Nearly 300 people participated in the Presidential Library's Grand Opening celebration of its new World War I trench exhibit on May 30. Guests enjoyed re-enactors, live period music, refreshments, and free tours of the exhibit. A brief ceremony with remarks from officials, including a Woodrow Wilson reenactor, kicked off the activities. Re-enactors, including soldiers, Red Cross nurses, and “Doughnut Lassies,” shared what life was like during the war. Guests explored artifacts from a World War I soldier’s trunk and toured the new trench exhibit, a fully immersive state-of-the-art experience that takes visitors to the battlefront. Everyone enjoyed cake donuts and small bottles of Coke similar to those from the period as well as World War I songs performed by Cynthia and Bill Polhill. The event was sponsored by Bankers Insurance and Segars Engineering. Coca-Cola Enterprises donated the Cokes, Dunkin' Donuts donated the donuts, and Shenandoah Valley Water donated bottled water.
The exhibit is a fully immersive state-of-the-art experience that takes visitors to the battlefront during the First World War. It includes a trench, a bunker, a command center, a triage area, lighting, sound effects, and photographs. The exhibit was designed by Riggs Ward of Richmond with panels written by local author William Walker, who also donated a World War I pistol to the exhibit. The Presidential Library also gathered artifacts from the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, the Marshall Foundation in Lexington, and local collectors Jim Huggins and Eleanor Albers. The exhibit is now included in the Presidential Library’s visitor experience at the regular admission price.