On November 4, 2017, the West Baton Rouge Museum will open a new two-part exhibition from the National Archives, Over Here & Over There: Americans at Home and Abroad in World War I. Because World War I was “total war,” the American home front was especially important to victory. Over Here captures the patriotic fervor of draft registration, the emotional good-byes of men leaving for training camps, the “hoopla” of Liberty Loan drives, and the craze for volunteerism. Some 2 million American men served in Europe with the American Expeditionary Forces. Over There showcases World War I overseas military photography from the immense photographic holdings of the National Archives. The exhibition includes photographs from the fronts, behind the lines, and the consequences and memory of the war. This exhibit runs through January 7, 2018.
In a war that was often described as a “crusade,” emotion, pageantry, and performance were weapons. Along with the Federal Government, state and national organizations produced a variety of events that aimed at stirring feelings of patriotic obligation among Americans and encouraging sacrifice, volunteerism and national service. On the battle fronts, each combat division was assigned a photographic unit that included both still and motion picture cameramen. Military photographers did not shy away from shots that included dead and wounded soldiers or the war’s destructiveness. They especially show the expressions on the faces of Americans at war. Parts of the U.S. military, including many Signal Corps photographers, remained in Europe for months after the armistice, as did American photo journalists. Together, they created a visual record of the shattered landscape, the post-war peace conference, and returning prisoners of war.
The West Baton Rouge Museum will be hosting several programs in conjunction with this exhibit. On November 5, 2017 the 13th Annual Veterans on Parade event will be held in downtown Port Allen. Veterans and their families are invited to visit the exhibition after the parade. The West Baton Rouge will also be hosting a Saturday morning reading and discussion program, World War I and America. This series held in November and December is a national initiative of The Library of America presented in partnership with The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, the National World War I Museum and Memorial, and other organizations, with generous support from The National Endowment for the Humanities.