As the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I approaches, Nebraskans share family connections to the war as part of a special exhibit at the Durham Museum. “Fighting for the Good Life: Nebraskan Memories of World War I” runs through Jan. 28.
Combining memorabilia such as uniforms, weapons and letters, the exhibit provides a look at life during the United States’ involvement, which ran from April 1917 until the war officially ended Nov. 11, 1918. It was the US’ entrance that turned the war for the Allies, which included France and England, among other nations. World War I dominated the globe 1914-18. All but one item on display was loaned by Nebraskans. A tent was loaned to the museum by the National World War I Museum in Kansas City.
Omaha World-Herald front pages covering the war’s events are featured using a young newsie hawking the day’s stories. The newspaper display highlights events leading up to the war.
Called “The War to End All Wars,” about 48,000 Nebraskans served during the war. Of the 751 to die, perhaps the best-known was a young aviator. Lt. Jarvis Offutt grew up in Omaha, who served his nation during the war. Offutt – for whom the military base in Bellevue was named – died in France, three months before the war ended.
The exhibit is personalized with copies of letters from Nebraskans serving abroad. Jay Hunley’s family was kind enough to share his letters with the exhibit. He also wrote of his experiences in journals.
While men were fighting along the front lines, women served roles as Red Cross nurses, librarians, telephone operators and hostesses, among other positions.
Weapons of destruction turned into pieces of art during the war. From painted helmets to decorated artillery shells, trench art helped people deal with the war’s trauma.
As the world prepares to celebrate the centennial of the end of World War I, “Fighting for the Good Life: Nebraskan Memories of World War I” provides an opportunity to learn about the war from neighbors’ personal collections. We recommend visiting the exhibit.
For more information on this special exhibit, as well as others, please visit https://durhammuseum.org.