Exhibition: “Through the Valley of Death: A Special Collections Perspective on the First World War”

LSU Libraries Special Collections marks the 100th anniversary of U.S. involvement in “The Great War” with the exhibition, “Through the Valley of Death: A Special Collections Perspective on the First World War,” running from February 20 – June 2, 2017 in Hill Memorial Library.

“Through the Valley of Death” features letters, documents, photographs, oral histories and published materials from our major collections, including Rare Books, Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, and University Archives, that provide a window into politics, propaganda, combat, home front activities, and social issues of this tumultuous era. Life at LSU during the war, and the university’s efforts to honor the sacrifices of faculty, students and staff, through the building of Memorial Tower and the planting of the Oak Grove, are also explored. Rather than a complete overview of the conflict, the focus of the exhibition is on the materials in Special Collections’ holdings that relate to American involvement in the war.

Memorial Oak Grove

Memorial Oak Grove, LSU Campus Trees were planted in the 1920s in memory of students and alumni who were killed while serving during the First World War.

The stories these century-old items tell resonate with relevance. The introspective, descriptive letters and photographs from combat soldiers are alternately humorous and haunting. Graphic propaganda elicits a visceral response. Newspaper articles outlining racial tensions and concern over immigration evoke images of modern headlines. Oral histories from Louisianans describe service during the Great War, memories of LSU cadets, the flu epidemic abroad and at home, the prejudices that German immigrants faced stateside, the long-lasting repercussions for soldiers who were gassed in the trenches, and how news of the war’s end spread up and down the bayous.

“The First World War touched the lives of millions of Americans and the people of LSU were no different.  Many students, faculty, and staff went ‘over there’ to do their part; others bought war bonds, raised money for the Red Cross, knitted caps and scarves for the boys at the front, and adapted their lectures and assignments to include topics on patriotism and the importance of America’s cause.  The records pertaining to LSU’s role in the war illuminate their efforts and the Memorial Tower and Memorial Oak Grove on campus are daily reminders of the ultimate sacrifice made by Louisianans and LSU alumni and students,” said Barry Cowan, Assistant University Archivist.

“When we first started planning, the concern was that we may not have enough to fill the gallery space. But the opposite is true – we have more materials related to the First World War than we can possibly include in the exhibition.  The good news is that all of our materials are available for research ,” said Leah Wood Jewett, Exhibitions Coordinator.

The exhibition is free and open to the public. For more information visit our exhibitions page or call (225) 578-6544.

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