thomas R. Kimball, a former president of the American Institute of Architects. After strife within the local organization, the design contract was finally awarded to New York architect Harold Van Buren Magonigle.
The grounds were designed by George Kessler, who is most known for his City Beautiful design for the Kansas City park and boulevard system.