Going to this particular museum, I was expecting something similar to some war museums I had seen in the past, such as the Marine Corps museum in Quantico. However, there was something more intimate about this experience that gave me a different perspective on the information that was being presented at the museum. For instance, I found the uniforms and equipment that it displayed to be extremely intriguing, Sometimes at large museums, you can’t really get a good look at the displays or look up close at the stuff behind the class, but I felt like I had the opportunity to get closer (both physically and emotionally) to the clothing and equipment this time around. With both the soldiers’ uniforms and working attire like the nurses’ uniforms, you could actually see small signs of wear here and there (obviously not a ton, since they were well preserved and taken care of), and you can tell that someone wore it once upon a time. It made me stop and think on the pieces a little bit longer than I usually would. I found myself at one point focusing in on what appeared to be the faintest stain on a nurses uniform. I stood there and wondered “could that have been someone’s blood?” There was just something more real to it than seeing something behind a crowd of people. I felt like it was if they weren’t old, as if I could imagine someone wearing or using the artifacts today.
It made it feel much more real and “human” to me, which I really enjoyed.
I also found the display on African Americans in the war to be really thought provoking. Although the exhibition stated that service from African Americans was very high, they were still treated like second-class citizens during the war and were not given the same amount of care as the other soldiers. I think that due to current racial climates, it’s easy to be desensitized to racial issues in places like our military or in general society. But to see reports and displays on how terrible the conditions were for American soldiers (who happened to be black) and that they served in one of the most horrific wars that our country has ever seen was very jarring to me. And that even after that, it took our country 40+ years and another 50 after that to even talk about the deep injustice that those soldiers faced – while fighting to project the liberty of those who continually oppressed them.
I think overall I enjoyed the fact that the museum included both information and displays about conditions and life during the Great War, but also how society changed afterwards. After seeing the exhibits on the working women and the African Americans serving, I found it really interesting how much of an impact the Great War would have on how women and African Americans would develop in society, but also how long things took to change and improve for those groups. After all, it took until the 60s for women and minorities to be have constitutional protection from discrimination.
In conclusion, I really enjoyed the experience, and it definitely got me thinking afterwards, which I think is the whole point to these exhibits. The staff was also really helpful and inviting, which I think added to the experience. Overall, a great visit!