The exhibition “War, Collections, Memory,” showing artifacts, photos and documents from the state’s World War I archives, is on display now through August in the first-floor galleries at the Arkansas State Capitol, as part of the state’s centennial commemoration of the state’s participation in the war.
Shortly after the war’s cease fire in November 2018, the Arkansas History Commission — now called the Arkansas State Archives — partnered with battlefield memorabilia collector Louis C. Gulley to assemble a collection of artifacts and documents related to the war, and that collection was on display for many years at the Arkansas Capitol as the “Museum of the World War,” according to a press release from the Arkansas Secretary of State office.
“The exhibit is not a comprehensive history of Arkansans in the war; instead, it samples the materials collected and preserved in order to preserve the stories of the conflict. These range from predictable battlefield trophies such as bayonets and helmets, to fragments of buildings damaged by shell fire and items sewed by Arkansas women for the American Red Cross,” according to the press release. “A bullet-riddled helmet, mess cup and iron body armor attest to the dangers of facing modern small-arms fire, while playing cards and a chess set improvised by German prisoners of war represent soldiers’ attempts to set aside the horrors of the field, if only for a little while.
“The home front is represented by a box of bandages rolled by Arkansas women for use in field hospitals overseas, and by identification photographs of resident German nationals who were required to register as enemy aliens in 1917,” according to the Secretary of State’s office.
More than 70,000 Arkansans served in WWI. By war’s end, nearly 4,000 had died or were seriously wounded, according to the Secretary of State’s office.