Act 175 of 1919 charged the archives, which was then the Arkansas History Commission, with “perfecting and completing its work of preserving the history of Arkansas’ part in the Great War.” The act also charged the agency with establishing a “Great War Museum” to display the memorials and relics it obtained. In the years immediately following the end of World War I, the agency acquired an array of artifacts and documents from the war, its soldiers and citizens. One of the key figures in assisting the agency in that mission was Louis C. Gulley, who had worked for the postal service of the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe during the war. Gulley picked up hundreds of artifacts off the battlefields and in camps, and sent these back to the archives. Among the unique items that Gulley obtained for the state archives are: artillery shells made into trench art, a tube dropped from planes to delivery propaganda to the German forces, a wooden snake with a head that resembles Kaiser Wilhelm II made by a Russian POW, and numerous pieces of body armor and helmets reflecting the ravages of war. Many other Arkansans have given artifacts related to World War I over the years; and while no permanent space was ever appropriated for the “Great War Museum,” the State Archives displays artifacts onsite and loans pieces for temporary exhibit to museum around Arkansas.
The Arkansas State Archives also has extensive paper and photograph holdings relating to World War I, including records from the Arkansas Council of Defense, World War I registration and discharge records of Arkansans, “alien enemies” registration records of German immigrants in the state, and numerous personal collections from individuals who participated in the war effort at home and abroad. These collections can be searched or browsed online through the agency website, www.ark-ives.com. The State Archives also provides a resource guide to its World War I holdings to assist researchers in locating primary and secondary materials in its collections.
In addition to its collection of research materials, the State Archives offers resources for educators and the general public wishing to learn more about the war and its impact on the state. The Great War: Arkansas in World War I is 12-panel, travelling exhibit using archival materials from the ASA to tell the story of Arkansas’ role in the war, at home and on the battlefields. The exhibit is available to organizations at no cost. The ASA has created a lesson plan, “A War Was Raging 15 Feet Above Our Heads,” about Arkansas in the war, for social studies, grades 6-8. This plan is available online for download, along with digital copies of related primary source documents. Additional digitized primary sources from the ASA may also be found on the archives digital collection site, the Arkansas Digital Ark-ives in “The Great War at Home and Abroad” collection. Archives staff are available to speak to local and state organizations on topics pertaining to the history of the war or our holdings.
For questions about locating materials or using any of these resources, please contact us at: [email protected] or at 501-682-6900