Remembering World War I

Sunday November 11  |  10:00 AM-5:30 PM |  Museum Wide

Men in WW1 uniform post with women in modren clothing.

One hundred years ago today the most terrible war the world had ever known came to an end. Join us for a daylong commemoration of the event that thrust America onto the global stage and shaped the world we live in today. Rarely seen objects out of storage, lightning talks, temporary exhibits, uniformed re-enactors, hands-on activities, movies and an 11:00 a.m. ceremony marking the moment the guns fell silent. 

Free and open to the public.

The National Museum of American History welcomes visitors of all abilities. Request for accessibility services can be made by phone at 202-633-3150 or by email at nmahprograms@si.edu.


Schedule of Events

Moment of Remembrance

10:45-11:30 a.m. | 2 Center, Flag Hall

Mark the moment 100 years ago at the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month when the guns went silent with a presentation of colors and playing of Taps. After the commemoration, see objects that witnessed the end of the war, out of storage for this ceremony only.

World War I Objects Out of Storage

11:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m. | 3 East

Explore World War I artifacts out of storage including World War I-era helmets, captured German pigeon “Kaiser” (now a taxidermy specimen), battlefield medical treatments, and diaries describing the end of the war.

Lightning Talks 

1:30-4:00 p.m. | 1 West, Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza

Hear from Smithsonian experts about the surprising ways World War I continues to impact everyday American lives—from words to wristwatches to your backyard garden.

  • 1:30-1:45 | Welcome Address 
  • 1:45-2:00 | Drugs, Dyes, and the U-Boat “Deutschland”
    • Diane Wendt, National Museum of American History
  • 2:05-2:20 | The African American Experience during World War I
    • Krewasky Salter, National Museum of African American History and Culture
  • 2:25-2:40 | 100 Years of Presidential Words: Echoes of World War I
    • Claire Jerry, National Museum of American History
  • 2:45-3:00 | What is the United States School Garden Army and how does it affect us in the 21st century
    • Sara Murphy, National Museum of American History
  • 3:05-3:20 | The Wristwatch Goes to War
    • Carlene Stephens, National Museum of American History
  • 3:25-3:40 | The Mail Must Go Through: Working Military Mail Since World War I
    • Lynn Heidelbaugh, National Postal Museum
  • 3:45-4:00 | History for the Head: How World War I Brought Helmets into the 20th Century
    • Frank Blazich, National Museum of American History

All-Day Activities

Veterans Day Film Festival | 1 Center, Warner Brothers Theater

Salute those who have served during our Veterans Film Festival from November 10-11. Discover extraordinary stories about veterans and their families who have sacrificed all for our country and freedom. Click here or visit the box office for ticket purchase and showtimes.

Costumed World War I Reenactors

Chat with men and women in historic costume portraying uniformed members of the military and volunteer organizations of World War I from the U.S. and Europe.

Hands-on Interactive carts

Check out five interactive carts that explore the following themes: the soldier’s experience, the role of animals, recorded music, stereo-photographs of the war, and cotton as a strategic commodity.

Exhibitions

Explore the museums' five exhibits on World War I history:

Activity Tables

1 West

  • American Red Cross
    • World War I was an exceptional time in Red Cross history and helped create the organization we know today. Learn about Red Cross support efforts both before and after the First World War, talk to Vietnam-era Red Cross volunteers, and take home a World War I-era knitting pattern used by Knit Your Bit volunteers at the home-front. 
  • National Museum of Natural History
    • The 1918 flu pandemic claimed more lives than the entirety of World War I. Learn how flu treatment and prevention has changed in the last 100 years with the educators from the National Museum of Natural History’s new exhibit, Outbreak
  • National Park Service, National Capital Region
    • Learn about local Washington, D.C., connections to World War I history including the parks that served as training fields for the war. 
  • National Postal Museum
    • Mail was the primary means to stay in contact during the First World War and played an important role in shaping morale and emotional well-being on the frontline and home front. Visitors will be able to pose with a period postcard and to experience mail censorship necessary for security of deployed soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen.
  • Smithsonian Gardens
    • Explore the historic connections between plants, gardening, and veteran rehabilitation programs. Make your own tissue paper poppy and learn how the flower became the symbol of remembrance of the Great War. 
  • Smithsonian Latino Center
    • Hear the stories of Latino patriots and their contributions to the World War I effort.
  • U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
    • The conditions and demands of a worldwide war inspired innovation throughout the country. Hear the stories of American inventors (some of them World War I soldiers) who found clever solutions to the challenges of the Great War.

Participating Partners

Follow the links below to learn how our partner organizations are commemorating World War I through exhibitions, programs, and websites.

American Red Cross

Exhibition, Answering the Call

World War I was an exceptional time in Red Cross history that defined and helped create the organization we know today. To commemorate this event, a new exhibition, entitled Answering the Call, the American Red Cross in World War I, is on view at the historic Red Cross National Headquarters building in Washington, D.C.

Featuring photography, artifacts, and personal stories, the exhibition details the growth of volunteer opportunities, chapter expansion, fundraising, and the development of Red Cross nursing in support of the U.S. military and humanitarian relief to impacted civilians well into the early 1920s.

Reservations for tours on Wednesdays and Fridays at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. can be scheduled by emailing tours@redcross.org.

National Museum of Natural History

Exhibition, Outbreak: Epidemics in a Changing World

Learn more about the 1918 flu in the Global Pandemics section. On display through 2021.

National Park Service, National Capital Region

WWI Online Exhibition

Where does the story of World War I intersect with the stories of national parks? The answers might surprise you. Explore an interactive map of national park sites throughout the country that mark the places the nation reacted to the threat of war and those spaces where we continue to memorialize the conflict.

National Postal Museum

Exhibition, My Fellow Soldiers

At the end of the war, General John J. Pershing—commander of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF)—wrote a letter that begins “My Fellow Soldiers.” Pershing expressed his profound respect and appreciation for the sacrifice, endurance, and will of those who served under him. Each member of the AEF received a copy of the message.

Letters were the primary form of communication between the home and military fronts and allowed both writers and recipients to preserve connections and share experiences. The selection of correspondence presented in this exhibition illuminates the relationships, thoughts, and emotions of the authors as they grappled with the effects of World War I.

On display through November 29, 2018. 

Smithsonian Gardens

Blog Post, Flanders Field Poppies at the National Museum of American History

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Exhibit, Visionary Veterans

Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the United States entering World War I, the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) honors its Inductees who served during The Great War. Presented in this exhibit are the stories of five World War I veterans and NIHF Inductees whose innovations have affected our world from the early part of the 20th century until the present day.

 

From Our Blog

An illustration of an African American soldier
Worried wounded African American soldiers weren't receiving the same level of care as white soldiers, the Crispus Attucks Circle took matters into their own hands.
Uncle Sam, playing a pipe, leads a group of children armed with farming tools. Text reads: “Follow the Pied Piper. Join the United States School Garden Army”
While most of us have heard of the victory gardens of World War II, you may not know that during World War I, children across the U.S. enrolled as soldiers in the United States School Garden Army, a program that promoted sustainable gardens in suburban and urban communities.
See more blog posts