Introduction to the Museum and Memorial

The National World War I Museum and Memorial - Kansas City, Missouri

National WWI Museum and Memorial

The National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri is America’s only museum dedicated to sharing the stories of the Great War through the eyes of those who lived it.

Previously known as the Liberty Memorial, it was officially recognized by Congress as the National World War I Museum and Memorial in 2014, and contains one of the most diverse collections of WWI artifacts in the world.

Homecoming Parade in Kansas City, Missouri (1919-05-03)National WWI Museum and Memorial

After World War I ended, Kansas City leaders set out to create a lasting monument to the men and women who had served in the war.

In 1919, citizens of Kansas City raised more than $2.5 million in just 10 days for the construction of the monument, the equivalent of over $35 million today.

Site Dedication - Liberty Memorial (1921-11-01)National WWI Museum and Memorial

In 1921, more than 100,000 people gathered to see five supreme Allied commanders dedicate the site of the Liberty Memorial (today known as the National World War I Museum and Memorial.) This was the first time in history these leaders were together in one place.

Marshal Ferdinand Foch and others at Rockhurst Academy, Kansas City, Missouri., 1921-11, From the collection of: National WWI Museum and Memorial
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Allied Commanders in Kansas City, 1921-11-01, From the collection of: National WWI Museum and Memorial
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"Vestal Virgins" at the Liberty Memorial Site Dedication, 1921-11-01, From the collection of: National WWI Museum and Memorial
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"Vestal Virgin" Costume from Liberty Memorial Site Dedication, 1921-11-01, From the collection of: National WWI Museum and Memorial
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Dedication of the Liberty Memorial (1926-11-11)National WWI Museum and Memorial

Construction on the classical Egyptian Revival-style monument was completed in 1926 and the Liberty Memorial was dedicated by President Calvin Coolidge in front of more than 150,000 people.

Kansas City War Dead - Bronze TabletsNational WWI Museum and Memorial

Enshrined in the Memorial’s Memory Hall are bronze tablets inscribed with a complete list of the 441 Kansas Citians who died in World War I.

Liberty Memorial Tower at NightNational WWI Museum and Memorial

The Liberty Memorial Tower stands at the center of the Memorial Courtyard, with an observation deck for visitors to overlook downtown Kansas City. At night a "flame of inspiration" is emitted from the top of the 217-foot-tall Tower.

The observation deck of the Liberty Memorial Tower gives visitors a 360° view of downtown Kansas City.

Located on the north wall of the Memorial, The Great Frieze was sculpted by World War I veteran Edmond Amateis in 1935. The large bas-relief frieze – 18 feet tall by 148 feet long – is rich in symbolism. It depicts the end of the war and the creation of an era of greater peace and amity, sadly an era that would prove to be elusive with the start of World War II.

The inscription above the Frieze reads:

“These have dared bear the torches of sacrifice and service. Their bodies return to dust, but their work liveth for evermore. Let us strive on to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Inside Memory Hall, you will also find what remains of the Panthéon de la Guerre.

Painted in Paris as the Great War raged, the Panthéon de la Guerre was originally a massive circular panorama described as the largest oil painting in the world. 45 feet tall with a circumference of 402 feet, it depicted thousands of prominent wartime figures from all Allied nations.

Panthéon de la GuerreNational WWI Museum and Memorial

Panthéon de la Guerre (1914-1918) by Auguste François-Marie GorguetNational WWI Museum and Memorial

Neglected after a post-war U.S. tour, the Panthéon was stored outdoors and left to degrade until it was bought at auction in 1952 by William Haussner, a German WWI veteran who had become a successful Baltimore restaurateur. In 1957, Kansas City artist Daniel MacMorris persuaded Haussner to donate the panorama to the Memorial.


Though the storage conditions had destroyed sections of the painting, fragments of the Panthéon were rearranged and reworked by MacMorris and this newly configured composition was installed in Memory Hall, where it remains today.

Paul Sunderland Glass Bridge and Poppy FieldNational WWI Museum and Memorial

In 2004 construction started on a new state-of-the-art museum and research center underneath the existing National Historic Landmark, opening in 2006 to national acclaim. Visitors enter the Museum’s Main Gallery via a glass bridge suspended over a field of poppies. Each of the 9,000 poppies represents 1,000 soldiers (9 million in total) who lost their lives in the conflict. 

Main GalleryNational WWI Museum and Memorial

The Museum began collecting items from all nations involved in the First World War in 1920. It is now home to one of the largest Great War collections in the world.

West GalleryNational WWI Museum and Memorial

Renault FT17 Tank (1918)National WWI Museum and Memorial

Renault FT17 Tank

One of the highlights of the collection is the French Renault FT17 Tank.

It was struck by German artillery in the Fall 1918 offensives, putting it out of service. Although research has not shown yet who the crew was and their fate, they were probably French. The tank was recovered by the U.S. 2nd Motor Maintenance Regiment, 2nd Battalion, Air Service Mechanics for repair and reuse.

Trench Display - Main GalleryNational WWI Museum and Memorial

Want to learn more? Go in-depth into the history and collection at theworldwar.org.

Credits: Story

All content: National WWI Museum and Memorial.

Made possible in part by the generous support of the William T. Kemper Foundation, the Regnier Family Foundation, Courtney S. Turner Charitable Trust, the David T. Beals, III Charitable Trust and Bank of America, N.A., Co-Trustees.


Curator of Education: Lora Vogt
Digital Content Manager: Liesl Christman
Senior Curator: Doran Cart
Registrar: Stacie Petersen
Director, Archives and Edward Jones Research Center: Jonathan Casey

theworldwar.org

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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