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New Exhibit Explores Propaganda, Patriotism, and Dissent in WWI

99 Years After WWI
MSU Museum Exhibit Explores Propaganda, Patriotism, and Dissent in WWI

November 11, 2017 marks the ninety-ninth anniversary of the end of World War I. A new exhibit at the MSU Museum recognizes this historic moment by looking back at homefront politics of what was then called the Great War. War and Speech: Propaganda, Patriotism, and Dissent in the Great War opens November 11 in the Museum’s Main Gallery.

The exhibit explores how propaganda posters produced by the United States government, by commercial lithographers, and by citizens created a new, modern way of signifying patriotism and the American people. Posters and artifacts chosen from the MSU Museum’s history collection highlight the power of persuasion in representing important events such as the sinking of the Lusitania and appeals to groups then marginalized in American society. At the same time, the government attempted to quell dissenting views on the war. Textiles, buttons, and other artifacts from the WWI era help tell the story in War and Speech.

“The Great War was fought overseas with swords and guns,” explains Shirley T. Wajda, MSU Museum curator of history, who curated the exhibition. “The war at—and about—home was fought with words and images.”

Another section of the exhibit features the elements of a “war relic train.” These trains crossed the United States during the Liberty Loan drives of 1918 and 1919. Each train carried exhibits of what Liberty Bonds made possible, for example, captured German weaponry, photographs of the battlefields, and American servicemen’s field kits. Speakers at every stop encouraged large crowds to do their patriotic duty and buy a Liberty Bond on the spot.

War and Speech is on view in the MSU Museum’s Main Gallery from November 11, 2017 – November 11, 2018. Join us for an opening reception on Saturday, November 11 from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.