Every year, the McFarlin Library Special Collections Department has several displays available to the public. Since 2014, the 100 year anniversary of the start of World War I, Melissa Kunz and Jenn Donner, who serve as curators for the event, have hosted an exhibit depicting events and people from 100 years ago. This year focuses on 1916. Several large battles are represented in the displays. Pictures and artifacts from The Somme, Jutland and Verdun can be seen in pristine condition.
One of the largest items, a folding panoramic drawing illustrating the battle of The Somme, spans an entire display case while only partially unfolded. The first few display cases focus almost entirely on these battles. Further in, the focus changes from conflict involving multiple countries to the effect of the war on individual countries. Newspaper articles from Harper’s Weekly, political cartoons, and wartime propaganda all help to capture the overwhelming sense of tension that resonated throughout the war.
In one section, an early 1916 article titled “War as a Stimulus to Invention” exemplifies what was then cutting edge military technology. WWI was the first conflict to use armored tanks in combat. Because of this many artist depictions and pictures of early prototypes can be seen on display. One of the most notable of these is a photograph of the “Little Willie”, the first completed tank prototype in history. These clippings of historical documents help highlight the industrial boom that fed into the war as well as the fear some of these machines inspired.
The final case brings the focus to a more personal level. This case includes a journal from a German soldier, as well as biographical descriptions and portraits of several individuals of a variety of nationalities. According to Kunz and Donner, it was of the utmost importance that the exhibit include elements from all sides of the war, without regard for nationality.
The exhibit, which is comprised primarily of donations, is just a sampling of the library’s large collection of WWI items. Kunz and Donner plan on continuing the yearly exhibit until at least 2018, the 100 year anniversary of the end of WWI. The exhibit is open to the public, not just TU students, and can be viewed from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Monday through Friday in the Special Collections Department, located on the top floor of McFarlin library. The exhibit is planned to be open until late September, and is the first of four displays the Special Collections Department will be featuring this year.