Photographs stained with age, letters to loved ones about wishes of returning home, rugged military uniforms and posters pushing for the rationing of food cover the walls. Numerous news articles and shiny awards fill the glass cases waiting to be admired. The tragic and heroic stories of soldiers from Marquette County hang on every wall, asking to be read and begging not to be forgotten.
With this year marking a century since the U.S. entered WWI, the Beaumier U.P. Heritage Center is featuring an exhibit that reflects on veterans from the Upper Peninsula.
Starting Feb. 1, “Soldier Stories: the U.P. in WWI,” will highlight personal experiences from the Upper Peninsula and how soldiers from the U.P. impacted the conflict.
Dan Truckey, director of the Beaumier U.P. Heritage Center, collaborated with people from various historical organizations in Marquette County to create the exhibit. One of the driving factors for Truckey in creating the exhibit was the fact that younger people feel “disconnected” from the war because it happened so long ago, he said.
“We’re just trying to help a new generation come to terms with what this conflict was all about,” Truckey said.
Even though World War I happened 100 years ago, our society is still dealing with ramifications from it, such as conflict and war overseas, he added.
“They’re largely forgotten now. It’s just a way for us to remind people of the sacrifices they made,” he said.
There are no more living veterans from WWI today, said Truckey. The Marquette Regional History Center is also featuring an exhibit reflecting on WWI contributors from the Upper Peninsula. The display titled, “World War I Remembered: How Marquette County Served,” will feature first-hand accounts of Marquette-area soldiers and sailors, as well as the role played by the local Red Cross and other organizations during the war. Both of the exhibits will outline how the war affected the U.P.
Jo Wittler, a curator at the center, hopes the exhibit will not only outline the collective war efforts by numerous Marquette County organizations, but also help the community understand how the war affected people from this area.
“I hope people will understand what a huge impact it made on people’s lives,” Wittler said. “It was an extremely traumatic war.”
Wittler also said while the exhibit is informative, she hopes it will inspire people to learn more about the war themselves by doing further reading and research.
“It kind of inspires you to look at what’s going on in the world and how that can relate to what came before, because things don’t just happen out of the blue,” she added.
The exhibits were made possible by a $15,000 grant from the Michigan Humanities Council. The money will also be used to help fund upcoming events that will complement the exhibits, Truckey said. These events will consist of concerts, movie showings at the Peter White Public Library, a “Downton Abbey” dance featuring WWI-era music and a WWI Symposium that will take place in April.
A full schedule of the events can be found at ww1remembered.nmu.edu. The Beaumier U.P. Heritage Center exhibit premieres at 5 p.m. and the Marquette Regional History Center exhibit will start at 6 p.m. Coffee and hors d’oeuvres will be provided. For more information about the exhibits, contact Dan Truckey at [email protected]