History buffs will be glad to know that Jefferson Barracks Historic Site will open the second part of its two-part exhibit of World War I on Saturday, March 3, at noon in the Old Ordnance Room Museum at Jefferson Barracks County Park.
The first WWI centennial exhibit was titled, "Over Here: World War I from Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis and Missouri," and ran from May-December 2017. The exhibit covered the events that led-up to America's entry into the war and the events of 1917.
This exhibit, "Over There: World War 1 from Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis, and Missouri," will follow the United States' entry into the war in April 1917 to the Armistice on Nov. 11, 1918 and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919.
It will also examine the lasting impacts of the Armistice and the road to World War II.
"Building on the stories and themes of 'Over Here,' 'Over There' will take the visitor along the path our doughboys followed from the draft, to training camp, over the Atlantic Ocean to France, through the trenches and into battle," said Curator Mikall Venso. "We hope that each visitor finds the immersive experience we've created full of connections between the events of 100 years ago and the technology and actions of today."
Jefferson Barracks was a recruit depot where recruits registered, received physicals, limited training, got their uniforms and then were shipped out in a matter of days.
"People came here from Illinois and Kansas, and for all different branches," said Venso. "We didn't have an Air Force, but had an Air Corps, and for Navy the recruits would go to Great Lakes Training Center in Chicago."
One exhibit has two boxes (unfilled!) of chocolates that would have been put in care packages. One box, Elmer's Chocolates, is from New Orleans. The company still makes Gold Brick Eggs at Easter.
"They were called Chocolate Bricks back then," Venso said. "I tracked them down and we're going to have samples at the opening."
The museum has 3,000 World War I-related artifacts, one of which, a German machine gun, will be on display.
"A lot of things are brought in as 'trench trophies,' which soldiers brought home from the war," Venso said. "A lot of our pieces are donated or on loan from peoples' collections."
Through these exhibits, the soldier's journey and experience will unfold.
Visitors can explore the music of the period and read handwritten letters from soldiers through interactive touchscreens. They will also have the opportunity to write their own letter to a contemporary soldier to be mailed from the exhibit.
A walk-through trench, complete with sandbags lining the walls and barbed wire on top, is equipped with periscopes allowing visitors to view "No Man's Land," a bombed-out area between opposing armies.
Visitors can also sound a gas alarm that would signal soldiers of a coming gas attack.
Another interactive exhibit allows visitors to hear the music of that time, along with images of what life in a barracks would have entailed.
A series of interactive panels displays all of the battles from World War I, with another showing the European boundaries before the war and afterward.
Photographs, draft cards, letters, medals, clothing, weapons and more are included in this extensive exhibit made possible through a grant from the Missouri Humanities Council.
"People can come out and enjoy it and get immersed in the experience," Venso said. "It's one thing to know the story, and another to tell it, and how you weave it all together — the photos, the written narrative — in a way that engages the audience.
"Some people like things that are visual, some like the esthetics, some like the weapons, and some like the computer," he continued. "People connect in different ways. It might be personal like having a grandfather that served, and others have just heard about it."
The exhibit runs through Dec. 30 on Wednesdays through Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. The Old Ordnance Room Museum at Jefferson Barracks County Park is located at 546 Bagby Road.