|
|
|
|
The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • LV Times columnist: Now an excellent time to visit noted KC attraction — the World War I Museum

    • email print
  • An article on today’s front page gives details about today’s importance in military history.
    One hundred years ago Monday, the conflagration began that was known by several names but initially was The Great War.
    It was precipitated by an assassination a month before in Sarajevo, Bosnia, when a young, radical anti-government shooter killed the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne and his wife. The assassin, Gavrilo Princip, was a member of a secret group known as Black Hand.
    He fired two shots from a Browning semi-automatic pistol that had been made in a Belgium  factory in 1910. That pistol is in the Austrian National Museum in Vienna, but you can see one just like it, made in the same factory in the same year, much closer to home.
    A short drive to downtown Kansas City will get you to the number one tourist attraction in Kansas City, as voted by visitors to the city who filled out a survey. The pistol, and some 2,300 other World War I artifacts, are on display in the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial in Kansas City.
    It is easy to find, or you can just follow me when I go there two Saturdays a month as a museum volunteer. I’m one of more than 300 active volunteers who go there to meet and greet the hundreds of visitors from all over the world who go to the attraction daily.
    There are eight volunteer positions and we are rotated hourly from one to another. The first volunteer a visitor sees on entering the building is the greeter, whose job is to welcome visitors and direct them to the ticket area or wherever they want to go.
    The greeter gets a lot of questions.
    The most asked one is, “Where is the restroom?,” probably because  most visitors have driven or ridden quite a way to get to the museum. Morning coffee will do that to a person.
    After purchasing a ticket, visitors walk across the “bridge,” and can look down some 30 feet to see a lot of reddish flowers.
    A second often asked question is, “Are those flowers real?” My answer to that is, “They are real, genuine, authentic silk.”
    If the question is altered somewhat to, “Are those flowers live?,” my answer changes to no.  There are 9,000 silk poppies under the bridge, and each one represents 1,000 soldiers killed in combat. Youngsters with calculators quickly announce the total is nine million combat deaths.
    For most visitors, the first thing they see is a 12-minute film that explains why the war began. To the few who say they don’t care to see the film, I tell them that before they leave they have to take a written test.
    Page 2 of 2 - Most quickly go into the theater.
    I’m joking, of course, but the film is excellent, and another question is, “Can I buy a copy of the film in the gift shop?” The answer is no. It is not for sale due to a copyright restriction.
    After seeing the excellent film, visitors then exit into a horseshoe-shaped museum to begin trying to look at the 2,300 items on display. Nobody in one visit can see all the artifacts, but many give it a good try.
    Halfway around the horseshoe is a second movie that explains America’s entry into the war.  
    That one causes a lot of people to think about how close America came to entering the war on the side of the Central Powers. That would have been the side that fought the Allies, which is the side we entered on.
    Following that movie, visitors enter the U.S. side of the museum, where the famous tank is located. It is a French tank, but the type many U.S. tank crews used.
    Then there are the two more buildings with exhibits upstairs, and the tower. Much more about the museum coming soon.

        calendar