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Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum Launches WWII Exhibit 'Leaders, Battles And Heroes'

Wwii

By JOHN MILBURN   02/11/13 08:56 AM ET EST  AP

TOPEKA, Kan. -- A new World War II exhibit starting this summer at the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum will pay tribute to the millions who fought, but organizers also have another purpose for the ambitious three-year project: getting young people engaged in the war's relevance.

Karl Weissenbach, executive director of the library and museum in Abilene, said the "Leaders, Battles and Heroes" exhibit will be directed at younger generations that often know little about the war, its significance in world history or the impact of its outcome.

"It's amazing how little information and understanding they have about World War II," Weissenbach said. "You ask them questions and often you get a blank stare. That's really unsettling."

Eisenhower museum curator William Snyder said not every battle will be depicted, but the hope is for people to see the war through the eyes of those who were there, using first-person accounts of what happened from the late 1930s through the war's end.

"It continues to impact our lives on a daily basis. I hope people will realize this didn't happen in the far-off history books," Snyder said.

The 10,000-square-foot exhibit opens in June and runs through the end of 2016. It will rotate artifacts periodically from a collection of 78,000 items to reflect the advancement of U.S. forces during the war, leading to the surrender of Japan and Germany in 1945. Among the items to be displayed will be a newly acquired Soviet uniform and diary that were obtained with the help of the State Department.

Beyond artifacts and photographs, Snyder said the plan is to use new technology to deliver the story of the war in a way that's compelling and relevant to young people. Visitors will be able to scan quick response, or QR, codes with a mobile device to link to more detailed content about specific events or items – a far cry from the telegraphs, shortwave radios and landline telephones used during the war.

"It's hammering home how different things were, just getting people to realize how much slower things were," Snyder said.

Younger generations are not getting a full enough picture of World War II because of the way history is taught today, with major events often lumped together with other social sciences, said Anita Specht, history professor at Kansas Wesleyan University.

"When I survey my students what their favorite topic is, the majority will say World War II," Specht said. "I think maybe our young people are frustrated with their understanding."

She said history teachers may need to be more creative in the future about how they cover the war in their classrooms.

Weissenbach said the exhibit will be the largest the Eisenhower staff has presented. It will involve both the library and museum and include educational programs and symposiums.

Staff will be collaborating with officials in Europe, Japan and South America to bring their artifacts and perspectives to the U.S. for the exhibit.

"World War II is still so relevant. I believe it's our responsibility being the Eisenhower library and with his legacy that we thank our veterans and our allies," Weissenbach said. "Hopefully, our goal is to make sure that kids have an appreciation of what their grandparents or great-grandparents sacrificed.

"We're putting all of our resources into this program. We are obligated to do this. This is Gen. Eisenhower's hometown and what the public rightfully expects."

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  • Operating a hand drill at Vultee-Nashville, woman is working on a "Vengeance" dive bomber, Tennessee (LOC) Photographer: Palmer, Alfred T. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection

  • "Backstage" at the "girlie" show at the Vermont state fair, Rutland (LOC) Delano, Jack,, photographer. 1941 Sept. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection

  • Woman aircraft worker, Vega Aircraft Corporation, Burbank, Calif. Shown checking electrical assemblies (LOC) Bransby, David, photographer. 1942 June Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection

  • At the Vermont state fair, Rutland (LOC) Delano, Jack,, photographer. 1941 Sept. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection

  • Shepherd with his horse and dog on Gravelly Range, Madison County, Montana (LOC) Lee, Russell, 1903-1986, photographer. 1942 Aug. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection

  • Parris Island, S.C., barrage balloon (LOC) Palmer, Alfred T., photographer. 1942 May Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection

  • At the Vermont state fair, Rutland (LOC) Delano, Jack,, photographer. 1941 Sept. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection

  • Southeastern Georgia (LOC) Wolcott, Marion Post,, 1910-1990,, photographer. ca. 1940 Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection

  • Georgia oat field, Southern U.S. (LOC) Wolcott, Marion Post,, 1910-1990,, photographer. ca. 1940 Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection

  • Typical southeastern Georgia farm with newly harvested field of oats (LOC) Wolcott, Marion Post,, 1910-1990,, photographer. 1939 May Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection

  • Harvesting oats, southeastern Georgia (LOC) Wolcott, Marion Post,, 1910-1990,, photographer. ca. 1940 Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection

  • Brockton, Mass., Dec. 1940, second-hand plumbing store (LOC) Delano, Jack, photographer. 1940 Dec. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection

  • Cabin in Southern U.S. (LOC) Wolcott, Marion Post,, 1910-1990,, photographer. ca. 1940 Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection

  • Headlines posted in street-corner window of newspaper off[ice] (Brockton Enterprise), Brockton, Mass. (LOC) Delano, Jack, photographer. 1940 Dec. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection

  • Children with adult in the tenement district, Brockton, Massachusetts (LOC) Delano, Jack, photographer. 1940 Dec. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection

  • Train and several sets of railroad tracks in the snow, Massachusetts (LOC) Delano, Jack, photographer. 1940 Dec. or 1941 Jan. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection

  • Skating, vicinity of Brockton, Mass. (LOC) Delano, Jack,, photographer. 1940 Dec. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection

  • A view of the old sea town, Stonington, Conn. (LOC) Delano, Jack, photographer. 1940 Nov. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection

  • Burning the autumn leaves in Norwich, Connecticut (LOC) Delano, Jack,, photographer. 1940 Nov. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection

  • Connecticut town on the sea, probably Stonington (LOC) Delano, Jack, photographer. 1940 Nov. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection

  • Farm auction, Derby, Conn. (LOC) Delano, Jack, photographer. 1940 Sept. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection

  • Side shows at the Vermont state fair, Rutland (LOC) Delano, Jack, photographer. 1941 Sept. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection

  • View of the grounds at the Vermont state fair, Rutland (LOC) Delano, Jack, photographer. 1941 Sept. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection

  • "Backstage" at the "girlie" show at the Vermont state fair, Rutland (LOC) Delano, Jack, photographer. 1941 Sept. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection

  • Side show at the Vermont state fair, Rutland (LOC) Delano, Jack, photographer. 1941 Sept. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection

  • At the Vermont state fair, Rutland (LOC) Delano, Jack, photographer. 1941 Sept. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection

  • At the Vermont state fair, Rutland (LOC) Delano, Jack,, photographer. 1941 Sept. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection

  • Barker at the grounds at the Vermont state fair, Rutland (LOC) Delano, Jack, photographer. 1941 Sept. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection

  • Side shows at the Vermont state fair, Rutland (LOC) Delano, Jack, photographer. 1941 Sept. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection

  • Potato farms in Aroostook County, Me. (LOC) Delano, Jack, photographer. 1940 Oct. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection

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