Monday, May 30, 2011

Historic military vehicles at the Liberty Memorial Museum added to the Memorial Day festivities

On Memorial Day, we took the opportunity to visit the only museum in America dedicated to the soldiers who died in World War I, Kansas City's Liberty Memorial. And although it is a very somber place with a serious subject matter, it is still an interesting, educational place for families to check out.

Now, I will admit that one of the reasons I went there in the first place was that I knew the Kansas City Military Vehicle Preservation Association was going to have a display out on the lawn. It was supposed to last until 5:00 on Monday, but when we got there around 1:00, it was pretty much wrapping up. What was still there was interesting and unusual, and you can see them in the slideshow below.

But the small vehicle display did prompt us to do something that I've wanted to do for a long time. In all the years I've lived here, I've never actually been in the Liberty Memorial or the World War I Museum. And I have to say, I'm glad our family took the tour.

For one thing, this was the debut of the new traveling World War I Museum that will be visiting cities all over the country. There was a lot of history packed into that semi trailer. Even BHo commented on how much bigger it seemed in there than he expected. There was lots to read, interesting videos, and plenty of artifacts like weapons and uniforms to really bring you back in time.

Our next stop was to the top of the Memorial tower itself. The stately 217-foot tower was dedicated in 1926, and it had an eternal flame that burned since its inception until just a few years ago when budget cuts reduced it only to special occasions.

You get some kind of view of Kansas City from the top of that tower. Beautiful, impressive, a bit disconcerting if you don't particularly like heights, but something that's definitely worth seeing at least once in your lifetime.

Take the elevator back down, and it was time to check out the museum itself. At either side of the tower, there is a monument that contains the names of soldiers who died in World War I, and another building that is currently holding never-before-seen German memorabilia.

The main museum wraps around the base of the tower. Inside, you not only find American uniforms, weapons, tools, vehicles, and equipment, but you can see these types of items from all over the world--both from our Allies, and our enemies, or Central Powers. They play the crackly, grainy historic movies that you might expect, but they are put together in such a way that they convey the gravity of the situation, while not completely freaking out the kids.

And really, that could go for the whole museum. You know America wouldn't be what it is today if this hadn't happened. You know these men and women gave the ultimate sacrifice during this war. And with this museum, you have the opportunity to teach some of that to the kids that pass through there, but in the rich context of seeing the tools they had to work with firsthand. It really isn't preachy or extraordinarily jingoistic, but it does a smooth job of laying out the facts of war in a way that is as intense as the person looking at it is willing or able to take it.

The slideshow below not only has pictures from the military vehicle display, but also from in, above, and around Liberty Memorial itself. And remember, you don't have to wait for Memorial Day to visit this national treasure. The Liberty Memorial is open throughout the year to give people a little history, and a little perspective on the Great War.

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