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.

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

Gold Star Mothers and Widows Pilgrimage Billet Card

Collections Spotlight

Posted: February 3, 2021 - 1:15pm
During World War I, families displayed blue star flags in support of family members serving in the military. If the soldier passed, the blue stars were replaced by gold stars.

As part of the healing process, women formed organizations to mourn and honor their fallen loved ones. They became known as Gold Star mothers and widows and these women lobbied Congress in the 1920s to visit the graves of their sons and husbands overseas. Legislation passed in 1929, and even after the start of the Great Depression, the U.S. government paid to send approximately 6,650 women to France between 1930-1933.  Read More

Quartermaster Corps: Show Me the Bacon!

Collections Spotlight

Posted: January 6, 2021 - 8:24am
The task of feeding soldiers during WWI was enormous and the logistics staggering. For the first time in U.S. history, a trained military unit was responsible for supplying the troops. In prior conflicts, contractors did most of this work, but during WWI the responsibility fell to the Quartermaster Corps. The Quartermaster Corps had numerous functions and supplied everything from personal equipment, horses, ammunition, automobiles, laundry and bath services to one of its most important functions: food.

By the end of the war, almost 900,000 tons of foodstuff had been shipped from the U.S. to the Western Front. Upon arrival, food was loaded onto trains and transported to distribution points throughout France. From there, it was moved to various units by wagon trains or trucks. It took approximately 70 trucks to move rations for one Division.  Read More

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

Collections Spotlight

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

Collections Spotlight

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