Museum of the Moment: National WWI Museum and Memorial
There’s nothing quite like Liberty Memorial. The spire towers at 217 feet, overlooking Downtown and piercing the sky as a tribute to those who served in the Great War. Solemn yet photogenic, solitary yet universal, the monument represents civic duty at its most selfless—and beckons visitors to experience the National WWI Museum and Memorial, one of Kansas City’s most treasured institutions.
Spend Veterans Day at the museum to honor service members from the past and present.
An entire generation was impacted by the first World War (1914-1918). The massive, international conflict was waged in nearly every corner of the globe. As a result, somewhere between 15 and 19 million civilians and soldiers were killed, while another estimated 23 million were wounded.
Shortly after the final shots were fired, a small collection of Kansas Citians congregated to preserve the memory of those who had served in the war. The result was the formation of the Liberty Memorial Association, which, in 1919, led a donation drive to create a memorial. More than 83,000 households contributed a combined $2 million to the fund in less than two weeks; Liberty Memorial was completed and dedicated seven years later.
Almost 80 years later, in 2004, Congress designated the memorial as the official WWI museum of the United States. Construction began once again, this time to expand the facility to showcase one of the world’s largest collections of World War I memorabilia. The updates were completed in two years, launching the next chapter for the National WWI Museum and Memorial as a National Historic Landmark—and as an incomparable icon locally, nationally and globally.
More than 100 years after the Great War, the National WWI Museum and Memorial is now one of the leading such institutions in the world, preserving irreplaceable artifacts and educating countless visitors about the conflict and its impact on our world today.
Guests will first notice the immaculate grounds upon which the museum stands. A long stretch of road flanked by a peaceful, tree-strewn lawn leads cars right up to the entrance, where visitors can park or be dropped off. That said, the centerpiece of the experience is Liberty Memorial, a towering achievement of engineering and civic involvement.
Once inside, visitors can purchase tickets and tour through the Main Gallery, Exhibit Hall, Memory Hall and Ellis Gallery—all included with admission. Before entering the Main Gallery, guests cross the Paul Sunderland Bridge, which is suspended above a replica poppy field filled with 9,000 artificial flowers, each representing 1,000 deaths of those who passed as a direct result of the war. The solemn tribute sets the stage for what’s to come.
The museum begins with a video detailing the years leading up to 1914, including many of the factors that caused the war to break out. Attendees pass counterclockwise through interactive exhibits detailing military weapons, trench warfare and daily life on the frontlines, as well as other essential details that bring the hundred-plus-year-old history to life.
Back above ground, guests can reach the top of Liberty Memorial for an additional cost. But simply taking in the Egyptian Revival architecture surrounding the monument offers incredible views of the city skyline—and solitary symbolism courtesy of the Assyrian Sphinxes that flank the tower on either side. One faces east, with its eyes shielded from the horrors of the war, while the other faces west, shielding its eyes from the uncertain future.
But where the National WWI Museum and Memorial truly triumphs is in the story it tells about people and about civilization. The Great War shaped the modern world—and continues to do so. The museum keeps that legacy alive and thriving more than 100 years after the war's end.
Pay Tribute During Veterans Day 2019
While open year-round, special programming will be held at the museum to commemorate Veterans Day 2019. In addition to free admission for veterans and active-duty military personnel all weekend (and half-price tickets open to the public), family-friendly activities will be available from Friday, Nov. 8, through Monday, Nov. 11.
Free entertainment and activities include interactive research stations, tours inside a “Huey” helicopter (courtesy of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter #243) and a Veterans Day ceremony on the grounds of the museum, among many others.
For a full list of events and activities, go to theworldwar.org/veteransday.