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.

Zeppelin L49 Fabric Fragment

Collections Spotlight

Posted: November 24, 2020 - 9:00am
The rigid airships launched and operated by the Imperial German Naval Airship Division not only displayed the recent innovations of air bombing but also heralded the advent of total war, where the battlefields now spilled over into civilian lands and lives. Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin formed a company in 1896 for the “Promotion of Airship Flight.” With the outbreak of WWI, the airships named for him became a major weapon of war.

A recent addition to the Museum and Memorial’s collection is a small fragment of fabric from the skin of the mighty Zeppelin L49, one of only two items from a Zeppelin in the Museum’s collection.

On the morning of Oct. 19, 1917, 13 Zeppelins, including L49, were ordered to “attack middle England. Industrial region of Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool, etc.” With a crew of 19 and carrying 11,000 pounds of fuel, it set out with a payload of 4,410 pounds of bombs, of which 42 bombs were dropped. Following the raid, L49 was forced down in France near Bourbonne-les-Bains by French fighter planes. All crew members survived and were taken prisoners.  Read More

Lusitania Medals

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Posted: July 14, 2020 - 10:30am
“There was a dull explosion and a quantity of debris and water was flung into the air beside the bridge. The waterspout knocked me down beside the Marconi office. The explosion seemed to lift the ship hard over to port and was followed soon after by a second rumbling explosion entirely different to the first.” James Brookes of Bridgeport, Connecticut wrote this first-person account of the first moments of the sinking of the Cunard liner, Lusitania.

On May 7, 1915, the passenger liner Lusitania was sunk by German submarine U-20 in British waters. Of the passengers, 1,198 drowned, including many women and children and 124 U.S. citizens. Public outrage spun quickly around the world.  Read More

Portrait of John Lewis Barkley

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Posted: April 15, 2020 - 10:00am
John Lewis Barkley was a U.S. Army Medal of Honor recipient of World War I, for his valiant action in fighting holding off two German attacks with a captured machine gun.

When the expanded National WWI Museum and Memorial opened in 2006, his daughter Joan Barkley Wells donated an oil painting of her father in uniform wearing his medals, painted by renowned portrait painter Howard Chandler Christy. Joan also donated her father’s correspondence and objects, including his Medal of Honor and other decorations and citations. The portrait and medals are now on exhibit in the Main Gallery of the Museum, with other pieces displayed in Memory Hall.  Read More

War Brides of the Great War

Collections Spotlight

Posted: February 28, 2020 - 2:00pm
The term ‘war brides’ originally referred to women who quickly married before their husbands left for military service. By the end of the Great War, war brides took on the entirely new meaning of international women marrying American soldiers serving overseas. Intercultural unions between American soldiers and local woman were not a new phenomenon, with the first marriages occurring during the Spanish-American War 20 years prior. However, with thousands of marriages, World War I was the first war with formal regulations enacted to control these relationships.

The soldiers, welfare workers and other personnel that assisted the war brides had mixed feelings about these new U.S. citizens and this was reflected in their correspondence.  Read More

Barometric Chart of War Atmosphere and Feelings

Collections Spotlight

Posted: August 30, 2019 - 8:45am
Letters and diaries can provide invaluable insight into the thoughts and feelings of soldiers, as well as into those of their loved ones on the homefront. But what about barometric charts? A recently processed collection at the Museum and Memorial highlights the unique way one British woman tracked her emotions during World War I.

Honoria Constance Lawrence created this chart titled "A Weekly War Record of Feelings in England as experienced by a Civilian from Aug. 3rd 1914 to Nov. 11th 1918, constituting a Barometric Chart of War Atmosphere.” Her chart provides a weekly timeline of the war, with Lawrence’s corresponding reactions. She advertised the chart as for sale with the proceeds benefitting women’s welfare work in Somerset, England.  Read More

U.S. Army Nurse Corps Baseball Uniform

Collections Spotlight

Posted: March 26, 2019 - 4:15pm
During the American Occupation of Germany in 1919-1920, baseball teams were formed from the U.S. Army Nurse Corps and YMCA women volunteers. These teams barnstormed around Germany and in every venue they played were met by enthusiastic crowds. At the YMCA “Eagle” hut in London, women workers demonstrated baseball to the English soldiers.

The National WWI Museum and Memorial recently acquired two uniform pullovers from these baseball teams, one numbered “2” and the other “3.” They are made of wool in the style of the U.S. Navy pullover shirt. It is not known where it was made or where the accompanying pants are. A variety of uniform types were worn by the teams, some issued by the YMCA and others privately-purchased.   Read More

Documents from the Paris Peace Conference

Collections Spotlight

Posted: January 28, 2019 - 4:00pm
Faith Hunter Dodge was a freelance writer who attended the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 as an official journalist with the United States Army. While there, she represented the New York-based newspaper La Prensa (now the oldest and largest Spanish-language newspaper in the United States, after a merger with El Diario de Nueva York.) A recently processed collection of documents at the National WWI Museum and Memorial sheds light on Dodge's activities in France.

The Paris Peace Conference was held in France between Jan. 18, 1919 – Jan. 21, 1920 to finalize the peace between the Allied and Central Powers. Representatives of over 30 countries participated; however, Germany and the other Central Powers were not invited to attend. The culmination of the Paris Peace Conference was the signing of the Treaty of Versailles with Germany on June 28, 1919. Four other treaties followed, which officially end the war with other nations.  Read More

Ruses and Snares

Collections Spotlight

Posted: December 10, 2018 - 9:30am
According to a recently processed document from the archives, some retreating German soldiers turned trenches into booby-traps, inflicting harm to advancing Allied soldiers. Training Circular No. 21 “Ruses and Snares of the Enemy when Retreating” was used by the 77th Division at Camp Upton in early 1918 to train soldiers before going to France. According to the document, German soldiers set a variety of traps and other sabotage when retreating between Artois and the Aisne.

The traps were clever and deadly, such as these snares: “A window weight is suspended by a string across the entrance of a shelter. When one enters, the string breaks and the weight falls into a box of detonators which fire explosives.”; “Buried hand grenades are connected by telephone wire and explode when the wire is touched.”; “The step of a staircase is put in contact with a nail which touches the primer of a mine.”  Read More