One hundred years ago today, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the world took a big sigh of relief as the First World War ended with an armistice between the Allies and Germany. After four world-changing years, what had become known as the “Great War” the “war to end all wars” was finally over. And so with some sadness but also a little relief, the Kansas WW1 Centennial Committee has chosen this centennial Armistice Day to officially bring its commemoration to a close with the Tolling of the Bells (event details) at the Kansas Museum of History.
The Kansas WWI Centennial Commemoration Committee was formed in 2015 by proclamation of the Governor. The Director of the Kansas Museum of History, Mary Madden, was asked to chair the committee that included volunteers representing the the Kansas State Historical Society, Kansas Commission on Veteran’s Affairs Office, Kansas Humanities Council, Kansas State Department of Education, Kansas State University, Kansas University, KU Med Center, Kansas Wesleyan University, The Adjutant General’s Department, Bethany College, Brown v. Board of Education, National World War I Museum & Memorial, Pittsburg State University, US WWI Centennial Commission (WWICC), and the US Cavalry Museum.
The committee identified the following three goals to pursue throughout the commemoration period:
- Identify, endorse, and promote First World War centennial commemorative activities around the state of Kansas;
- Identify, collect, and share information about First World War monuments and memorials in the state of Kansas using the KSHS-operated Kansas Historical Resources Inventory (KHRI);
- Identify, collect, and share information about Kansas citizens who lived during the First World War.
With a budget of exactly $0 dollars and just the elbow grease of a few good history enthusiasts, the committee chose to pursue these goals through the creation of KansasWW1.org, a website to post content about commemorative activities, explore monuments and memorials, and share resources and research about Kansans who lived during the First World War.
On this blog, 21 authors wrote 782 articles about Kansas and the Great War. They developed the following special projects:
- Bethany College Digital Humanities Project which featured students from Bethany College as they researched and digitized artifacts relating to Bethany, KS
- Kansans of the Great War Era which is a collection of articles on sons and daughters of Kansas who lived during the First World War
- African American Soldiers, a special page dedicated to African Americans from the state of Kansas who served in the armed forces during the First World War
- Dissidents in Kansas, articles about the Kansans who bravely fought their own battles to end the war
- 100 Years Ago in Kansas, a collection a events that occured in the daily life of Kansans throughout the war
Other authors allowed our website to feature their own projects — the most notable of which is the Centennial Countdown to the Great War, a blog that followed world events leading up to the war as they happened, month by month, a hundred years ago.
In the end, KansasWW1.org was visited by 114,319 visitors from around the world who visited our blog 403,341 times.
I have had the honor of creating and administering this webpage. It has been a true labor of love as well as a great privilege to have a part in developing an outreach project of such importance. As we draw to a close, I can’t help but reflect on the commemoration period and what impact it has had on my life. The thought that rings loudest is the great expanse of time the WWI centennial commemoration period has covered, 2014-2018. For the past four years, I have had the opportunity to develop genuine friendships with like-minded enthusiasts from around the state, acquaintances I might never have had under other circumstance. Was this how Kansas soldiers “over there” felt as they gathered with troops from around the country to meet a common foe? I also think about the personal changes I have undergone during the commemoration period — I have gotten married, had a baby, bought a new house, switched jobs. It makes me think of the Kansans on the homefront during 1914-1918, and how long the war must have been for them. And while the war impacted their every day…life continued on. They too continued to get married, have babies, buy houses, switch jobs… As we face our own, modern life-changing and global challenges, I take comfort in the idea that core values like home, family, and community are stronger than even world-changing events like the First World War.
I thank each person who has written or supported this website, as well as each person who has taken the time to read our content. Thank you for being part of the Kansas centennial commemoration. While content for this webpage will wind down, it will continue to exist as a resource and be archived by the Kansas State Historical Society.