I've wanted to see the World War One Museum in KC since Dave at Blogography gave it such a glowing review. Before I went, here's what I knew about WWI:
- In Flanders field the poppies blow
- Archduke Ferdinand
- Downton Abbey Season 2
Not exactly World War One for two hundred, Alex. I stepped into the museum, bought a ticket, crossed the clear bridge over the poppy field and was met by a docent who asked, "Why do we use the poppy to symbolize World War One?"
"InFlandersfieldsthepoppiesgrow," I rattled off, smugly. ERRRBUZZNO. Wrong answer! Well, I think she gave me points for knowing the poem (points off for switching "blow" with "grow"), but the correct answer [spoilers, if you plan to go] is that the weaponry contained nitrates that killed all the plants ... except poppies. Evidently poppies love nitrates, so Flanders fields were dead except for the nitrate-sucking poppies.
And that glimpse of red poppies was as uplifting as the experience got. You walked over the blighted field with the pretty poppies and that's the last you see of life and happiness for a few hours.
As a museum, the presentation is just incredible. We've seen guns and posters and cannons before, but what about peeking into a bunker and hearing the sounds? Standing in a giant hole made by a shell? Sitting in a tiny room while "Dulce Et Decorum Est" is read to you?
Gary only made it through Flanders Fields, Dulce Et Decorum Est, and one other before he couldn't take it anymore. It's a sad museum. But of course, since it's an American museum, it's divided into two parts: the War before America, and the War after America. In fact, it's literally divided into two parts: the first part starts with war posters for the European war years, then there's a short film about the war just before America joined in, then war posters for the American war years.
The layout of the place forces you to draw comparisons. You pass that entry to the U.S. years and there are gleaming weapons and scalpels and fancy tanks and guns and all the war-winning stuff, while the pre-America side has klunky grenades on sticks.
I don't think I've said "I didn't know that" as often in any museum. For example, why did the U.S. enter the war? The Lusitania, right? I distinctly remember that exam question in Jr. high. BUZZZNO! The Zimmerman telegram disclosed that the enemy bribed Mexico to attack us. Again, I had no idea.
Eventually we made it through the war, came out the other side, and did not have the emotional strength to climb up to the upper exhibits or the tower.
I remember seeing Gallipoli in college. When it was over and Mel Gibson was all riddled with bullets my date snarled, "HAPPY NOW?" After the museum, Gary, bless him, just said he was depressed.