National World War I Museum and Memorial

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Both "Liberty Memorial" and "National World War I Memorial" redirect here. For the landmarks in North Dakota, see Liberty Memorial Building and Liberty Memorial Bridge. For the memorial in the US capital, see National World War I Memorial (Washington, D.C.). For World War I memorials of other nations, see the category World War I memorials.
National World War I Museum and Memorial
National WWI Museum and Memorial
(New Logo revealed in 2017, Intersections)
Location Kansas City, Missouri, United States
Nearest parking On site (no charge)
National World War I Museum and Memorial
National World War I Museum and Memorial aerial.jpg
Aerial photo of the National WWI Museum and Memorial with the Kansas City skyline.
Location Kansas City, Missouri
Coordinates 39°04′49″N 94°35′10″W / 39.08028°N 94.58611°W / 39.08028; -94.58611Coordinates: 39°04′49″N 94°35′10″W / 39.08028°N 94.58611°W / 39.08028; -94.58611
Built 1926
Architect Harold Van Buren Magonigle, Westlake Construction Company
Architectural style Beaux Arts Classicism, Egyptian Revival
NRHP Reference # 00001148
Significant dates
Added to NRHP September 20, 2006[1]
Designated NHL September 20, 2006[2]

The National World War I Museum and Memorial of the United States is located in Kansas City, Missouri. Opened to the public as the Liberty Memorial museum in 1926, it was designated in 2004 by the United States Congress as America's official museum dedicated to World War I. The Museum and Memorial are managed by a non-profit organization in cooperation with the Kansas City Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners.[3] The museum re-opened to the public in December 2006 with an expanded, award-winning[4] facility to exhibit an artifact collection that began in 1920. The National World War I Museum tells the story of the Great War and related global events from their origins before 1914 through the 1918 armistice and 1919 Paris Peace Conference. Visitors enter the exhibit space within the 32,000-square-foot (3,000 m2) facility across a glass bridge above a field of 9,000 red poppies, each one representing 1,000 combatant deaths.[5]


The declared mission of the museum and memorial is to be "dedicated to remembering, interpreting and understanding the Great War and its enduring impact on the global community." [6]


Liberty Memorial Association[edit]

Soon after World War I ended, a group of 40 prominent Kansas City residents formed the Liberty Memorial Association (LMA) to create a memorial to those who had served in the war. They chose lumber baron and philanthropist Robert A. Long, who had personally given a large sum of money, as president.[7] Others included:

In 1919, the LMA spearheaded a fund drive that included 83,000 contributors and collected more than $2.5 million in less than two weeks, driven by what museum curator Doran Cart has described as "complete, unbridled patriotism".[9] There would not be the monetary problems that plagued the Bunker Hill Monument in Boston a century earlier.[10]

Commemorative ceremonies at the Liberty Memorial, c. 1940.
Commemorative ceremonies at the Liberty Memorial, c. 1940

Groundbreaking and dedication[edit]

In attendance at the groundbreaking ceremony on November 1, 1921, were 200,000 people,[9] including then-Vice President Calvin Coolidge, Lieutenant General Baron Jacques of Belgium, Admiral Earl Beatty of Great Britain, General Armando Diaz of Italy, Marshal Ferdinand Foch of France, and General John Pershing of the United States, along with sixty thousand members of the American Legion. The local veteran chosen to present flags to the commanders was a Kansas City haberdasher, Harry S. Truman,[11] who would later serve as President of the United States. The finished monument was dedicated on November 11, 1926, by President Coolidge, in the presence of Queen Marie of Romania.[12] Coolidge announced that the memorial “...has not been raised to commemorate war and victory, but rather the results of war and victory which are embodied in peace and liberty…. Today I return in order that I may place the official sanction of the national government upon one of the most elaborate and impressive memorials that adorn our country. The magnitude of this memorial, and the broad base of popular support on which it rests, can scarcely fail to excite national wonder and admiration.”[13]


  • In 1935, bas reliefs by Walker Hancock of Jacques, Beatty, Diaz, Foch and Pershing were unveiled.[14]
    bas reliefs
    Left to right: The Beatty, Foch, Pershing, Diaz and Jacques reliefs.
  • In 1981-1982, corresponding to its 60th anniversary, the building revealed new exhibits under improved lighting sources.[15]
  • The memorial was closed in 1994 due to safety concerns,[9] after aging revealed problems with drainage and the original construction. Local shopping malls voluntarily helped to put part of the museum collection on display while the memorial was unavailable.[9] When the poor condition of the building became an embarrassment for the city,[9] Kansas City voters in 1998 passed a limited-run sales tax to support the restoration.[16] Plans were also made at this time to expand the site with a museum to accommodate the LMA's growing collection. Local, national and international support provided $102 million for this undertaking, ultimately revealed at its 2006 opening.[17]
  • In 2004, Congress named the museum the nation's official World War I Museum, and construction started on a new 80,000-square-foot (7,400 m2) expansion and the Edward Jones Research Center underneath the memorial. The year this was completed, Liberty Memorial was designated a National Historic Landmark (September 20, 2006).[18]
  • Another substantial renovation, with a cost estimate of $5 million was undertaken beginning in December 2011.[19] It included $170,000 in energy-efficiency upgrades to the building as well as improvements to the artificial flame atop the tower.[20] After several months of dormancy, the flame was "relit" on February 1, 2013. Other portions of the overall renovation included security upgrades along with repairs to certain limestone sections and brush removal.[19][20]
  • An addition planned for completion in 2018 is the Wylie Gallery, which will occupy existing unused space on the east side of the museum building.[21] It is part of a 6.4-million-dollar upgrade made possible by a fundraising campaign[22] coinciding with the tenth anniversary of the museum's 2006 reopening. The gallery will house traveling exhibits from around the world.[21][22]

Current designation[edit]

On December 19, 2014, President Barack Obama signed legislation recognizing it as a national memorial, which effectively redesignated the entire site as the National World War I Museum and Memorial.[23]


The national design competition was managed by Thomas R. Kimball, a former president of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). After discord within the organization locally, the design contract was finally awarded to New York architect Harold Van Buren Magonigle.[n 1][24]

View of Union Station and the city from top of Liberty Memorial

Liberty Tower[edit]

The main doors at the bottom of a large set of stairs are made from ornamental bronze, and the walls of the first floor lobby are finished in Kasota stone,[25] which was quarried in Kasota, Minnesota. The first floor corridor and the grand stairway are finished in travertine that was imported from Italy.[25] At night, the top of the 217-foot (66 m) tall memorial tower emits a "flame effect", steam illuminated by bright red and orange lights. This effect creates the illusion of a burning pyre and can be seen for some distance.[n 2] Overall, the memorial rises 265 feet (81 m) above the surrounding area.[26]

External buildings[edit]

The tower and buildings are designed in the classical Egyptian Revival style of architecture with a limestone exterior.[25] The foundation was constructed using sawed granite, and the exterior ground level walls are made of Bedford stone. On opposite sides of the main deck of the Liberty Memorial are Exhibition Hall and Memory Hall.[27] Memory Hall includes murals originally painted for the Panthéon de la Guerre in Paris, and adapted by LeRoy Daniel MacMorris[28] in the 1950s.

Between each hall and the tower, above the museum entrance, sit two stone Assyrian sphinxes, named "Memory" and "Future," covering their faces with their wings. Memory faces East, hiding its face from the horrors of the European battlefields. Its counterpart faces West and shields its eyes from a future yet unseen.[27]

Main Museum Building[edit]

The subterranean portion was designed by Ralph Appelbaum Associates and greatly expands the original facilities.[29] The north side of the museum, opposite the main entrance and below the Liberty tower, contains a large work of art upon its wall, which can be plainly seen from Union Station across Pershing Road from Penn Valley Park:

The Great Frieze by Edmond Amateis.[30] Main inscription reads "These have dared bear the torches of sacrifice and service. Their bodies return to dust but their work liveth evermore. Let us strive on to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."


The grounds were designed by George Kessler[31] who is also famous for his City Beautiful design for the Kansas City park and boulevard system.[32] The road on the west side of the Memorial is Kessler Road.

Just outside the museum entrance is a large elliptical fountain, and on each side is a tapering staircase ascending to the memorial deck above. The approach from the south contains the "Walk of Honor," a series of engraved bricks in three sections commemorating veterans of World War I, veterans of all wars, and honored civilians.[33]

Museum features[edit]

The primary museum consists of:

  • Two main galleries containing exhibitions with period artifacts. The first focuses on the beginning of the Great War prior to U.S. involvement, while the second focuses on the United States' military and civilian involvement in the war and efforts for peace.[34] Items in these collections include:
Liberty Memorial, flanked by Exhibition and Memory Halls and the unseeing sphinxes. Beneath them sit the museum and research center
  • Two theaters that provide visitors with an educational narrative. One precedes the first gallery, and a larger one is passed through to enter the second gallery.[5]
  • The Edward Jones Research Center, carrying 75,000 archival documents, 9,500 library titles, and additional objects.[37]
  • R.A. Long Education Center: A multi-purpose conference room and classroom[34]
  • J.C. Nichols Auditorium for special events[34][38]
  • The Over There Café featuring flags, music, artwork, and menu items inspired by "the people and places of the Great War." [35]
  • A museum store

See also[edit]


  1. ^ A disagreement between members of the Kansas City Chapter of AIA and Kimball over the rules, caused almost half of the local members to resign in April 1922. They immediately went on to form the Architectural League of Kansas City, which was merged back into the AIA in the early 1930s. Unlike the AIA at the time, the Architectural League of Kansas City provided membership to less experienced architects and draftsmen and provided social and educational opportunities as well. Regardless of the controversy, many local architects submitted entries including those who resigned from the AIA. The jury, however, was unanimous in their decision to award the contract to Magonigle.[24]
  2. ^ See image under Note 2, below.
Liberty Memorial at night


  1. ^ National Park Service (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ "Liberty Memorial". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved June 28, 2008. 
  3. ^ "Partners". National World War I Museum and Memorial. January 2017. Retrieved January 31, 2017. 
  4. ^ "National World War I Museum". Society for Experiential Graphic Design. 2013. Retrieved November 25, 2014. 
  5. ^ "About Us: Our Mission". National World War I Museum and Memorial. 2017. Retrieved January 25, 2017. 
  6. ^ Coleman, Daniel (2008). "Robert A. Long (1850-1934), Lumberman". Kansas City Public Library. Retrieved January 31, 2017. 
  7. ^ Roe, Jason (February 9, 2015). "Monumental Undertaking". The Kansas City Public Library. Retrieved January 31, 2017. 
  8. ^ a b c d e Christian, Shirley (March 31, 1998). "World War I Museum's New Drive on the Home Front". The New York Times. New York, NY. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Bunker Hill Monument: About the Monument". A View on Cities. Van Ermengem BVBA. 2017. Retrieved February 3, 2017. [I]t took seventeen years to build the 221 foot (67 meter) granite monument because the supporters of the project kept running out of funds. As a matter of fact, the monument committee had to eventually sell 10 of the 15 acres they had purchased for the monument... 
  10. ^ McCullough, David (1992). Truman. New York, New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks. p. 150. ISBN 0-671-86920-5. 
  11. ^ Donovan, Derek (2001). "Marie, Queen of Romania Visits Kansas City's Liberty Memorial". Kansas City Star Books. Retrieved February 1, 2017. 
  12. ^ Coolidge, Calvin (November 11, 1926). Address at the Dedication of the Liberty Memorial at Kansas City, Missouri (Speech). Dedication of the Liberty Memorial. Kansas City, MO. Retrieved November 25, 2014. 
  13. ^ Millstein 2006, p. 10.
  14. ^ Donovan 2001, p. 142.
  15. ^ Hanc, John (November 3, 2015). "A World War I Memorial in Kansas City Is a Tribute to Giving". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved January 31, 2017. 
  16. ^ Spencer, Laura (May 5, 2016). "National World War I Museum and Memorial to Add More Exhibit Space". KCUR 89.3. KCUR. Retrieved February 24, 2017. 
  17. ^ Millstein 2006, p. 62.
  18. ^ a b "Renovation begins at National World War I museum at Liberty Memorial". Scripps Media, Inc. December 27, 2011. Retrieved February 2, 2013. 
  19. ^ a b "Flame returns to Liberty Memorial". Meredith Corp. February 2, 2013. Retrieved February 2, 2013. 
  20. ^ a b Campbell, Matt (December 24, 2016), World War I Museum To Gain New Exhibit Space, The Kansas City Star, retrieved January 29, 2017 
  21. ^ a b "KC Philanthropic Leaders Heed the "Call to Duty" Raising More than $5 Million to Construct New Exhibition Gallery at the National World War I Museum and Memorial". Vocus PRW Holdings, LLC. May 6, 2016. Retrieved January 29, 2017. 
  22. ^ Campbell, Matt (December 22, 2014). "Liberty Memorial is Officially the National Memorial to World War I". The Kansas City Star. Mi-Ai Parrish. Retrieved December 30, 2014. 
  23. ^ a b Ehrlich, George (Autumn 1999). "The Rise and Demise of the Architectural League of Kansas City". Kawsmouth, A Journal of Regional History. 1 (2): 64–73. 
  24. ^ a b c Norell, Jack. "Liberty Memorial, Kansas City, MO". Retrieved February 24, 2017. 
  25. ^ "Liberty Memorial Complex". Skyscraper Source Media. 2017. Retrieved February 24, 2017. 
  26. ^ a b "Elements of the Museum and Memorial". National World War I Museum. 2017. Retrieved January 25, 2017. 
  27. ^ Donovan 2001, p. 99-111.
  28. ^ "National World War I Museum". Ralph Applebaum Associates. Retrieved February 26, 2017. 
  29. ^
  30. ^ "Featured Historic Place: Liberty Memorial Kansas City, MO". National Park Service. 2007. Retrieved February 1, 2017. 
  31. ^ Wilson, William H. (1964). The City Beautiful Movement in Kansas City. University of Missouri Press. 
  32. ^ Baillergeon, Rick; Porter, Scott A. (August 20, 2014). "National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial, Kansas City, Mo.". Armchair General. Armchair General LLC. Retrieved February 28, 2017. 
  33. ^ a b c Map & Gallery Guide (Map) (leaflet). National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial. 2015. §§ The Years 1917-1919; The Years 1914-1917. 
  34. ^ a b Paul, R. Eli (2009). National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial. Marceline, MO: Donner Company Publishers. ISBN 978-1-57864-569-5. 
  35. ^ McNair, Doug (November 2007). "Report from the Road: The National World War One Museum". Avalanche Press. Avalanche Press Ltd. Retrieved February 2, 2017. 
  36. ^ "Edward Jones Research Center". National World War I Museum. 2017. Retrieved January 31, 2017. 
  37. ^ "Private Events". National World War I Museum. 2017. Retrieved February 3, 2017. 

Additional works cited[edit]

Further reading[edit]

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