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“On the British front.” From 1917: Documents de la Section photographique de l’armée française. Department of Special Collections.

The University Of Wisconsin–Madison Libraries, in coordination with the George L. Mosse Program and the Historical Society of Wisconsin presents a special exhibit and lecture by New York Times best-selling author Adam Hochschild on World War I.

During the summer of 1914 the world plunged into war. The outbreak of World War I in August of 1914 became a defining period of the twentieth century that would be followed by nearly three decades of chaos and violence in Europe. As Wisconsin commemorates the centennial of the war’s beginning, a special exhibit featuring WWI is on display in the Department of Special Collections in Memorial Library. In coordination with the exhibit, a special lecture by New York Times best-selling author Adam Hochschild took place on October 8 at the Wisconsin Historical Society.

The exhibit showcases period artifacts given to the UW–Madison Libraries by Art Historian Andrew Stangel. Other collection pieces from the UW Libraries, Archives, and the Wisconsin Historical Society are also on display through December 30. The WWI collection, curated by UW History graduate students, Eric O’Connor and Skye Doney, focuses on materials including newspaper accounts, war medals, photographs, cartoons, paintings, diplomatic correspondence, death certificates, propaganda, postcards, and children’s toys. It aims at confronting perceptions of life and death both on the battlefield and the home front, giving visitors a better understanding of the profound impact, suffering, and opportunities that emerged from the war.

“We are humbled to display such important artifacts that capture an indelible period of history,” says Ed Van Gemert, Vice Provost for Libraries and University Librarian. “The items in the collection, in addition to the honor of hosting Adam Hochschild, we hope will provide people with a better understanding of not only WWI, but the impact it had for decades to come.”

In conjunction with the exhibit Adam Hochschild, UC Berkeley professor of journalism and author of To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion will give a lecture detailing the struggle not only between nations during the war, but within nations. He will discuss the divide created between people who regarded the war as a noble crusade, and those who viewed it as a tragic madness and refused to fight.

John Tortorice, director of the George L. Mosse Program in the Department of History, helped coordinate the exhibit. He quoted Mosse who wrote in Fallen Soldiers: Reshaping the Memory of the World Wars, “Through WWI many met organized mass death for the first time face to face. The history of that encounter is crucial to an understanding of attitudes toward the large scale taking of life-through war or state-sanctioned mass murder-which repeatedly scarred the twentieth-century.”

The exhibit and lecture is sponsored by the UW–Madison Libraries and Archives, Historical Society of Wisconsin, and the George L. Mosse Program.

Exhibits and Events Schedule:

  • Exhibit: August 1 – December 30, 2014: 1914: Then Came Armageddon: A Documentary Exhibition of the War in the West on the Centennial of World War I. Curated by UW History Graduate Students Eric O’Connor and Skye Doney, Memorial Department of Special Collections, Memorial Library
  • Exhibit: August 15 –  October 15, 2014: American, British, and French Propaganda Posters from WWI selected from the Historical Society of Wisconsin, Memorial Library Lobby
  • October 8: “1914-1918: The War Within the War” a talk by Adam Hochschild, University of California Berkeley, 4:30–5:30 p.m., Wisconsin Historical Society Auditorium

For more information, visit the Libraries site.