FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WORLD WAR I STORIES FROM A CENTURY AGO TOLD IN VETS’ OWN WORDS IS A FIRST FOR WISCONSIN VETERANS MUSEUM
MADISON, Wis. (March 23, 2017) – The most powerful storytelling is first-person, unfiltered, heartfelt, and, at times, heart-wrenching. In days leading up to the United States’ entry into World War I a century ago on April 6, 1917, the Wisconsin Veterans Museum in Madison, Wis. today announced it will open an exhibit dedicated to the Great War, featuring stories of vets in their own words. “WWI Beyond the Trenches: Stories from the Front,” debuts Friday, April 21 and runs through April 2019. This is the first time the museum has used a story-based approach, drawing on its substantial oral history collection and archives to share the stories of the Wisconsin soldiers, sailors, nurses and airmen who helped shape global history.
In making the announcement, museum director Michael Telzrow detailed the scope of Wisconsin’s role in the war. “Between the United States entering the First World War on April 6, 1917, and the armistice on November 11, 1918, more than 122,000 Wisconsin men and women served, each contributing to the final victory in their own way,” said Telzrow. “These Wisconsinites cared for the wounded, protected our shores, ventured high in the skies, and endured trench warfare, making each of their stories of service and sacrifice unique yet with one common cause.”
Visitors to this new exhibit will hear audio recordings, see photographs, and read diary-like letters and log entries that illustrate, as nothing else could, the humanity behind the history. The stories of more than 20 Wisconsin veterans will be featured, including those of:
Helen Bulovsky of Madison, an Army nurse who was so close to the front lines that she felt the ground shake during artillery bombardments while caring for the wounded.
John Isermann of Kenosha, who joined the Coast Guard on the eve of the war and was immediately shifted to Navy control in the Atlantic to provide vessel protection in enemy submarine-infested waters.
Arthur Cantwell of Shawano, an 18-year-old just out of high school who enlisted in the Wisconsin National Guard and served on the front line.
Mortimer Lawrence of Beaver Dam, an aerial observer actually credited with the last US aerial victory.
“The words of the brave men and women who served our country during World War I are irreplaceable and we’re honored to share their stories with our visitors,” said Telzrow.
The museum is open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, and entrance is free. It is located at 30 W. Mifflin St., directly across from the State Capitol. For more details, visit www.WisVetsMuseum.com.
About the Wisconsin Veterans Museum
The Wisconsin Veterans Museum dates to 1901 when it was established as the Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall in the Wisconsin Capitol. It is an educational activity of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs and a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate which gives it access to the Smithsonian’s unparalleled collections and scholarship. For more on the Museum’s exhibits, collections and events, log on to www.WisVetsMuseum.com.
EXHIBIT FACT SHEET: “WWI BEYONG THE TRENCHES: Stories from the Front”
World War I Centennial
Between the United States entering the First World War on April 6, 1917, and the armistice on November 11, 1918, more than 122,000 Wisconsin men and women served.
Museum’s First Story-Based Exhibit
The Wisconsin Veterans Museum marks the centennial of the Great War with the opening of a major new exhibit, “WWI BEYONG THE TRENCHES: Stories from the Front” featuring stories of veterans in their own words. Visitors will hear first-person audio recordings, see photographs, and read letters and journal entries that bring to life the humanity behind the history. This is the first story-based exhibit for the museum.
Hours, Location, Web Address
The exhibit debuts Friday, April 21 and runs through April 2019.
Museum hours are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Entrance is free.
The museum is located at 30 W. Mifflin St., directly across from the State Capitol.
The website is www.WisVetsMuseum.com.
The stories of 20 veterans are included in the exhibit, including these four featured stories:
- Helen Bulovsky of Madison, an Army nurse serving at an Evacuation Hospital just behind the front lines.
- John Isermann of Kenosha, who joined the Coast Guard on the eve of the war and was shifted to the Navy to rescue ships in waters where German submarines posed a constant threat.
- Arthur Cantwell of Shawano, an 18-year-old fresh out of high school whose first brush with death came when his troopship sank on the way to England.
- Mortimer Lawrence of Beaver Dam, an aerial observer who earned an unlikely place in the footnotes of American military history for the last US aerial victory of the war.
Drawing from the museum’s extensive oral history collection, visitors will be able to hear the words of four veterans:
- Scott Cairy, born in Iowa in 1889, helped form a National Guard unit from Platteville where he lived and worked at the time. His unit was organized into the 32nd Division. During one battle he was knocked unconscious by artillery shell and spent eight months in a hospital. He lived the rest of his life in Platteville. In this recording, Cairy explains how he narrowly missed being aboard the Tuscania during her fateful voyage in February 1918 and how he learned of the ship’s sinking.
- John Pavlik, born in Michigan in 1901, enlisted in Milwaukee on April 3rd, 1917, at the age of 16. He served in the 125th Ambulance Company attached to the 32nd Infantry Division. After his discharge he worked for the Milwaukee Fire Department. In this recording, Pavlik describes the extreme happiness in felt coming home and the appreciation the soldiers received from the homefront.
Be Certain Not to Miss
The addition of oral histories to this exhibit
About the Wisconsin Veterans Museum
The Wisconsin Veterans Museum dates to 1901 when it was established as the Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall in the Wisconsin Capitol. It is an educational activity of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs to commemorate, acknowledge, and affirm the role of Wisconsin citizens in American military history, past and present. It is also a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate which gives it access to the Smithsonian’s unparalleled collections and scholarship.
Within the museum’s 10,000 square feet of exhibit space are dioramas consisting of life-size figures and painted murals that realistically and vividly portray events in which Wisconsin veterans participated. There are even aircraft suspended from the ceiling, a functional submarine periscope poking through the roof providing a view of downtown Madison and the State Capitol, a tank, and more.
The Wisconsin Veterans Museum’s Oral History Collection contains more than 2,000 interviews chronicling personal stories and military experiences of Wisconsin-connected veterans from the Spanish-American War to present day. Its Object Collection consists of more than 26,000 objects collected by Wisconsin citizens over the past 150 years, from flags carried in battle by Wisconsin’s Civil War regiments to equipment used in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both collections vividly illustrate the state’s role in shaping global history.
The museum also offers educational programs and operates a research center where archival collections can be accessed.
Each year museum staff members educate more than 30,000 schoolchildren and welcome some 100,000 visitors.
For more on the Museum’s main gallery exhibits, collections and events, log on to www.WisVetsMuseum.com.
Contact: Karen Burch
Senior Marketing Specialist
Wisconsin Veterans Museum · 30 West Mifflin Street, Madison, WI 53703 · 608.267.1799