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Dec. 2, 2016
As the nation remembers the attack on Pearl Harbor 75 years ago on Dec. 7, Northwest Missouri State University students will unveil a refurbished exhibit featuring military uniforms, paraphernalia and history of local men and women at the Nodaway County Historical Society Museum.
The exhibit, which the museum at 110 Walnut St. in Maryville has housed on its second floor for several years, will reopen with a short program and viewing from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 7.
Students in Assistant Professor of History Dr. Elyssa Ford’s local history practicum course spent the fall trimester redesigning the military history display and conducting research for the purpose of adding new elements to the exhibit.
The redesigned exhibit features Nodaway County connections and stories of the University’s and region’s roles during the Civil War, world wars and the Vietnam War. Students also researched the uniforms themselves, including the pins and patches that adorn each piece and how uniform styles have evolved through the decades.
“Before it was all of the uniforms, which was really nice to see, but there wasn’t anything about the uniforms, about the people who wore the uniforms or about the wars,” Ford said. “Now, there’s going to be a lot of stories about the different wars, about the things that are on the uniforms and about some of the people who wore the uniforms. It is giving life to the exhibit.”
Chloe Haffarnan, junior history major from Mount Pleasant, Iowa, focused her part of the exhibit on the homefront during the world wars. She learned about the important role northwest Missouri’s agriculture roots played in World War I and how the Navy V-12 and V-5 training programs at Northwest changed the campus climate during World War II.
Nodaway County, Haffarnan discovered, earned a “V home banner” during World War II, signifying that 60 percent of households had contributed to the war effort in some form. One of those residents was Dona Miller, of Guilford, who traveled each Sunday to Kansas City to spend the week welding and working on airplanes. She returned home each Friday evening to help her parents care for her three young daughters.
“It’s exciting to do this as an undergrad because I know a lot of graduate programs rarely get to do this,” said Haffarnan, who already has an internship at the Andrew County Museum on her resume and aspires to direct a museum or non-profit one day.
Nicholas Lazen, a senior from Kansas City who is studying a history minor, decided to research military weaponry after seeing the variety of items in the Nodaway County museum’s collection. He looked at swords, handguns and rifles as well as general survival items and currency.
His research of a Japanese sword recovered during World War II determined the sword was a copy.
“Most families weren’t willing to risk their actual family blades going into war, so they were mass-produced,” Lazen said. “But this was a cheaper variant of that and, as a result, its value is only historical.”
In commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, Alexander Meyer, a junior history major from Grain Valley, Missouri, created a display about the day President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously proclaimed "will live in infamy." For his part, Meyer profiled Wilbur Wright, an Atchison County native and member of the Navy who was stationed on the USS Oglala when Pearl Harbor came under attack. The Oglala was the first ship sunk, but Wright managed to survive and reached shore, where he watched the strikes on the Arizona, Oklahoma, Nevada and West Virginia.
Ford, who serves on the Nodaway County Historical Society board and regularly involves her students in creating exhibits for the museum, said she had been interested in refreshing the military history exhibit for some time.
After clearing and cleaning the space where the original exhibit stood, the students examined the museum’s military collection and began thinking about ideas for the new displays. Students were challenged to select a topic, research it, write a research paper and then create a portion of the exhibit based on their studies. They interviewed local experts and museum staff and dug deep into newspaper archives.
In the meantime, the students also explored the history and purpose of museums and exhibit design. Ford invited Dee Harris, an exhibits specialist for the National Archives in Kansas City, and Sara Wilson, executive director of St. Joseph Museums, to offer their insights about exhibit design and creating interactive displays.
“A lot of times students maybe get some of this experience in graduate school, but in all honesty this is a lot more hands-on experience and a much more complete exhibit than most people in graduate school end up doing,” Ford said, adding some of the students even gave a presentation about their work at the Missouri Association of Museums and Archives conference in October. “It’s good experience for them and it’s really great for the museum to have these new exhibits coming in.”
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468