Physical Site — The National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, MO. The museum and exhibits are supported by various organizations and trustees such as the American Association for State and Local History. Subsequent partners are included here.
The National WWI museum is a comprehensive museum dedicated to the study of the Great War from 1914 to 1919 that begins with a walk across the glass transparent Paul Sunderland Bridge overlooking nine thousand poppies that each represent one thousand casualties for a total of nine million casualties over the course of the Great War. The visitor has the opportunity to view a short film at the Horizon Theater over the causes of the Great War such as the growth of armies, interconnected alliances, and the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austra Hungary. The overall theme of the museum and rotating exhibits is to educate the public about the causes and effects of the Great War through oral histories, artifacts, interactive display tables, and immersive activities. The interpretive point of view is from a United States perspective of the Great War but subsequently includes aspects from European nations such as artifacts and statistics of airplane casualties from the air war. The physical site helps to communicate the causes of the war as well as what soldiers experience through a series of interactive trenches where visitors can hear oral histories of soldiers throughout the war. The museum does a great job of utilizing artifacts to tell stories such as a WWI tank, weapons, and uniforms. The typical audience for this museum includes anywhere from teenagers to adults focused particularly on school-age individuals and families.
The primary artifacts used to communicate the Great War’s history include a plethora of objects such as uniforms, soldier ration cards, medals, weapons, diaries, flags, and letters. Approximately ten percent of artifacts are on display at any one given time. The artifacts are supported by interactive materials such as touch screen displays that have been disabled because of the COVID19 pandemic. The visitor has access to museum text labels where he can read about objects or events in the context of the Great War. The main interactive elements allow visitors to obtain a greater idea of what it would be like in WWI through an interactive trench and a walk-through crater to visualize the damage caused by a 17-inch howitzer shell on a french farmhouse. They are very effective at immersing the visitor within the context of trench life. The Museum also contains a large comprehensive chronology wall of the Great War from 1914 to 1919. The museum layout is constructed to convey to the visitor the extent of the massive global conflict, how and why nations went to war, how nations mobilized, and how civilians and soldiers were affected.
The WWI museum contains two significant sections divided from 1914 — 1917 and 1917— 1919 separated by the horizon theater. It is encouraged to start with 1914 and move toward 1919. I recommend watching the short film “A no man’s land” in the horizon theater before you enter the 1914 section. The museum progresses through each year and subsequent exhibits that rotate approximately every six months to a year. The site is very easy to navigate and encourages a single flow of traffic from the 1914 section 1919. The last recent time I went to the WWI museum there was approximately one curator per exhibit to answer questions about various topics related to the Great War. They move around exhibits and are helpful to explain various aspects of artifacts and other objects. They generally move around and ask new visitors if they This has changed to accommodate social distancing from the COVID19 pandemic. The physical museum and subsequent exhibits are very effective through a unique selection of rotated artifacts to convey the Great War’s history. I would incorporate virtual reality goggles or a headset to allow visitors to experience augmented reality through a trench or no man’s land. I would subsequently incorporate data visualizations within the exhibit such as mapping, networks, or text analysis on primary sources to convey to the public new aspects of the Great War as well as a touch screen display of a map of a trench or battlefield. I believe the museum will benefit from incorporating digital humanities into its exhibits.
The National World War I Museum online created by the National WWI Museum and Memorial and Google Arts and Culture located here.
The website created by the National World War I museum depicts information on scheduling a visit to the physical museum as well as an interactive timeline and online exhibits produced by the museum and Google Arts and Culture. The website also has resources for students, educators, and other visitors as well as a link to the online collections database and subsequent features that promote online learning. The argument about history that is embodied in the digital representation is the same as the physical site — to promote the study of the Great War. The website’s design conveys effectively conveys that argument with online exclusive materials and options such as an interactive World War I timeline located here as well as the online collections database. There are subsequent online exhibits such as The Christmas Truce, Winter 1914 that depicts the only Christmas truce of WWI located here. The interpretive point of view of the online website is a comprehensive overview of WWI.
The primary audience for the online website is school-aged students as well as adults with no prior knowledge of WWI. The website makes the assumption that the visitor has no prior knowledge of the war and divides certain material for different ages and grade levels as well as additional online learning opportunities located here. The overall site is easy to navigate through tabs to obtain more information labeled as “visit, explore, learn, shop, and give + join.” The site does not encourage a single flow of traffic as visitors are free to explore the entire site. Nevertheless, it will be helpful to start at “visit” and purchase tickets online to the physical museum and then proceed to “explore” to plan what sections of the museum and memorial the visitor wants to explore. The site includes various elements apart from purchasing tickets and directions to the museum. The site visitor can select the online collections database located under the explore tab to view the collection of digitized artifacts as well as read news of the museum to learn more about new exhibits or special events. The online content is different than physical artifacts that are on display because various online aspects can persuade the visitor to travel to the physical museum. There is a section for online exhibits unique to the website to provide context on specific events such as the Christmas Truce located here. The site’s interactive elements include the previously stated database and online exhibits to further immerse the visitor before or after their visit. The visitor obtains additional knowledge of the Great War and more incentives to visit the physical museum.
There is no real-time chat feature to interact with site creators. Nevertheless, the visitor is free to contact the museum on areas such as artifact donation, research questions, and general inquiries located here. A real-time chat feature is not necessary for the site’s success as it functions as an informative educational website prior to and after a physical museum visit. If I could the digital experience to make it more effective I would incorporate digital humanities technology described in the previous section to further immerse the visitor. I would subsequently create a version of a real-time chat such as hosting an online curator’s corner or historians hour where site visitors can ask questions of WWI museum employees, historians, and curators during a set time to ask questions of interest in real-time.
The National World War I Museum and Memorial is a comprehensive visitor experience that educates the public on the history of the Great War from an overview perspective from 1914 to 1917 and shifts towards a United States perspective from 1917 to 1919. There are various museums, monuments, and memorials worldwide that depict the history of the Great War such as the Imperial War Museum located here. The National World War I Museum and Memorial is an interesting, thought-provoking, and fun museum to visit with family and friends to obtain a comprehensive understanding of events leading up to the Great War and its aftermath. I believe that the museum stimulates debate and new interest in WWI for visitors that provoke further study through both academic and popular history as well as interest in arts and culture through films, books, music, and art.