Collections Spotlight

Highlights and New Additions to the Collection

The National WWI Museum and Memorial holds the most diverse collection of Great War objects and documents in the world. Below, you can learn about some of the highlights and recent additions to this world-renowned collection. More information on additions to the Collection are available in the yearly accession records.

More than 97 percent of the items in the collection were acquired through donations. Learn how you can support the Museum with a donation.

To Fool the Eye!

Collections Spotlight

Posted: October 1, 2021 - 12:00am
Second Lieutenant Harry Hinman Sisson, Company E, 309th Engineers, 84th Division, carried a violin with him in France throughout his service in the American Expeditionary Forces. Waiting to be shipped back to the United States after the war, Lieutenant Sisson paid an unknown amount to a German prisoner of war to decorate his violin case. The painted design used by the captive artist followed a typical German color scheme of camouflage, with distinctive black dividing lines and irregular blocks of color.

The case, also painted with Lieutenant Sisson’s name and unit, was donated to the Museum in 2015 along with the violin and bow. Sisson almost certainly saw his fair share of camouflage during the war, but his painted violin case was more of a going-home souvenir than a disguise.  Read More

A Little Birdie Told Me

Collections Spotlight

Posted: September 3, 2021 - 12:00am
Arthur Standing was a conscientious objector and did not fight during World War I. Instead, he participated in alternate service with the American Friends Service Committee. In this role, he rebuilt homes in France after the Armistice.

Arthur came from a close-knit Quaker family of nine in Earlham, Iowa. Their love for each other is clearly visible in their sheer volume of correspondence. Over the 15 month period of Arthur’s service, the family sent 268 letters!  Read More

French Mascots

Collections Spotlight

Posted: August 3, 2021 - 1:24pm
The death toll of World War I was horrific with over 9 million combatant deaths. In France, approximately a third of all men between the ages of 18-35 died during the war. That loss is hard to fathom, let alone when one thinks of how those deaths affected the loved ones left behind. Philanthropists saw this suffering in France, especially that of orphaned children, and acted quickly. Numerous organizations formed to help orphaned children, including the American Society for the Relief of French War Orphans and the Fatherless Children of France.

American soldiers also provided aid to children left behind by the war. Through the army newspaper Stars and Stripes and the American Red Cross, they would symbolically adopt French orphans. These children were affectionately known as “mascots” and the soldiers would correspond with them, sending them gifts and financial aid.  Read More

The Battle of Loos

Collections Spotlight

Posted: June 28, 2021 - 12:29pm
Lance Corporal Bernard Scott Budge served with Company D, 5th Battalion, Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders. The young soldier was wounded by shrapnel during the Battle of Loos. Recuperating at the Ulster Volunteer Force Hospital in Ireland, he wrote to his mother in Scotland recounting his experiences during the battle. Soldiers wrote home to their families often, but because of censors or not wanting to cause their loved ones to worry, they did not always go into detail about their battlefront experience. Budge did not conceal much from his mother, which provides us with valuable insight into this important battle.  Read More

An Ode To A Cootie

Collections Spotlight

Posted: June 2, 2021 - 3:20pm
What is a cootie? Ask a World War I soldier, and you’d get a much more serious answer about a much more serious problem than you might expect. ‘Cooties’ was the nickname American soldiers gave to body lice – the itchy little bugs that burrowed into skin, hair, clothing, blankets and just about anything made of natural materials. For many soldiers, cooties were as relentless as their human enemies.   Read More

Memorial Day 1918

Collections Spotlight

Posted: May 3, 2021 - 8:45am
A day to remember and honor soldiers who died in service to their country, Memorial Day is observed by Americans who attend parades and ceremonies as well as decorate veterans’ graves. For many, Memorial Day is also a day to celebrate the start of summer with barbecues, family outings and plenty of time outside.

A recently processed Y.M.C.A. newsletter, The Daily Rumor, highlights how one group of soldiers observed Memorial Day 1918 “Somewhere in France.”   Read More

Bicycle Battalions

Collections Spotlight

Posted: April 5, 2021 - 8:45am
World War I is known for introducing wartime innovations such as tanks and submarines, but the world’s armies still made plenty of use of “old-fashioned” technology. Case in point: Bicycle battalions.

The humble bicycle had been used in war since the late 1800s and had proved to be quite efficient. Soldiers on bicycles could travel farther and carry more supplies than soldiers on foot. Bicycles were easier to maintain and quieter than horses – and they wouldn’t wander off after soldiers dismounted to fight.  Read More

Stevedores Poster

Collections Spotlight

Posted: February 24, 2021 - 9:11am
Men work in the shadow of a dock, pushing and carrying war supplies from a ship’s hold onto a train boxcar; a bright background behind shows ships moored, a boom crane and a billowing American flag. All this is depicted in a poster from the National WWI Museum and Memorial’s archives and currently on view in Ellis Gallery as part of theWhy Keep That? exhibition. The working men are African American stevedores in the Army Transport Service at St. Nazaire, France, one of nine base ports through which supplies arrived and began their transport inland.

This poster came to be part of the Museum and Memorial’s collection unexpectedly. It was part of a larger donation from an individual whose father, officer Lt. Henry Eby, served in the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps.  Read More