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Brig. General William Wright Harts’ dress uniform is part of the Over There, Over Here: Madison in World War I exhibit in Madison. (Photo courtesy of the Madison Historical Society )
This toy World War I helmet is among the artifacts displayed in the joint Madison Historical Society and Charlotte L. Evarts Memorial Archives exhibit Over There, Over Here: Madison in World War I. (Photo courtesy of the Madison Historical Society )
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It has been called the Great War and the war to end all wars, but whatever the name, World War I affected generations of families across the globe—and Madison was not exempt. To take a closer look at Madison’s involvement in World War I , Madison history organizations have curated a joint exhibition to honor the town’s involvement.
Put on by the Madison Historical Society (MHS) and the Charlotte L. Evarts Memorial Archives, the exhibit Over There, Over Here: Madison in World War I, will open Saturday, July 30. On display until Nov. 27, the exhibit will be held at the MHS’s Lee’s Academy and Memorial Town Hall.
The exhibit will explore the town’s involvement during the war, both at home and abroad. With the 100th anniversary of The Armistice coming up in 2018, MHS exhibit chairperson Tricia Royston said this was the right time to put on the exhibit.
“The anniversary of the war was coming up and we thought we needed to do something to remember all of the people who served and be aware of the effect it had on town,” she said. “We need to remember.”
To put on the joint exhibit, the teams of organizers have been working for more than two years to plan and implement. To fund the project, the exhibition received more than $24,000 in grants from the Connecticut Humanities department. Royston said the exhibit explores the themes of the war, including political censorship, the media, propaganda, art, and music at home and abroad.
“We are exploring the impact on the community here, things that went on like the Red Cross making bandages, the victory gardens, the boy scouts, the impact on the children,” she said. “There were a number of people who were eager to help out, so we are trying to give a little sense of the atmosphere before America joined the war and then we switch over to the experience overseas and how the people over here were helping them out and things like that.”
Royston said the main focus of the exhibit will be the people who served.
“We had people who went over before the U.S. even joined the war to help out,” she said. “We have uniforms and gear from the soldiers, we have a lot of photos of the soldiers and more detailed accounts of their service, we have a lot of posters that were made during the war for everything from the Red Cross to joining the Marines. We even have a children’s section with activities.”
The exact number of Madison residents who served is unclear due to residents enlisting in other locations and the added difficulty of counting summer residents, according to Royston, but she said the number could be as high as 90.
“We have a service flag, which was made by the people in town for their family members who served, and there are 71 starts on that for 71 Madison people,” she said. “The population of the town was only about 1,500 at the time, so I would say everybody in town had someone they knew or cared about involved.”
The exhibit will include first-person narratives, recordings of letters and memoirs, and multimedia viewing stations. To learn more about the exhibit, visit www.madisoncthistorical.org or www.evartsarchives.org.
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