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Four new WW1 exhibits open April 6th at Smithsonian museums

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

Four new exhibits on World War I open April 6th at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, DC, on the day of the centennial of the United States entry into the Great War.

artists headerArtist Soldiers -- Artistic Expression in the First World War

Note: -- Located at the National Air and Space Museum. A collaboration between the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum and National Museum of American History.

The First World War remade the world geopolitically and transformed how societies engage and relate to military conflict.

Artistic expression during the war contributed to this transformation. Before World War I, war art largely depicted heroic military leaders and romanticized battles, done long after the fact, far from the battlefield. The First World War marked a turning point with the appearance of artwork intended to capture the moment in a realistic way, by first-hand participants.

portrait 1200This exhibition examines this form of artistic expression from two complementary perspectives: one, professional artists who were recruited by the U.S. Army; the other, soldiers who created artwork. Together they shed light on World War I in a compelling and very human way.

Gen. John J. Pershing and World War I, 1917-1918

Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington DC

General John J. Pershing insisted the United States military have an independent American army on the ground when the U.S. entered the Great War. By recreating Pershing’s war office, this display will give the visitor a sense of America’s global reach and influence in World War I and reveal how the U.S. fit into a reshaped global community.


women in uniform header2 0Uniformed Women and the Great War

Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington DC

Of the many ways World War I divided the past from the future, none was more significant than the reordered place of women in society.

Tens of thousands of middle- and upper-class women donned military-style uniforms to serve at home and overseas in civilian relief organizations, as well as in the military.

The selection of uniforms on display will highlight the varied roles of uniformed women that allowed them to express their patriotism.

header 4Modern Medicine and the Great War

Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington DC

World War I provided a testing ground for the application of new medical technologies and procedures, and in some cases accelerated their general acceptance or development.

At the same time, wartime medical practice reflected the larger concerns and prejudices of early 20th-century America, as the country coped with ever more complex problems of modern industrial society.

Advertising War: Selling Americans on World War I (ongoing)

Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington DC

Before the advent of radio and motion pictures, art and illustration were the primary forms of mass communication. With the outbreak of World War I, governments, militaries, and service organizations hired artists and illustrators to depict the ravages of war and to rally patriotism. Poster imagery created before and during American military participation was used to mobilize citizens to enlist, give aid to refugees and soldiers, and motivate any and all people to join the fight through rationing, buying bonds, or charity work. The small selection presented here gives glimpses of the war front, illustrates participation on the home front, reveals the new roles of women, demonstrates new technologies, shows the breadth of military service, and depicts America’s allies and enemies at that time.

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