Hello, fellow self-isolationists!
As many of you know, I serve as just one among a small army of volunteers at the National World War I Museum and Memorial here in Kansas City. In this capacity, I help guests as they navigate the museum’s galleries, answer questions about the Great War and the artifacts we have on display, tell people where the restrooms are, offer suggestions on great places to eat in town if they’re visiting us from elsewhere, and generally just do what we can to enhance their experience while they’re spending time with us. There’s a fine line between “being helpful” and “being a nuisance,” and we endeavor to stay on the right side of that divider. This means allowing guests to enjoy the museum on their own terms (unless they’re taking a guided tour) and not inserting ourselves into their visit except when invited to do with questions and the like.
Unfortunately, with the COVID-19 protocols currently in place and particularly here in the Kansas City area, the musem is closed to the public and we volunteers are not currently needed. The staff continues to work at home or perhaps on site depending on their individual responsibilities, and I for one find myself missing my usual volunteer shifts on various Sunday mornings each month March 29th is the second shift I’ve missed, and I expect I’ll miss anything originally scheduled for April, as well.
That said, you can still visit the museum. Virtually.
Even before the current situation fell upon us, the museum was already working to enhance and expand its digital offerings through its website. During 2019, more than 20 million people visited the site, checking out the various resources and programs it offers. Indeed, there is a page dedicated to online exhibitions. Among my favorites:
An introduction to the museum and memorial, which — as the name implies — is a good place to start.
A walk-through of the main galleries, highlighting several prominent exhibits and artifacts and guided by the museum’s Curator of Education.
An immersive tour of the galleries, this time guided by one of our volunteers, whom we all affectionately – and respectfully – refer to as “the Colonel.”
A narrated tour focusing on the archtecture of Liberty Tower and the adjacent buildings, the courtyard and surrounding grounds, which were the original monument opened in 1926. The buildings flanking the Tower, Exhibit Hall and Memory Hall, housed museum artifacts on display to the public before the much larger gallery space opened in 2006.
An exhibition recounting the Christmas Truce of 1914, including essays and letters detailing firsthand accounts by soldiers serving on the front lines.
A presentation examining November 11, 1918, the day the guns finally fell silent.
These and many other online exhibitions await you here. If you’re an educator or student doing research or other work about the war for a school project, a host of resources are available to assist you. The museum even has its own YouTube channel where you’ll find archival film footage, recordings of symposiums and other presentations offered in our auditorium, and other short films.
So, unless or until you can visit us during some future trip to the museum, hopefully you can find something to interest you through the website. Take a virtual tour, whydontcha, and once all of this is behind us and life returns to something at least passing for normal? Come see us for realz!