Near life-sized images of bombed buildings show the devastation of the battles. Film footage of combat chronicles the warfare. Visitors can examine World War I technology, including artifacts like a vintage machine gun, which was the ultimate new weapon of the war.
In a triage tent, with its accompanying ambulance, stories of the war’s wounded and ill are told, with special focus on shell shock as well as the use and horrific results of poison gas. Injured soldiers were transported by stretcher bearers to waiting motorized ambulances, which were quickly replacing ones that were horse drawn.
For the first time, the triage method was used extensively to determine the order in which the wounded were to be treated. Those with the most severe injuries were transferred to hospitals far behind the battle lines. Never before had such a large number of women worked so close to the battlefields. Thousands of female nurses toiled alongside doctors for hours upon hours to care for the wounded men.
The exhibit also explores the home front of World War I. In a draft office, visitors can learn how civilians enlisted in the war. In the United States, the draft was an extremely divisive issue, Center for History officials said. Draft supporters were concerned that there would not be enough volunteer enlistees. Some who opposed the draft thought it was detrimental to the idea of American freedom. After the draft was put into effect, President Wilson tried to keep the focus on volunteerism by labeling the draft the “Selective Service” and dubbing soldiers “servicemen.”
Visitors can experience the culture of the World War I era, whose writers, artists and composers include Ernest Hemingway and e.e.cummings. A cookbook, “Kitchen Patriots,” published by the Food Conservation Committee of St. Joseph County, Ind., offers a glimpse into the strong efforts made by American families to support the war. Victory gardens, along with “wheatless” and “meatless” days, were ways to preserve food for the growing army.