Complexities of The Great War Explained in Kansas City Museum
After nine decades “the war to end all wars” at long last has a museum to explain the complexities of this global conflict and honor the millions who died.
The National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial in Kansas City is the first national memorial of its kind outside of the nation’s capital. It opened here in December 2006. So why Kansas City?
Why Kansas City
In 1926, Kansas Citians originally dedicated the Liberty Memorial, a 217-foot tall obelisk in Penn Valley Park, directly across General John Pershing Boulevard from Union Station where so many soldiers departed to the Great War.
The monument was closed to visitors in 1994 because of structural problems. After a $10 million restoration, paid for by a 1998 ½-cent sales tax for 18-months, the people of Kansas City focused on raising $76 million for a state-of-the-art museum that interprets an early 20th-century war for the high-tech children of the 21st century.
Fields of Poppies
After entering the museum over a glassed-in field of red poppies, guests walk through the narrow confines of a hand-dug 90-foot trench similar to those where much of the combat of WWI took place. A bombed out-French farmhouse is a central feature of the museum interior, which allows visitors to learn the consequences of decisions made in battle through numerous interactive exhibits.
Among the nearly 50,000 items brought to life through the harsh realities of early 20th-century warfare are a Bavarian 15-centimeter howitzer, a French troop-transport boxcar, a 1917 Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and a rare German Pour le Merite medal. It is considered the most comprehensive collection of WWI artifacts open to the public in the United States.
The museum includes several classrooms where educational programs have been held for the past year as construction in the main facility has moved forward. A 230-seat auditorium hosts regular lectures and movie series on WWI issues.
View of the City
A highlight for many is the elevator ride to the top of the Liberty Memorial, which provides an unobstructed view of the Kansas City skyline and the Missouri and Kansas rivers converging west of the city. The ride costs an additional $4.
Eat Out Over There
A shortcoming to the museum was the lack of dining facilities nearby and considering that most visitors spend several hours exploring the exhibits, a nice café was badly needed. The Over There Café, which opened in the fall of 2008, features menu items that help tell the history of World War I. For example, the Enver Pasha Turkey Salad is named for the Turkish war minister who formed an alliance with Germany. The soup is a Yankee Doodle Chicken Noodle.
Call (816) 784-1918.