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State Historical Museum of Iowa marks 100th anniversary of World War I with new exhibit


DES MOINES – When the United States entered the First World War on April 6, 1917, thousands of Iowans stepped up to support the cause, both in the trenches and at home.
Beginning next month, the State Historical Museum of Iowa will honor their legacy by opening a new exhibition called “Iowa and the Great War,” hosting a University of Iowa traveling display and lecture about German immigrants, and offering educational programs for students.
“The State Historical Museum engages Iowans of all ages with unique stories about the history of our state,” State Historical Society of Iowa Administrator Susan Kloewer said. “With the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War I, this is a perfect opportunity to honor those who sacrificed so much at home and abroad. We are pleased to partner with the University of Iowa, and we encourage Iowans to visit the museum to learn more about our state’s role in this remarkable chapter of history.” Consuls general from France and Germany to attend opening.
A list of upcoming programs follows:
Iowa and the Great War
Opens April 6, 9 a.m.
Exactly 100 years after the United States entered the First World War, the State Historical Museum will open a new exhibition called “Iowa and the Great War” to share stories of Iowans who supported the cause. More than 114,000 men from across Iowa served in the military, including more than 100,000 soldiers, 10,000 sailors and 600 Marines. On the homefront, residents supported the war financially and through their work, while women served at home and overseas as nurses. Learn how their courage and innovation changed the course of history far beyond the battlefields and long after the fighting finished.
  • See the bullet damage to the jacket of an Iowa pilot who lived to tell the tale.
  • Learn about the African-American officers who trained at Fort Des Moines.
  • Understand how propaganda shifted public opinions about the war, prohibition and women’s suffrage.
  • Discover how the war sparked anti-immigrant sentiments in Iowa cities and towns.
German Iowa and the Global Midwest
April 6 through May 1
On loan from the University of Iowa, the traveling exhibition “German Iowa and the Global Midwest” uses photos and artifacts to explain how German immigrants influenced everything from politics to beer. Drawing on extensive research, this exhibit explores both pro- and anti-immigration attitudes at a time of national emergency – and how those attitudes linger today, when a third of Iowans still claim German heritage.
History Alive: World War I (for students only)
April 6-710 a.m. – 2 p.m. both days
Two History Alive educational programs will be presented for students in grades 3-5 and 6-12.
  • On April 6, students in grades 3-5 will explore the new World War I exhibits, and the Iowa Architectural Foundation will present an interactive look at homes in Iowa and Germany from the period. An Iowa History Detectives workshop will help students investigate the time period with photographs, illustrations, documents and artifacts from the war.
  • On April 7, students in grades 6-12 will learn about President Hoover’s role in Belgian relief efforts, and black officer training at Fort Des Moines. Students will also tour the new exhibits and investigate the time period with photographs, illustrations, documents and artifacts.
Iowa and the Great War Opening Reception
April 75-7 p.m.
Honor the legacy of Iowans who served at home and abroad during World War I during a special reception to open the State Historical Museum’s “Iowa and the Great War” and the “German Iowa and the Global Midwest” traveling exhibition from the University of Iowa. The reception will include several distinguished guests, including:
  • Vincent Floreani, Consul General of France in Chicago
  • Herbert Quelle, Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany in Chicago
  • Mark Schlenker, Honorary Consul of France and the Federal Republic of Germany in Iowa
  • A quartet from the Iowa Military Veterans Band, who will play a selection of patriotic and jazz tunes from the war era
The opening reception is free and open to the public. RSVPs are recommended at by March 27.
German Iowans in World War I
April 8 – 1:30 p.m.
In conjunction with the “German Iowa and the Global Midwest” exhibition, University of Iowa Professor Glenn Ehrstine will discuss what life was like for the state’s largest ethnic group. During World War I, their high visibility became a liability as other Iowans hounded, denounced and forced them to stop speaking German in public. They held fast to their traditions, however, and even flourished after the war through the strength of community bonds
All programs will be held at the State Historical Museum of Iowa, 600 E. Locust St. in Des Moines. Hours are 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon-4:30 p.m. Sunday. More information is available at or 515-281-5111.

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